Aqueducts are pretty amazing illustrations of the artwork of building in the Roman Empire. Even these days, they however deliver us with new insights into aesthetic, functional, and complex factors of building and use. Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) investigated the longest aqueduct of the time, the 426-kilometer-long Aqueduct of Valens giving Constantinople, and uncovered new insights into how this structure was maintained again in time. It seems that the channels had been cleaned of carbonate deposits just a handful of decades in advance of the site was deserted.

The late Roman aqueduct delivered drinking water for the population of Constantinople

The Roman Empire was ahead of its time in a lot of approaches, with a potent determination to create infrastructure for its citizens which we however uncover intriguing these days. This includes architecturally inspiring temples, theaters, and amphitheaters, but also a dense street network and amazing harbors and mines. “On the other hand, the most floor-breaking complex achievement of the Roman Empire lies in its drinking water management, significantly its long-length aqueducts that delivered drinking water to cities, baths, and mines,” mentioned Dr. Gül Sürmelihindi from the Geoarchaeology team at Mainz University. Aqueducts were being not a Roman creation, but in Roman hands these long-length aqueducts designed even more and extensively subtle all through 1 of the largest empires in historical past.

Just about each metropolis in the Roman Empire had an enough supply of new functioning drinking water, in some situations really with a greater volume than is the case these days. “These aqueducts are generally acknowledged for their amazing bridges, this sort of as the Pont du Gard in southern France, which are however standing these days right after two millennia. But they are most amazing due to the fact of the way troubles in their building were being solved, which would be daunting even for present day engineers,” mentioned JGU Professor Cees Passchier. Additional than 2,000 long-length Roman aqueducts are acknowledged to day, and a lot of more are awaiting discovery. The examine undertaken by Dr. Gül Sürmelihindi and her analysis team focuses on the most magnificent late-Roman aqueduct, the drinking water supply strains of Constantinople, now Istanbul in current-working day Turkey.

Carbonate deposits deliver insights into Byzantine drinking water management

In Ad 324, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Excellent produced Constantinople the new money of the Roman Empire. Despite the fact that the metropolis lies at the geopolitically significant crossroads of land routes and seaways, new drinking water supply was a difficulty. A new aqueduct was for that reason constructed to supply Constantinople from springs 60 kilometers to the west. As the metropolis grew, this procedure was expanded in the 5th century to springs that lie even 120 kilometers from the metropolis in a straight line. This gave the aqueduct a total length of at minimum 426 kilometers, making it the longest of the ancient entire world. The aqueduct consisted of vaulted masonry channels substantial enough to wander by way of, constructed of stone and concrete, ninety substantial bridges, and a lot of tunnels up to five kilometers long.

Sürmelihindi and her team studied carbonate deposits from this aqueduct, i.e., the limescale that fashioned in the functioning drinking water, which can be utilized to acquire significant information and facts about drinking water management and the palaeoenvironment at that time. The scientists uncovered that the overall aqueduct procedure only contained slim carbonate deposits, symbolizing about 27 decades of use. From the annals of the metropolis, nevertheless, it is acknowledged that the aqueduct procedure labored for more than 700 decades, until finally at minimum the twelfth century. “This usually means the overall aqueduct will have to have been maintained and cleaned of deposits during the Byzantine Empire, even shortly in advance of it ceased doing work,” explained Sürmelihindi. Carbonate deposits can block the overall drinking water supply and have to be taken off from time to time.

Double building above 50 kilometers was probable constructed for routine maintenance

Despite the fact that the aqueduct is late Roman in origin, the carbonate uncovered in the channel is from the Byzantine Middle Ages. This produced the scientists believe about possible cleansing and routine maintenance tactics — due to the fact cleansing and repairing a channel of 426 kilometers indicates that it can not be utilized for weeks or months, even though the metropolis population depends on its drinking water supply. They then uncovered that 50 kilometers of the central element of the drinking water procedure is built double, with 1 aqueduct channel above the other, crossing on two-tale bridges. “It is pretty probable that this procedure was set up to enable for cleansing and routine maintenance operations,” mentioned Passchier. “It would have been a costly but functional alternative.”

Unfortunately for the analysis team, it is no extended possible to examine the correct operation of the procedure. A single of the most imposing bridges, that of Ball?germe, was blown up with dynamite in 2020 by treasure hunters who erroneously considered they could uncover gold in the ruins.