The excavation of the old library in Cologne, Germany. Credit: Roman-Germanic Museum in Cologne
Under the ground in Cologne, Germany, is a bibliophile’s dream: an ancient Roman library that once held up to 20,000 roles, according to news reports.
Archaeologists discovered the epic structure in 2017, while the excavation of the garden of the Protestant church to build a new community center. Outgoing of Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities, founded in A. D. 50, it is no surprise that it still structures dating from the Roman time.
However, archaeologists do not find that the structure was a library, until they found mysterious holes in the walls, each of approximately 31 cm by 20 cm (80 by 50 centimeters), The Guardian reported.
The niches in the wall were probably “enclosures for the reels,” Dirk Schmitz, an archaeologist at the Roman-Germanic Museum in Cologne, told The Guardian. “They are very particular to libraries, you see the same people in the library in Ephesus [Turkey].” [Photos: Centuries of History Revealed Under the Roman Ruins]
While it’s anyone’s guess how many rolls of the library once housed, it is fair to say that the number would have been “very large — perhaps 20,000,” Schmitz said. He noted that the new library is slightly smaller than the Celsus Library in Ephesus, which was built in A. D. 117. Even so, the discovery is “really incredible — a spectacular find,” Schmitz said.
“[It] is at least, the first library in Germany, and perhaps in the northwest of the Roman provinces,” he said. “Perhaps there are many Roman towns that have libraries, but they have not yet been excavated. If we had just found in the foundations, we would not have known that it was a library. It was, because it had walls with niches, that we can see.”
The ancient Romans chose a spot for the construction, he noticed.
“It is in the middle of Cologne, on the market, or of the forum: the public space in the centre of the city,” Schmitz said. “It is built of very strong materials, and such buildings, because they were so great public.”
During its heyday, the library was probably two storeys high and measured approximately 65 metres by 30 metres (20 by 9 metres), and an extension was added later, Cologne’s historic preservation official Marcus Trier told Deutsche Welle (DW), a German news outlet. This expansion was probably an alcove where a statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of the counterpart of the Greek Athena, was, Schmitz told The Art Newspaper.
The old library will be integrated into the new church of the community center, giving access to visitors and future archaeologists, DW reported.
Original article on Live Science.