Enormous 2,300-year-old Roman water basin unearthed in the heart of Rome

Enormous 2,300-year-old Roman water basin unearthed in the heart of Rome

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A very large Roman water basin that once held more than four million liters of water has been discovered 20 meters (65 ft) below street level in the heart of Rome.  Archaeologists are saying it is the largest Roman water basin ever found.

According to Discovery News , the irrigation basin was discovered during excavations for a new metro line through the city, nor far from St John in Lateran Basilica, the cathedral church of the Diocese of Rome. Archaeologists were able to determine that the ancient structure would have been used for agriculture to distribute water along canals, with the help of water wheels and channels. 

“Most likely it served as a water reservoir for crops as well as an area that made it possible to cope with overflows from the nearby river,” Rossella Rea, the dig’s director, said at a news conference in Rome.

The discovery of other agricultural items, such as a three-pronged iron pitchfork, remains of storage baskets made from braided willow branches, and numerous peach stones, helped archaeologists to determine that the water basin was once part of a farm that cultivated peach trees dated from the 3 rd century BC until the 1 st century AD, when the farm appears to have been demolished. 

Reconstruction showing what the water basin would have looked like

Reconstruction showing what the water basin would have looked like. Credit: Soprintendenza speciale per i beni archeologici di Roma.

The huge water basin measures 70 meters (230 ft) by 35 meters (115 ft), but has not yet been completely uncovered as it extends beyond the perimeter of the metro work site towards the ancient city walls.

The basin was lined with well-preserved hydraulic plaster, and researchers found dozens of ceramic jars that were cut open to be used as water conduits. Tiles were also used to make canals.

Roman jars reused to make water conduits

Left: Roman jars reused to make water conduits. Right: Ceramic tiles were used to make channels for water distribution. Credit: Credit: Soprintendenza speciale per i beni archeologici di Roma.

The Romans have demonstrated remarkable engineering skills when it comes to the development of water storage and distribution systems. As Rabun Taylor writes in ‘Rome’s Lost Aqueduct’, Archaeology Magazine , “Few monuments that survive from antiquity better represent Roman pragmatism, ingenuity, and the desire to impress than the aqueducts built to fulfill the Romans’ seemingly unslakable need for water.”

The archaeological team has announced that the artifacts found at the ancient site will be moved to museums in Rome, while parts of the water basin itself will be put on display within St. John’s subway station.

Image: Part of the massive water basin unearthed in Rome: Credit: Soprintendenza speciale per i beni archeologici di Roma.

By April Holloway

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