Hi-tech explorers map Rome's ancient aqueduct

2013-10-29 11:03
A speleo-archaeologist makes his way through a perfectly preserved tunnel section of the Acqua Claudia on the grounds of a Franciscan convent in Vicovaro 60km out of Rome. (Filippo Monteforte, AFP)

A speleo-archaeologist makes his way through a perfectly preserved tunnel section of the Acqua Claudia on the grounds of a Franciscan convent in Vicovaro 60km out of Rome. (Filippo Monteforte, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Vicovaro - Armed with laser rangefinders, GPS technology and remote control robots, a group of speleologists is completing the first ever mapping of the aqueducts of ancient Rome on archaeology's "final frontier".

They abseil down access wells and clamber through crevices to access the 11 aqueducts that supplied Rome, which still run for hundreds of kilometres underground and along stunning viaducts.

The mission of these "speleo-archaeologists" is to update the last above-ground map of the network compiled at the beginning of the 20th century by British Roman archaeologist Thomas Ashby.

As he made his way through a perfectly preserved tunnel section of the Acqua Claudia on the grounds of a Franciscan convent in Vicovaro near Rome, Alfonso Diaz Boj said he was "proud" of the study.

"It combines what was the birth of archaeology as a science with the latest instruments available," said Diaz Boj, a member of Sotterranei di Roma (Underground Rome), in a hard hat and torch.

The pick marks of the Roman diggers can still be seen in the limestone of the tunnel completed in 38 AD under the Emperor Claudius and a lawyer of calcification about half a metre off the ground shows where the water level would have been.

"These aqueducts may not be as beautiful as a statue or like some architecture but I think they are important, they are very beautiful," he said.

The ancient waterways were true feats of engineering, which relied solely on gravity to ensure a flow of water which can be seen across what was once the Roman Empire from Germany to North Africa.

‘Ahead of their time’

Their strategic significance is underlined by the fact that Rome had a special magistrate to oversee their maintenance and that the Visigoths cut them off when they were laying siege to the city.

The Acqua Claudia runs 87km from the Simbruini Mountains to the heart of Rome and supplied 2 200L of water a second.

Only one of the aqueducts is still operational today - the Acqua Vergine - which can be accessed in various hidden locations near Rome including a doorway near the Villa Medici that leads down a spiral staircase to the water.

The Acqua Vergine runs for a total of 20km and ends up in the Trevi Fountain, photographed every day by crowds of tourists.

"Underground Rome is a final frontier," said Riccardo Paolucci, another explorer, as he examined a viaduct in a valley near Vicovaro that carried the water further towards the city.

"Water was a fundamental service for hygiene. In a city like Rome, which had a million inhabitants, there were very few epidemics," he said.

"There was a concept of service for the people, for the city. It is a key concept that is maybe lacking not just in modern Rome but globally."

Diaz, Paolucci and the others from Sotterranei di Roma work together with Rome's archaeological authority, helping them understand what can be seen above the ground from what is underneath and inaccessible without specialist equipment.

"We are who we are because of what we have inside and Rome is what it is because of what is underneath it," said Paolucci, a specialist potholer who is also called to emergency incidents or whenever a sinkhole opens up in the city.

The group also organises guided tours and courses, including one on the aqueducts starting next month, and are earning an international reputation. They were commissioned to map the underground remains of ancient Ephesus in Turkey.

Their study of the aqueducts is based on the map made by Ashby, director of the archaeological British School at Rome between 1906 and 1925.

Ashby's signature can be seen scrawled on the wall of a section of the Acqua Marcia aqueduct, which also transits through Vicovaro, alongside graffiti and poems dating back to the 17th century from visitors who stumbled on the ancient waterway.

"Ashby's maps were ahead of their time," Diaz said.

"He went to the villages, to the local trattorias, he spoke to farmers, to hunters. He found what he found thanks to local knowledge," he said.

"It is a technique that we still use today."

Read more on:    italy  |  archaeology
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

3 must-do trail runs

If you love trail running, you have to put these on your bucket list.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Tips for paddling your first Dusi
Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Financial Manager

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
BHRS
R123 - R1 234 Per Month

Civil Projects Engineer

Bellville
DAV Professional Placement Group

Professional Civil Engineer

Western Cape
Communicate Cape Town Engineering
R800 000 - R900 000 Per Year

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

One day only! – 40% off Appliances!

Get 40% off 100’s of appliances at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may prefer to be in charge because then you can call the shots. You are not as flexible as you like to make out to be and you...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.