Article

Terrestrial laser scanning, geomorphology and archaeology of a Roman gypsum quarry (Vena del Gesso Romagnola area, Northern Apennines, Italy)

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Abstract

Roman-period extractive sites in gypsum outcrops are very rare, and most have become very degraded by later weathering or quarrying activities. This paper describes, using laser scanning, photogrammetry and survey using a UAV-based survey, the uniquely well-preserved Roman-period gypsum quarry of Ca’ Castellina (Northern Apennines, Italy). This site was excavated only in the last few years and the excavations have brought to light some gypsum blocks and the ancient quarry benches showing excavation marks, the remains of a rectangular building and a great number of artefacts that range between the Protohistoric Period and the modern times. The size of the extracted blocks, the extraction methodologies and the age of a charcoal fragment (361 – 178B CE) found immediately at the contact between the gypsum quarry floor and the infilling sediments date the quarry back to the Roman age. Archaeological evidences demonstrate the building to have been used for a short period of time during the XVI-XVII century. Immediately after its abandonment most of the quarry floor has been covered with a thick detrital layer, protecting it from dissolution (fossilizing this floor and leaving it as if it was abandoned very recently), whereas the naked or poorly covered floor of this quarry has been subjected to dissolution phenomena of the exposed gypsum rocks, with a lowering of the surface, the smoothening of the corners and the formation of a set of deeply carved karren features. A 3D survey using both a laser scanning instrument and a drone-mounted photo camera have allowed to get precise measures on the size of the blocks that were extracted in this quarry, the traces of pick axe marks, and on the dissolution morphologies that have developed on the bare gypsum rock. These typical gypsum landforms show how fast these solution forms can develop where concentrated runoff flows on bare gypsum. To prevent this exceptional archaeological extractive site of being further dissolved, it will be important to plan some measures to be put in place in order to protect this delicate historical landmark.

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