In the past few months, the restorers at the Frankfurt Archaeological Museum have completely restored an exceptionally well-preserved wooden cellar from Roman Nida. It was discovered and carefully unearthed in March 2023 during an excavation by the city of Frankfurt Monument Office.

The wooden cellar was part of a Roman residential building, likely constructed in the late 1st century AD in the southern part of the two main streets (platea praetoria) of the ancient city of Nida.

No remains of the associated building, a timber-framed house, have been preserved. The evaluation of the find and the material from it is of great scientific interest; its good preservation also offers an almost unique opportunity to understand life in Nida and to tell the story of the city and its inhabitants as part of the planned public presentation.

Such an extraordinary find requires special consideration. Due to weather conditions, the danger was imminent, and we decided to save the cellar and thereby an important artifact of ancient Frankfurt in a short period of time. We are very pleased to have achieved this with great technical effort and the use of recently tested methods, emphasizes Ina Hartwig, head of the Department of Culture.

Wolfgang David, director of the Archaeological Museum, asserts: From the perspective of the Archaeological Museum, it’s fantastic that, thanks to the swift decision of the Department of Culture and Science, the necessary funds for the costly recovery of the highly sensitive remains of the cellar damaged by fire could be obtained in the short term. Because each additional day outdoors would have meant a loss of substance. The swift action created an almost optimal basis for the subsequent public presentation of this extraordinary archaeological find, which is currently being preserved in a special workshop.

The entrance to the cellar was south of the main street; the burnt steps of the cellar stairs are still clearly visible. Throughout the cellar, remnants of charred beams, charcoal, and traces of fire testify to the destructive fire that once completely destroyed the house in antiquity.

The effects of the fire can be seen in some of the finds, such as a glass jar melted by intense heat and iron utensils still lying on the cellar stairs. This demonstrates that the residents obviously did not have time to save all the movable inventory from the cellar. After the fire, the property was rebuilt some time later, but the cellar ceased to be used.

The finds from the excavation must be analyzed first to determine the exact date of construction and destruction. The treatment of the material promises to be exciting, as it includes remains of ceramic and glass vessels, as well as some unusual metal objects. They have already been delivered to the Frankfurt Archaeological Museum for conservation.

This is by no means the first wooden cellar with fire damage known from Roman Nida. Over the past 100 years, similar elements have been discovered on several occasions during excavations in the ancient city; however, they were generally in worse condition and were not examined with the same attention using modern excavation methods. The cellar discovered in 2023 is therefore special in many aspects.


Sources

Archäologisches Museum Frankfurt


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