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The Lapis Niger (Latin, "Black Stone") is an ancient shrine in the Roman Forum.
Together with the associated Vulcanal (a sanctuary to Vulcan) it constitutes the only surviving remnants of the old Comitium, an early assembly area that preceded the Forum and is thought to derive from an archaic cult site of the 7th or 8th century BC.
Diagram (1906) of the excavated Lapis Niger in the Roman Forum.
Visible are the sacellum (miniature shrine; left), the truncated tufa column (right) and the rectangular stele with inscriptions (behind column stub).
The black marble paving (1st century BC) and modern concrete enclosure (early 20th century) of the Lapis Niger overlie an ancient tomb or altar and a stone block with one of the earliest known Latin inscriptions (c. The superstructure monument and shrine may have been built by Julius Caesar during his reorganization of the Forum and Comitium space.
Alternatively, this may have been done a generation earlier by Sulla during one of his construction projects around the Curia Hostilia.
The site was rediscovered and excavated from 1899 to 1905 by Italian archaeologist Giacomo Boni.
The name "black stone" may have originally referred to the black stone block (one of the earliest known Latin inscriptions) or it may refer to the later black marble paving at the surface.
Located in the Comitium in front of the Curia Julia, this structure survived for centuries due to a combination of reverential treatment and overbuilding during the era of the early Roman Empire.
The site is believed to date back to the Monarchy of Rome.
The inscription refers to either a king (rex), or to the rex sacrorum, an early Republic high religious official.
At some point, the Romans forgot the original significance of the shrine.