During several investigations and studies on the presence of underground cavities in the Rome area in the last 20-25 years, I came across some documents of a XIX century geologist, which pushed me to know more about his life and work: Michele Stefano De Rossi (1834-1898).
A special interest arose from reading in his studies on the catacombs about an "icnographic and orthographic machine to detect plants and levels" he invented.
From the research on this geologist, and from reading his texts, a peculiar figure of scientist emerged, having contributed substantially and with a decidedly "enlightened approach", to debunk many "legends" on the underground Rome. For the first time, the importance of the geological context for understanding the reality of the Roman underground networks was clearly highlighted.
The research also allowed a reconstruction of the relationship between geology and archaeological research on catacombs from XVII to XIX century.
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