Blocked Italian toilet leads to thousands of years of buried history

A restaurateur in Lecce, Italy dug up the plumbing for his perennially blocked toilets and discovered thousands of years' worth of tunnels beneath the building, including a Messapian tomb.

Other treasures include a Roman granary, Templar graffiti, and a Franciscan chapel. The family's spent 15 years digging up the treasures and have converted the restaurant into a museum.

"The very first layers of Lecce date to the time of Homer, or at least according to legend," said Mario De Marco, a local historian and author, noting that invaders were enticed by the city's strategic location and the prospects for looting. "Each one of these populations came and left a trace."

Severo Martini, a member of the City Council, said archaeological relics turn up on a regular basis — and can present a headache for urban planning. A project to build a shopping mall had to be redesigned after the discovery of an ancient Roman temple beneath the site of a planned parking lot.

"Whenever you dig a hole," Mr. Martini said, "centuries of history come out."

Centuries of Italian History Are Unearthed in Quest to Fix Toilet [Jim Yardley/New York Times]

(via Making Light)

(Photo: Davide Monteleone for The New York Times)