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Ancient water system uncovered at Roman Stabiae

Archaeologists have uncovered a Roman water system during excavations in Stabiae, located near Pompeii in the Province of Naples, Italy.

Stabiae was largely buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, which released a deadly cloud of super-heated tephra and gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), molten rock, pumice, and hot ash at a rate of 1.5 million tons per second. The resulting pyroclastic surges and heavy ashfall enveloped Pompeii and Herculanium, with large parts of Stabiae being buried in thick tephra and ash.

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The Roman author, Pliny the Elder, records that Stabiae had several miles of luxury coastal villas along the edge of the headland, with notable figures such as Julius Caesar, the emperors Augustus and Tiberius, and the statesman-philosopher Cicero all owning properties there.

Excavations in a small peristyle (colonnaded garden) at the Villa Arianna have uncovered parts of an ancient water system during archaeological cleaning, revealing a decorated lead tank which was part of a water distribution system within the villa complex.

shutterstock 1663145659
Villa Arianna – Image Credit : Shutterstock (Copyright)

The villa was first excavated by the Swiss engineer Karl Weber between 1757 and 1762, revealing an area of around 2,500m2 that contains a large complex divided into four parts: the atrium and the surrounding rooms dating back to the late Republican period; service rooms and thermal baths; side rooms off the summer triclinium dating back to the Neronian Age; and a large palestra (gym) from the Flavian Age.

Two pipes are connected to the impluvium (central water collection tank) in the atrium, that fed water throughout the wider villa complex by regulating the flow of water into the various rooms.

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Archaeologists suggest that the tank was likely visible in ancient times to allow access to the two stop keys, enabling the inhabitants to regulate the flow or shut off water distribution in order to carry out maintenance operations of the system.

Archaeological Park of Pompeii

Header Image Credit : Archaeological Park of Pompeii

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 8,000 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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