KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Ross: Ancient Roman garbage is valuable, why isn’t mine?

Jun 20, 2023, 8:37 AM | Updated: Jun 21, 2023, 7:40 am

ancient roman garbage...

Francesco Pacetti of Municipal Superintendency for Cultural Heritage fo Rome holds a piece of an ancient amphora retieved in an archaeological dig at Monte di Coccio alias Monte Testaccio ( Mountain of Crock), in Rome on June 3, 2015. Composed of the remains of some 25 million amphoraes, Monte Testaccio, whish rises some 50 metres above Rome, is a unique archeological site which is visitable only by appointment for fear of beign destoryed. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)

Just listen to these happy people. Hugo from London is sorting garbage. And so is Janice.

“My name is Hugo, I’m from London. We found feety painting stamps,” one archeologist said.


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“My name is Janice, I’m an artist, and I’m right on the top of Monte Testaccio in Rome, and I’m having a great experience washing pots,” another archeologist said.

Many things get better with age. Wine gets better with age, I’ve gotten better with age, but you know what else, apparently gets better with age? Garbage dumps.

“You can feel history beneath your feet on the hike up Monte Testaccio,” CBS reporter Jonathan Vigliotti said from Rome. “This 150-foot hill is packed with millions of broken clay pots, dating as far back as the first century. As archaeologist Simona Morretta explains, it’s her team’s job to piece them together.”

“They had to be thrown away because they couldn’t be used a second time,” Morretta said.

It is a fascinating glimpse into history. But now think about this ancient Rome with a population about the same as present-day San Jose. They left a 150-foot-high mountain of broken pots, and do we scold them for trashing the earth? No.

No one is the least upset that the Romans piled up a 150-foot-high mound of refuse. Instead, they’re trying to reassemble it.

And not only that, it has attracted restaurants so people can dine near the dump.

“Silvio Mariano’s restaurant is one of a dozen built into the side of the dump,” Vigliotti said. “Diners get a rare look at how organized even Rome’s garbage was.”

Here we are being scolded every day for all we throw away, and yet for all we know, in 2,000 years, my broken-down Frigidaire could, in fact, become a tourist attraction. Some volunteers will see the dried beet stains on the vegetable bin and wonder at the skill of the ancient artists.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Ancient Roman garbage is valuable, why isn’t mine?