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Uncovering Rome's 'virgin' territory.

Uncovering Rome's 'Virgin] territory

In ancient Rome, the residence of the Vestal Virgins--with its large court surrounded by columns and three massive water basins -- was reserved for six young virgins who served the goddess Vesta and exercised great influence in the Roman state. Archaeologists have long held that Vesta's shrine was built over an older structure after Rome burned in A.D. 64. But excavations of the structure by scientists at the American Academy in Rome, described by Russell T. Scott of Bryan Mawr (Pa.) College, reveal several phases of construction dating as far back as the late 7th century B.C.

Structural remains around the Vestal courtyear indicate the site took on cultic and civic fuctions during the 6the century B.C., Scott says. At that time, a street of stone slabs connected Vesta's Shrine to the Palatine, the principal of the seven hills of ancient Rome.

The structure was overhauled in a major construction project of the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., Scott says.

Although the cult of Vesta had remarkable durability in ancient Rome, "the reasons for the emergence of the Vestal Virgins are unclear," Scott maintains.
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Title Annotation:archaeological research on the residence of the Vestal Virgins
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 13, 1990
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