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Massive Roman Water Basin in Rome

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  • Location Description

    Rome, Italy 41.940468, 12.527072
  • Project Location

  • Historical Context

    The magazine “Archaeology” reports that this water basin was discovered by the archeologist Rossella Rea and her team as they were doing excavation work for Rome’s new C metro line. It was found “65 feet beneath the ground in the St. Giovanni district of Rome” (A. S. Thake). Rea stated to the ANSA that “[The water basin] was inside and ancient Roman farm, the nearest to the center of Rome ever found,” and that “It seems likely that [the water basin’s] main function was to be a water reservoir for crops [with] an area that made it possible to cope with overflows from the nearby river” (ANSA).

  • Approximate Year of Completion

    1st Century A.D.
  • Duration of construction

    It is speculated that the origins of the basin date back to a farm in the third century B.C., and that by the first century A.D, “the basin was added to existing structures, such as water wheels, used to lift and distribute the water along canals” (R. Lorenzi). However, the farm and its basin were destroyed by the end of the first century A.D. (R. Lorenzi).

     

     

    Photo Source: Soprintendenza Speciale Per I Beni Archeologici Di Roma (R. Lorenzi)

  • Project description

    The basin is reported to be 115 by 230 feet (35 by 70 meters), which is about a quarter of a hectare (Figure 1)(ANSA). This would have made it capable of holding up to four million liters (one million gallons) of water (A. S. Thake). Rea thinks that the basin extends farther than her dig site, such as to the existing metro A line station, meaning that there is already severe damage or destruction for that part of the basin (ANSA). This basin is being called the “largest Roman water basin ever found” and Rea has stated that “No other basin from ancient Roman agriculture is of comparable size” (“Massive Water Basin Unearthed in Rome”).

    Figure 1: Reconstructed photo of water basin

     

    water_basin_reconstruction--Discovery.jpg

    Photo Source: Soprintendenza Speciale Per I Beni Archeologici Di Roma (R. Lorenzi)

     

  • Construction details/observations

    Though the basin was originally for a farm of the third century B.C., “In the first century A.D., structures were added to the basin that allowed it to distribute water over a greater area” (Figure 2 and 3) (“Massive Water Basin Unearthed in Rome”). It is also believed that, at this time, the basin was lined with hydraulic plaster, which is still preserved (A. S. Thake).

    Figure 2: Reconstruction of water wheels to lift and distribute water. 

    Water_Wheels--Discovery.jpg

    Photo Source: Soprintendenza Speciale Per I Beni Archeologici Di Roma (R. Lorenzi)

    Figure 3: Exact spot where water wheel was allocated

     5water-wheel-allocation-_Discovery.jpg

    Photo Source: Soprintendenza Speciale Per I Beni Archeologici Di Roma (R. Lorenzi)

  • Other significant comments

    Archeologists on Rea’s team, Francesca Montella and Simona Morretta, also unearthed several agricultural items of interest: “A three-pronged iron pitchfork, the remnants of storage baskets made from willow branches and traces of a water wheel…” (A. S. Thake). The team found further things of interest, such as peach stones and evidence of recycling (R. Lorenzi). The peach stones “reveal the earliest European cultivation of peach trees imported from the Middle East” (A. S. Thake). Also of import, “Lined up jars with their ends cut open were recycled as water conduits. Used tiles were also recycled to make canals” (R. Lorenzi). These jars and tiles had the initials “TL” inscribed upon them, indicating that the farm had a single owner (A. S. Thake).

    Figure 4: “Lined up jars with their ends cut open were recycled as water conduits.”

    recycled-jars--Discovery.jpg

    Photo Source: Soprintendenza Speciale Per I Beni Archeologici Di Roma (R. Lorenzi)

     

    Figure 5: Recycled tiles for water canals. 

     Used_tiles--Discovery.jpg

    Photo Source: Soprintendenza Speciale Per I Beni Archeologici Di Roma (R. Lorenzi)

  • Sources and references

    (2014). "Massive Water Basin Unearthed in Rome." Archaeology, (December).

    ANSA (2015). "Largest Ancient Roman Water Basin Uncovered." http://www.ansa.it/english/news/2014/12/03/largest-ancient-roman-water-basin-uncovered_45e03972-aedf-4899-8c3e-ea6b21a180fb.html (Jan/31, 2015).

    R. Lorenzi. (2015). "Giant Ancient Roman Water Basin Uncovered." http://news.discovery.com/history/archaeology/giant-ancient-roman-water-basin-uncovered-141204.htm (Jan/31, 2015).

    A. S. Thake. (2015). "Largest Ever Roman Water Basin Discovered During Metro Extension." http://www.newhistorian.com/largest-ever-roman-water-basin-uncovered-metro-extension/2348/ (Jan/31, 2015).

  • Project Id

    RPM-05-2015
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