Republican aqueduct found in Rome

Section of 3rd century B.C. aqueduct found during construction of ventilation shaft. Photo courtesy the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome.The construction of Rome’s new metro line has encountered yet another archaeological marvel: a Republican-era aqueduct dating to around the 3rd century B.C., likely a section of the first aqueduct built in Rome. Archaeologists found the structure during construction of a ventilation shaft under Piazza Celimontana on the Celian hill. The shaft’s 18-meter (60-foot) depth allowed them unique access to the 3rd century layers of the city. Without the bulkheads keeping the water from flooding the site, it wouldn’t have possible to excavate anywhere near that deep.

“The opportunity to safely reach this depth allowed us to uncover and document an exception sequence of stratigraphy and structures from the Iron Age (tombs and grave objects from the tenth century BC) to the modern age (foundations of 19th-century housing,” [sic] [said lead archaeologist Simona Morretta].

Aqueduct section excavated. Photo courtesy the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome.Because the structure was buried under intact layers of earth, the team was able to work out that after falling out of use as an aqueduct, Romans living in the first century BC used it as a sewer.

What’s more, close examination of the earth revealed the remains of food leftovers, offering an insight into what Romans used to eat, and the animals they kept as pets – from wild boars to swans, pheasants, and large seawater fish.

Aqueduct cross-section. Photo courtesy the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome.The dating of the aqueduct, determined by the stratigraphy, and its location under the Celian hill point to it being part of the Aqua Appia, the first aqueduct in Rome, built by censors Gaius Plautius Venox and Appius Claudius Caecus in 312 B.C. The source was about 10 miles outside the city, and unlike later aqueducts, almost the entirety of the length of the Aqua Appia was underground. Outside the city it ran through tunnels carved into tufa hills; inside it ran on top of the Servian Wall for stretch, but was mostly carried through channels deep under the city.

Aqueduct made of blocks of volcanic tufa in prism shape. Photo courtesy the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome.Only three sections of the Aqua Appia have been discovered, one by Raffaelo Fabretti in 1667 just inside the Porta San Paolo gate, one by English archaeologist John Henry Parker in the San Saba tufa quarries near the Aventine in 1867, and by Rodolfo Lanciani under the remains of an ancient villa on the Via di Porta San Paolo in 1888. These sections were small and in poor condition, cut tunnels that were later lined with stones.

Water flowed through lead pipe, now lost. Photo courtesy the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome.The newly discovered section is distinct both because it is in exceptionally good condition and because it is a constructed dry stone wall an extraordinary 32 meters (105 feet) long. It is two meters (6.5 feet) high and is made of five rows of large tufa blocks arranged in prism shape. The water was carried from east to west by a lead pipe known as a fistula aquaria.

Because the structure is buried so deep, it wouldn’t be possible to put the aqueduct on display in situ. Archaeologists are therefore dismantling the whole thing in order to rebuild in a new location as yet to be determined.



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Comment by coffee break
2017-04-08 07:10:13

amazing pictures, cheers. That stone work…

Comment by Cordate
2017-04-08 08:31:14

I wonder how long they’ve had it exposed to sunlight – there’s algae growing on the stones’ surfaces and seeds sprouting in the central soil.

Comment by CinTam
2017-04-08 13:00:25


Comment by Caligula Minus
2017-04-08 14:24:43

In parallel to the road that leads into the city via the ‘porta caelimontana’ over the ‘mons celius’ hill in Regio II: Caelimontium (note that the ‘Servian Wall’ is the inner ring), there was ‘water led into the city’, which might be the ‘aqueduct’ in question.

In the beginning, the area seems to have been quite a posh one. The bit with the ‘growing algae’ might have been part of the mentioned ‘foundations of the 19th-century housing‘, who knows ? – I certainly don’t :cool:

Comment by Nicol
2017-04-11 20:43:37

It always so fascinating when things like this are found in such good condition. Makes you wonder what else is buried that we have yet to find.

Comment by Rob
2017-04-19 10:52:17

I’d like to know if the lead pipe was lined with any sort of cement the way some leadwork from the 18th and 19th centuries was, how the Romans formed their lead sheets and how they soldered(?) the joints both in each length of pipe and at the connections between them. It would also be interesting to know how they calculated the necessary slope for the construction over the distance required.

Comment by Rob
2017-04-19 10:55:10

Also how deep was this sunk at the time it was built? The arrangement of the walls would be very vulnerable to side pressures once filled in. Perhaps the depth of the interior space allowed them room for fine adjustment of the slope when laying the pipe, since it obviously didn’t fill all that space if it was a round pipe?

Comment by Sceptic
2018-06-12 06:34:32

Are you sure that was build by Romes, what are the proofs?

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