Nav: Home

Science reveals improvements in Roman building techniques

October 25, 2019

The Romans were some of the most sophisticated builders of the ancient world. Over the centuries, they adopted an increasingly advanced set of materials and technologies to create their famous structures. To distinguish the time periods over which these improvements took place, historians and archaeologists typically measure the colours, shapes and consistencies of the bricks and mortar used by the Romans, along with historical sources. In new research published in EPJ Plus, Francesca Rosi and colleagues at the Italian National Research Council improved on these techniques through scientific analysis of the materials used to build the Roman Forum's Atrium Vestae. They found that successive phases of modification to the building saw improvements including higher quality raw materials, higher brick firing temperatures, and better ratios between carbonate and silicate building materials.

The team's analysis could offer important supplements to the techniques currently used by historians and archaeologists. It could also help these academics to end long-standing disputes regarding the time periods of certain building techniques. Since the Atrium Vestae was modified in five distinctive building phases spanning several centuries, the study highlighted technological improvements throughout the Roman age in unprecedented levels of detail.

The techniques employed by Rosi and colleagues included optical and electron microscopy, and measurements of how x-rays were diffracted as they passed through the materials. They also determined the molecular fingerprints, or spectra, of the materials. These are based on the characteristic ways in which their molecules vibrate when illuminated by electromagnetic radiation of specific energies. Using these methods, the team revealed the colours, textures and chemical compositions of Roman building materials on microscopic scales for the first time; clearly revealing technological improvements over the centuries. The findings of Rosi's team are a clear demonstration of the advantages of scientific methods in archaeological analysis. Their techniques could soon be used in future studies to unlock further mysteries concerning the technologies employed by ancient civilisations.
-end-
Reference

E Boccalon, F Rosi, M Vagnini, A Romani (2019), Multitechnique approach for unveiling the technological evolution in building materials during the Roman Imperial age: the Atrium Vestae in Rome, Eur. Phys. J. Plus 134:528, DOI 10.1140/epjp/i2019-12936-y

Springer

Related Archaeologists Articles:

Archaeologists uncover 2,000-year-old street in Jerusalem built by Pontius Pilate
An ancient walkway most likely used by pilgrims as they made their way to worship at the Temple Mount has been uncovered in the 'City of David' in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.
Tiny ear bones help archaeologists piece together the past
For the first time archaeologists have used the small bones found in the ear to look at the health of women and children from 160 years ago.
Neurosciences unlock the secret of the first abstract engravings
Long before Lascaux paintings, humans engraved abstract motifs on stones.
FEFU archaeologists have found the oldest burials in Ecuador
Archaeologists of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) found three burials of the ancient inhabitants of South America aged from 6 to 10 thousand years.
Statistical method recreates the history of a long-abandoned village
Archaeologists now have new tools for studying the development of medieval villages and the transformation of the historical landscapes surrounding them.
Archaeologists found traces of submerged Stone Age settlement in Southeast Finland
The prehistoric settlement submerged under Lake Kuolimojarvi provides us with a clearer picture of the human occupation in South Karelia during the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic Stone Age (about 10,000 - 6,000 years ago) and it opens up a new research path in Finnish archaeology.
Archaeologists identify ancient North American mounds using new image analysis technique
Researchers at Binghamton University, State University at New York have used a new image-based analysis technique to identify once-hidden North American mounds, which could reveal valuable information about pre-contact Native Americans.
Archaeologists discover bread that predates agriculture by 4,000 years
At an archaeological site in northeastern Jordan, researchers have discovered the charred remains of a flatbread baked by hunter-gatherers 14,400 years ago.
Old Maori village discovered by Otago archaeologists
A group of University of Otago archaeologists have uncovered the peripheries of a 14th century Maori village in Gisborne, New Zealand.
ULB archaeologists discover a 1,000-year-old mummy in Peru
A team from the Université libre de Bruxelles's centre for archaeological research (CReA-Patrimoine) has completed a significant excavation in Pachacamac, Peru, where they have discovered an intact mummy in especially good condition.
More Archaeologists News and Archaeologists Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.