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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Heart of Rome Unearthed - The Lupercal

Some are saying they may have found the heart of Rome -- literally.

An integral part of Roman mythology, the Lupercal is where the she-wolf is said to have suckled the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, after they were found on the banks of the River Tiber. The cave was uncovered by workers near the ruins of Emperor Augustus' palace on the Palatine hill.

The 26'-high cave is decorated with shells, mosaics, and marble. In Roman times, young nobles called Luperci participated in a popular fertility festival called the Lupercalia every February 15th. Naked but for the skins of goats sacrificed that day, the young men would run around Palatine hill, striking women's hands with strips of the goatskin.

The Italian Culture Minister, Francesco Rutelli said archaeologists were "reasonably certain" the cave is, indeed, the Lupercal. Lupa is Roman for "wolf."

The cave was found about 15' underground, and has only been explored by technological means due to fears of collapse. After a near $20 million restoration, parts of the famous Hill will re-open to the public in February. I do not know if it will coincide with the famous festival, nor what fanfare will accompany the event.

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