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Ancient Water Systems

Civil Engineering infrastructure such as water and waste water systems and transport networks is expensive, and its value to society stretches over many generations.

Caption: 5th Century Bridge Carrying the Aqueduct to Constantinople, Kursunlugerme, TurkeyCivil Engineering infrastructure such as water and waste water systems and transport networks is expensive, and its value to society stretches over many generations. There is no more striking example of this than some of the projects undertaken in ancient times: the Roman aqueducts serving Constantinople were built from the 2nd century onwards, and with various repairs and modifications, continued in use for a millennium, only becoming completely unusable sometime in the 12th century.

Caption: Byzantine Cistern for Storing Water, IstanbulWe are using modern engineering systems thinking to try and understand these ancient water networks: how they worked, how they were designed, how they were managed and repaired, with the ultimate aim of better explaining their value to society over a very long time and how this should contribute to our planning and design of major modern projects.

For more information and postgraduate opportunities, please contact Professor Martin Crapper.

Caption:Ripples in travertine deposition (photo courtesy of Duncan Keenan-Jones)The calcium carbonate deposits that floor ancient aqueducts are known as travertine.

We are using travertine accumulations, deposited from water on the floor and walls of ancient Roman aqueducts, as a record of wetted perimeter, to enable an estimate of actual ancient flows, and analyse their variation in space and time. We are also using travertine deposits as a record of depositional surfaces and ripple characteristics, for possible correlation with the flow properties, such as shear stresses at the water-travertine interface, with which they formed.

Our research aims both to provide fundamental understanding of flow and depositional processes due to chemical precipitation and to extract information for historic interpretation (e.g., comparison of ancient flow measurements with modern engineering techniques, evaluation of the variation in time of water availability and demand). Furthermore, insights on design criteria, flow operation, and maintenance (e.g., travertine periodical removal) may contribute to today's considerations on infrastructure durability.

For more information and postgraduate opportunities, please contact Dr Davide Motta.

Caption: Example of Hydraulic Performance Graph (HPG) for a reach of the Anio Novus aqueduct outside Rome (Motta et al., 2017)

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