A vast subterranean aqueduct that once served elite Roman villas was discovered in Naples, Italy.
Archaeological authorities had been prompted to look for the aqueduct by locals, who shared memories of playing in the caves and tunnels under the hill of Posillipo as children, not realizing it was an ancient structure. The aqueduct is one of the longest examples of its kind.
The ancient Romans’ aqueducts were among their finest engineering feats. They supplied water to the entire empire, providing water for bathing areas and public fountains. It took about half a millennium, from approximately 300 BCE to 200 CE, to construct the system.
While most recognize the multitiered arched structures, this ancient architecture only accounts for a fraction of the water system, the majority of which is hidden underground. The subterranean parts of aqueducts are less widely studied than the aboveground portions.
The recently investigated Aqua Augusta, also known as the Serino aqueduct, was constructed between 30 BCE and 20 BCE to connect luxury villas and suburban outposts in the Bay of Naples. The Aqua Augusta is known to have covered at least 87 miles, circling Naples down through Pompeii and transporting water inland and along the coast.
Local reports and work by the Cocceius Association, a nonprofit that oversees archaeology in caves, brought a branch of the Aqua Augusta’s existence to light. This segment of the aqueduct carried drinking water to the hill of Posillipo and to the island of Nisida. About 2,100 feet of the aqueduct have been found so far, making it the longest known branch of the Aqua Augusta.
Graziano Ferrari and Raffaella Lamagna, president and vice president of the Cocceius Association, respectively, published a report on the next steps for the aqueduct. Now that it has been identified, the team will be able to precisely calculate the ancient water flow, to learn more about the volcanic eruptions that led to the formation of the hill of Posillipo, and to study mineral deposits along the aqueduct’s walls.
Additionally, the Cocceius Association plans to analyze the aqueduct’s construction. Their research could shed light on ancient Roman life in the Bay of Naples.