Buried Roman Aqueducts – Frost Avoidance Techniques ? Or Wrong Conclusion.

The discovery of buried Roman water works (aqueducts) led to the conclusion that these water works were buried to avoid freezing by frost action.


Roam aqueduct

Figure 1

To avoid frost effects all one needs do is enclose the water channel and being constructed from mortar and bricks etc, as in Figure 1 above, burial becomes unnecessary unless its for aesthetic reasons. The very material itself that the water pipe is made from material that mitigates frost action by providing an insulated cover.

It’s our old friend of arguing the consequent, a well developed fallacy frequently used by those who see only what they believe.  That is, dogma is paramount in the ranking of empirical data, so if the data contradict the dogma, alternative explanations are sought to avoid the bloody obvious.

Here’s how the Romans solved frost action when the water works had to cross valleys or creeks,

Covered aqueduct

Figure 2

The structures in figures 1 and 2 are parts of the Eiffel Aqueduct system supplying the Roman City of Cologne, Figure 3 below:

Eiffel System

Figure 3

So why bury the water works to avoid frost damage if simply putting a lid or cap over the channel is needed?

About Louis Hissink

Retired diamond exploration geologist. Trained by Western Mining Corporation and polished by De Beers.
This entry was posted in Archaeology, Geology, Hare-brained theories and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Buried Roman Aqueducts – Frost Avoidance Techniques ? Or Wrong Conclusion.

  1. malagabay says:

    Excellent post 🙂


  2. johnm33 says:

    Ok the slope has to be minimal, the route short, it means cutting a channel. Easiest place to put the waste is just behind you, as work proceeds.


  3. johnm33 says:

    Just a couple more thoughts, decent cement is very energy intensive, but if you allow for a long ‘set’ time not so much. If this was designed to run full it would need external restraint, the best way to accomplish that without increased expense would be to backfill then use either side as the access for materials, to compress it, apply puddled clay then hoggin[clay-stone mix] over the top arc and when about a foot deep, and after a few days, compress that with foot traffic.


    • Edward says:


      This brings to mind an interesting article on Roman concrete that recently appeared…

      “Ancient Romans built concrete sea walls that have withstood pounding ocean waves for more than 2,000 years. Now, an international team has discovered a clue to the concrete’s longevity: a rare mineral forms during chemical reactions between the concrete and seawater that strengthen the material.

      The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder described underwater concrete structures that become “a single stone mass, impregnable to the waves and every day stronger.” This piqued Jackson’s interest. “For me the question was, how does this material become a rock?” she says.

      The researchers found a silicate mineral called phillipsite, which is common in volcanic rocks, with crystals of aluminium tobermorite growing from it. Tobermorite seems to have grown from the phillipsite when seawater washed through the concrete, turning it more alkaline. “It’s a very rare occurrence in the Earth,” Jackson says. Such crystallization has only been seen in places such as the Surtsey volcano in Iceland. As tobermorite grows, it may strengthen the concrete because its long, plate-like crystals allow the material to flex rather than shatter when stressed.”



  4. johnm33 says:

    I’ve known about how good the concrete they used in the pantheons dome is for years, most people I asked about it had no clue or suggested they had a way of eliminating all the pores. Over the years i had maybe 8 jobs where i had to build new reinforced concrete steps up to the front door of London houses, i always made a bit of a meal of it using dryer concrete and vibrating it for longer than necessary, twice the results were so good the client kept it as the finish, but it was an exercise in futility really i knew nothing about pozzolans and it seemed no-one else did. Except on occasion digging out for new foundations or underpinning i’d come across some really trying concrete that appeared to be made of crushed brick and lime, it soaked up every blow and wasn’t at all brittle, but i never put 2+2 together. This stuff i figured was used to level off the ground where trees had been removed, so the brickies had a sound base to work off.
    A few years [5?] i bumped in to an old friend who was repairing old stone walls that were washed by the tides and although he didn’t give much away [I wanted to know mixes and everything] he told me he was using the same mix the romans used to use for the beds and something fast setting for the pointing, and said the more it got washed by the sea the stronger it got, and that it would set even under water. So after that i tracked down and learnt something about pozzolans and how that dome worked.


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