Romans in Miami: the archaeology of a hoax

Romans in Miami

How did an ancient Roman temple appear in Miami?

This is the headline that flooded Twitter feeds in South Florida last week. Headed by a photo of a construction site filled with tall, dusty pillars, the article proclaimed the “mind-boggling” discovery of Roman ruins in Miami. “This find will change everything we know about modern history!” it claimed.

The post quickly went viral. “Vikings not the first Europeans to discover America!” said one. “say whaaat??” said another. “Did they inter-marry?” asked another. “Explains all the pizza parlours!” quipped another.

The post then claims that historians and archaeologists are “pouring into Miami” to identify the remains.

The thing is, there really are ancient ruins in Miami – they’re just not Roman.

And the photo is of a construction site in Miami. But that’s where the story leaves the facts behind. The “ancient Roman pillars” are probably just the foundations of the site’s previous occupier and were anything but authentic.

As for the “bronze hand tools that after preliminary field testing, seem to contain traces of the same iron found in the hills outside of Rome”? Well, the imaginary archaeologists who conducted this “field test” either have some amazing new portable piece of equipment, or the ‘finds’ are just old bits of rebar.

Using the name an historian from the National Archaeological Museum in Perugia, the article then cites the fact that Romans fled the Italian peninsula when the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century AD, leaving the possibility dangling that they may have made it all the way to the Americas.

Like the pillars themselves, this is a story that has been completely fabricated and shows just how easily a few facts, combined with a couple of assertions, can take twitter by storm.

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Written by Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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