Ancient Roman laundry uncovered during construction project in Italy

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Ancient Roman laundry uncovered during construction project in Italy

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Construction workers in Italy recently came across the site of an ancient laundry near the Vatican, officials say.

Italy’s Ministry of Culture announced the surprising findings in a press release on June 14. The discovery was made during construction efforts at Piazza Pia, a Roman square that Italian officials are “pedestrianizing.”

Pictures of the site show archaeologists uncovering ancient tiled floors several feet below ground level. Tubs, which were used to clean dirty clothes, were also found at the site.

Excavators also uncovered what appear to be ceramic shards from destroyed artifacts. Officials also discovered pits, which may have once been used as baths.

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An ancient laundry site was recently found in Rome, Italy. (Italy’s Ministry of Culture)

In a statement, Italian officials said that the site was likely built to be an imperial residence. The housing would have overlooked the Tiber River “in a scenic way with arcades, walks and gardens,” officials described. 

Between the second and third centuries, the site became a fullonica – or a laundry.

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Construction workers working among ancient ruins

Construction workers stumbled across ancient pots and tiles while excavating the plaza. (Italy’s Ministry of Culture)

According to the World History Encyclopedia, launderers in ancient Rome used human and animal urine as detergent. They often collected urine – which contains ammonia – from public restrooms.

“The urine was poured into a vat with the clothing and the fullers (or their slaves) would tread on the cloth, agitating it the way a modern-day washing machine does, to remove stains and odors,” the World History Encyclopedia’s website reads. 

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Aerial shot of ancient laundry

An aerial shot of the site shows tiled floors and ancient washing tubs. (Italy’s Ministry of Culture)

“This profession continued, operating in the same way with the same cleaning agents, for hundreds of years after the fall of the Roman Empire and up into the modern age when soap replaced urine.”

Romans would bring their dirty laundry to a fullonica and pay to have it cleaned. Even though citizens generally looked down on launderers for their unhygienic washing methods, launderers were paid very well.

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In a statement, Archbishop Rino Fisichella said that the recent discovery of the fullonica “brought [him] back in time.”

Bucket full of ceramics

Construction workers discovered shards of ceramics at the ancient laundry site. (Italy’s Ministry of Culture)

“This part of Rome will again be made visible to all, and as a citizen I can only express a sense of deep gratitude,” he said. “[The laundry room] was the meeting place of the people, the people, the women of the era.”

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Fox News Digital reached out to Italy’s Ministry of Culture for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

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