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Tunnels under Rome: Ancient tunnels pose a serious threat to structures in Rome

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Tunnels under Rome that were built hundreds of years ago pose a serious threat to modern structures and streets. The massive network of tunnels under the Roman Emperor Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, Italy were recently discovered and apparently they were part of an underground city. According to a Dec. 2 report from Live Science via NBC News, geologists are exploring the tunnels under Rome in order to map these underground passageways. This is being done as a preventive measure in an effort to prevent modern structures from crumbling into the voids below, Live Science explains.

Although the existence of tunnels under Rome have been known for quite a while now, a new tunnel system was recently discovered. It is believed that the tunnels enabled thousands of slaves and merchants to keep the estate running without alerting those at the street level.

The foundation of the city of Rome is made ​​up of volcanic rocks and lava stones, which was popular among ancient Roman architects after they discovered that the stone is very strong and easy to carve into building blocks.

"The ancient Roman architects were very clever," said Giuseppina Kysar Mattietti, a George Mason University geoscientist. However, according to Mattietti, these raw materials tend to decompose when exposed to air, therefore decreasing tunnel ground stability.

The other problem, which has not previously been reported, is humans. Live Science writes: "Later generations kept building, using the same quarries for rock and widening the tunnels beyond their original size to create new structures above them."

Some tunnels under Rome have managed to survive relatively undamaged without many modifications. These tunnels are works of art and engineering. Although they are much more discreet than bridges, its construction was very complicated for limited Roman technology.

The tunnels under Rome are being scanned with 3-D lasers in order to detect areas of weakness. Kysar Mattietti and other geoscientists are also venturing further into the tunnels to map the labyrinth by hand. However, this will only be done once the tunnels are deemed safe to explore.

"Since they weren't serving any use, people tend to forget what can be a problem," Kysar Mattietti said.

"There might be cracks, so they will be showing as veins almost, or openings, so we map the openings and map any kind of detachment," Kysar Mattietti explained. "What the municipality wants to do is to basically have a map of the risk so at that point they can on their side decide what kind of intervention needs to be done."

Tunnels under Rome have intrigued researchers for years and the existence of a mysterious "tunnel of power" in Rome was suggested in 1997 by some newspaper articles and also by Italian politician Marco Zacchera.

Upon the discovery of this revelation by the then Vice President of the Chamber, Alfredo Biondi, who was responsible for internal security, he sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Interior and Defense to seek clarification on the existence of the tunnel.

This particular tunnel under Rome remains a mystery and it has also been allegedly linked to the kidnapping of Aldo Moro, an Italian politician and the 39th Prime Minister of Italy, from 1963 to 1968.