Category Archives: Roman Tech

Road building in Roman times

(Originally published on August 22, 2014)

In an article published in 2009 – “Costruire strade in epoca romana: tecniche e morphologie. Il caso dell´Italia settentrionale ”, Michele Matteazzi of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Padua reviews the constructive panorama of the Roman roads in northern Italy, presenting the various techniques and morphologies identified during the archaeological excavations carried out in the region during the last century. This excellent compilation highlights on the one hand the wide variety of constructive techniques used by Roman engineering to overcome difficulties and on the other hand rebounds the great misconception that has plagued virtually all Roman road studies to date: the assumption that all the Roman roads were paved with great slabs of stone; This misconception originated in 1622 when Nicolas Bergier published his seminal work L’Histoire des Grandes Chemins de l’Empire Romain, when he (wrongly) considered a passage from Vitruvius that spoke of paving housing structures as a reference to the technique of road construction, proposing for the roads a stratigraphic sequence that became canonical, composed of statumen, rudus and nucleus; its persistence to this day is also linked to the little attention given to Roman road technique until very recently, as the traces have always pointed in another direction, ie the use of various construction processes and a wide variety of materials (often obtained in the vicinity of the work) arranged in successive layers which allowed a simpler and faster construction without losing its road efficiency. Given the importance that the article may have in the study of the road network in Portugal, I decided (with the proper permission of the author to whom I thank) to make its translation available in Portuguese. The article can be read in the Italian or Portuguese version.

The Roman industrial complex at «Quinta do Lago»

(Originally published on September 13, 2013)

The archaeological site of «Quinta do Lago»

This archaeological site is located on the bank of the «Esteiro de Ancão» on grounds of the modern tourist resort called «Quinta do Lago» (next to Faro but formerly in Almansil, Loulé). This is a fish processing factory built in the first century AD that produced the famous garum, a fish paste from Lusitania much appreciated in Roman times; At least 5 salting tanks and other structures are still visible, with opus signinum-lined walls consisting of mortar gravel, hydraulic lime and sand for waterproofing the tanks.

This industrial complex was probably integrated in the fundus the Roman villa of «the Quinta do Ludo» a few miles inland, in an area now occupied by the new resort «Golf das Laranjeiras». This villa exploited the both agricultural and marine resources as many of the agro-industrial villae scattered across the coastline of Algarve. The monument is accessible through the resort southern golf course, but is in a rapid process of degradation. Coordinates: 37.025493,  -8.005853

Segovia aqueduct

(Originally published on March 16, 2012)

Pictures I took of the famous Segovia aqueduct, one of the great works of Roman engineering that has survived to this day. Note the absence of mortars between blocks and the markings of forfex confirming the use of machinery for lifting and positioning the various building elements. Another Roman construction that has been challenges the passage of time for centuries.

The Roman forum of Bobadela

(Originally published on November 8, 2011)

In September, during another visit to the Roman city of Bobadela (Oliveira do Hospital), I was surprised by the result of the recent excavations in the courtyard of a 16th century house: nothing less than the remains of part of the Roman forum of the city, corresponding to its western end, thus allowing to define the dimensions of this gigantic building as they complement the well-known remains near the church corresponding to its eastern end. Columns and other building elements have been arranged at the site of the find, and their high numbers now make it possible to think of a possible partial reconstruction of the building which would be another milestone in the recovery of the former regional capital which is now a quiet village.

Roman tech – Modern uses

(Originally published on October July 15, 2010)


Mapungubwe National Park Interpretive Centre, Peter Rich Architects, (2008), a) interior view, b) under construction (Photo: James Bellamy).  

The construction of the Mapungubwe National Park Interpretive Centre in South Africa was inspired by ancient Roman construction techniques such as the arched ceiling structure and the use of local materials for a new model of subtlety. The project, designed by John Ochsendorf, a professor of civil engineering and architecture at MIT, and built between 2007 and 2010, aims to demonstrate that it is possible to build modern buildings using inexpensive materials near the construction site (one of the rules). to minimize costs and reduce construction time), thereby significantly reducing energy consumption and pollution associated with construction projects. A time-lapse video about this building could be watched here.

Wine production with Roman vessels

(Originally published on January 5, 2010)

French cellar using Roman-style vessels

TIME magazine has just published an interesting article about the recent use of the Roman amphora model in the production of high quality wines. Once again the validity of Roman technology is recognized for achieving excellence while ensuring the sustainability of the solution both in terms of energy and the materials used. The recent massification of the use of stainless steel vats has created some problems in the quality of the wines obtained namely in the production of Port Wine, forcing the use of micro-oxygenation and others processes to improve the bouquet, body and other characteristics of wines. In contrast, the porosity of the Roman vessels provide a natural micro-oxygenation without energy consumption. Another important advantage is the oval shape of the vessels that allows the formation of a vortex during fermentation which are attenuated by the angles of the traditional vats; the vortex can rotate for weeks facilitating the natural lifting of the sludge.
Read original story here.