Ancient Pompeii’s Drains Back In Use After 2300 Years
A 2,300-year-old drainage system carved into bedrock beneath Pompeii will be used again to divert increasing rainwater into the sea.
Mount Vesuvius on the west coast of Italy is the only active volcano in continental Europe and its eruption in the year AD 79 buried the city of Pompeii under thousands of tons of hot ashes and rocks. Seconds after the eruption the southern Italian town was engulfed in a 500°C “pyroclastic heat surge,” when fast-moving currents of hot gases and volcanic matter (tephra) killed every one of the approximately 30,000 inhabitants, instantly.
This 170-acre archaeological site is mostly preserved within ash, which also entombed human bodies, and now that they have decayed away, natural human molds are found by excavators who make plaster casts bringing back to life the sheer terror that spread crosses the faces of the people who suffered in the volcanic catastrophe.
Tunnel within ancient Pompeii’s drains system. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
Pompeii’s Drains are Engineering at its Very Best
The recommissioned 1,500ft (457m) network of ancient tunnels and drainage channels is accessed through two manholes leading beneath the Civil Forum, near the Centaur statue and it leads downhill underneath Via Marina to the Imperial Villa .
The Civic Forum of Pompeii was a great rectangular plaza measuring 125ft (38m) wide by 466ft (142m) in length. While it was originally built in the 3rd century BC by the Samnites, evidence gathered from inside the tunnels showed final enhancements were executed by Roman architects in the years preceding the devastating 79AD eruption of Vesuvius.
Aerial map showing ancient Pompeii’s drains network with the sites (mentioned above) marked out. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
Since 2018 the drainage network has been carefully assessed by several teams of scientists to assess if it was still capable of diverting rainwater into the nearby sea, and the restoration project has now been approved.
Archaeologist Massimo Osanna, Director General of Archaeological Park of Pompeii, told The Times that the entrances to the drains had been blocked but with increasing flooding from rainwater they plan to start using them again, despite them being built almost 2,300 years ago. The engineering project is being conducted by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii with a team of speleologists (cave experts) from the Cocceius Association, and in a Daily Mail report, Osanna is quoted saying the fact that this can be done is testament to the “excellent engineering skills at the time.”
The archaeologists excavating a tunnel within Pompeii’s drains. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
An Explosive Ancient City
According to Pompeii Sites , Osanna said in a statement that the initial exploration of the underground canals confirmed the “cognitive potential which the Pompeian subsoil preserves” and demonstrates just how much remains to be discovered and examined. Furthermore, the scientist said many gaps in their knowledge of the past regarding certain aspects or areas of the ancient city are being filled thanks to the collaboration of experts in various sectors.
As technology advances, so too does our understanding of this tragic natural event that instantaneously ended the life of the city’s population, and archaeologists are continually uncovering more artifacts and evidence from the ash-covered city. However, the scientists deep-penetrating underground scanning equipment is proving that not all of the artifacts buried at Pompeii are ancient, which is evident in an Italian daily, Il Fatto Quotidiano , article published last July about the discovery of “10 unexploded World War II bombs.”
Another shot of a tunnel inside Pompeii’s drains. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
- Pompeii: The Ancient Roman City Frozen in Time
- Skeleton Found in Pompeii Belonged to Child Seeking Shelter from Deadly Volcanic Eruption
- House of Visual Delights Discovered in Pompeii
Fires in the Sky
Dr. Osanna said at the time that a bomb had gone off 30 years ago and he admitted that it was difficult to know “how many World War II bombs were still buried.” He openly petitioned for help from the British Air Force to determine where they might be located. And while Pompeii officials were worried to begin with, because there was no telling how many unexploded bombs were hidden beneath the city, they announced publicly that “there was no risk” for excavators or tourists.
It seems some places just have an infinity with explosions and eruptions, an in an Ancient Origins article I wrote myself last July about this incident, I concluded with a stirring article published in the Irish Times , which pointed out what was either a bizarre coincidence, or something altogether blacker. The article said 165 bombs were dropped by the allies in Pompeii on August 24th, 1943, “on October 21st,” the very same date that in AD 79 the ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius.
It seems that not only the gods played with fire and brimstone at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.
Top image: Tunnel within ancient Pompeii’s drains system with archaeologist inside. Source: Archaeological Park of Pompeii
By Ashley Cowie