Months ago, we talked about the Roman aptitude for engineering by mentioning Istanbul’s gargantuan open-air cistern that had later been transformed into a full-fledged football stadium. And now, archaeologists have dug up what might probably be the largest Roman water basin ever found, this time in the civilization’s mother city of Rome itself. Excavated some 65 ft below the foundation of the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the basin boasts of an area of 115 ft by 230 ft.
The massive 26,450 sq ft irrigation basin was originally lined with hydraulic plaster, and constructed during the Republic epoch in 3rd century BC. Numerous structural improvements were later made in the 1st century AD, with the additions of crucial components like water-wheels. The historians (led by Rossella Rea) also found other agriculture-aiding objects, including a three-pronged iron pitchfork and baskets deftly crafted from willow twigs.
But the most interesting finds related to the ambit of recycling – with jars cut opened on both ends and arranged to form makeshift conduits, and proper ‘low-impact’ usage of older tiles for the canal construction. The site also revealed signs of peach tree cultivation, with the seeds originally imported from Middle East – a legacy of the extensive Roman realm. Oddly enough, the entire farm land was destroyed by the later part of 1st century AD, with the basin being demolished and unceremoniously buried under rubble.
And quite incredibly, the main area of the original basin most probably extended beyond the current site of excavation. According to Rossella Rea –
It’s so big that it goes beyond the perimeter of the metro work site. It has not been possible to uncover it completely. On the basis of the size that had been determined so far, it could hold more than four million liters (1 million gallons) of water.
In any case, the slew of findings are expected to be divided and displayed, with the preliminary objects being exhibited at the St. John’s subway station, and the more important artifacts showcased at other Roman museums.
Image Credits: Soprintendenza speciale per i beni archeologici di Roma.