The scientific tourist #7 — the shifting sands of time

This week’s “sciencey” tourist picture comes from the ruins of Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient harbor town — at one time situated where the Tiber river runs into the Mediterranean.

Block of rooms

During the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Ostia had a population of at least 75,000. But then a big storm (possibly a hurricane) hit the west coast of what is now Italy, the Tiber changed its course, and the city that was once a thriving port became landlocked. After a relatively brief period as a country retreat, Ostia progressively decayed until it was completely abandoned in the 9th century.

Now about 2/3 of Ostia Antica has been excavated, and is open to the public near the end of a rail line running through the suburbs of modern Rome. Walking the streets of Ostia can be a pleasant and educational experience, but sobering in that you can’t help but ponder the ultimate fragility of our works…

As usual, click on the above picture to get to the Flickr version of this image — it’ll give you lots of options for resizing and otherwise manipulating the source photo.

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