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 The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion

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nordmann
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PostSubject: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Thu 12 Feb 2015, 10:09

For thousands of years humanity has applied cutting-edge engineering skills to the twin challenges of delivering drinking water to town and city dwellers and then removing the same peoples’ bodily waste material, often using the same solution in the form of culverts, drains, ducts and conduits. While above-ground solutions like the Roman aqueducts, and in more modern times giant water towers, are often – and rightly – praised as examples of beautiful civil engineering, their close relatives in the form of underground structures go relatively unnoticed, inaccessible and hidden from view as they are.

This is a shame, and in a small effort to make amends here (hopefully) we can provide some examples of what we’re often missing out on …



This fantastic tunnel lies beneath the streets of Exeter. It's referred to now as "The Cathedral Passage" and was once part of a 14th century solution in the city to the problem of fixing leaks in the lead pipes that carried drinking water to its citizens. Instead of simply burying the pipes a London plumber called William Frost was employed by the Cathedral in the 1440s to upgrade the system with a view to simplifying repairs. The solution, to run the pipes within larger tunnels such as the one pictured above, was probably first initiated under Frost and his colleague John Were. For the next few centuries these tunnels were continually extended, repaired and adjusted, and in their time have been used as storage space, wartime air raid shelter and even as part of a fiendish plan by Dr William Cox, canon of St Peter's Cathedral during the English Civil War, to blow up the entire city having stuffed them first with gunpowder (he obviously misunderstood his job title somewhat).

Any other sewage works worth mentioning?
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Thu 12 Feb 2015, 10:50

The Great Drain of Paisley Abbey was unearthed in the late 1990s. The 90 meters uncovered shows that it was built in at least two phases and the silt produced some good stuff including slates inscribed with poetry and music notation.

 
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Thu 12 Feb 2015, 11:33

I suppose it would be remiss not to mention the great Basilica Cistern in Istanbul which, rather amazingly given its grandeur and scale, was apparently completely forgotten about by the time of the sack of Constantinople and during the first century or so of Ottoman rule. It was a visiting French tourist Peter Gyllius who, in 1545, noticed the practise of "floor fishing" amongst residents in one huge city block, all of whom had drilled holes in their floors through which they drew water and dropped hooks on lines to catch their dinner. Gyllius explored this water source and to his amazement (and everyone else's seemingly) rediscovered this one-time reservoir constructed initially by Constantine but in its present form by Justinian in the 6th century and which once supplied the giant palace complex in Constantinople. The Ottomans put it back into use and their frequent renovations have, fortunately for modern day visitors, always been done with a huge respect and sympathy for the original designer's plans.



The cistern is no longer used as a freshwater supply but is a considerable tourist attraction as well as home to some exotic fish species introduced in recent decades. Perhaps one of the most striking features amidst the forest of pillars supporting the cistern's roof are the Medusa heads, one inverted and one on its side, which form the base of two of these giant columns. The implication on the part of the designer is clear - the old gods being crushed under the supporting stones of the Christian basilica which Constantine had built above them and from which the cistern still derives its name, though the basilica itself appears to have been demolished during the Justinian renovations long ago.

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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Thu 12 Feb 2015, 11:51

An 1850 sketch of Rome's Cloaca Maxima;

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Thu 12 Feb 2015, 11:54

And the very same outlet into the Tiber in modern times:

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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Thu 12 Feb 2015, 11:59

Another impressive cistern is the Roman one in Ptolemais/Tolmeta in Libya, 18 galleries under the forum. These were still almost entirely complete when I saw them, heaven knows what they are like now.

                                                                       
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Thu 12 Feb 2015, 12:53

I believe the site has been assessed recently as pretty well intact, ferval. However "Ojas par la Paz" (Eyes for Peace), a Spanish based collective set up in 2011 to monitor and report events in Libya after the revolt against Gadaffi and as it descends into civil war (internationally syndicated press releases approved by NATO and the current regime being less than worthless as factual accounts) did report one dispatch from a curator of the Bhengazi Museum in 2012 as following:

The Hellenistic city of Ptolemais (also known as Ptolemaida, Tolmeta and Tolmeitha) is being looted in an extensive and well organized manner:

Witnesses have declared that right now the coasts are being used for illegal trafficking. Also foreign bulldozers are visible, as well as digs and ships that look like fishing ships. Asking the locals what is going on, they say that there is people digging and do not want to be bothered. They are unknown people. In the excavated places men carrying vases to the ships can be seen. It is obvious that they are looting this site. We know that right now Libyan archaeological remains are being sold in Egypt and other countries.


But on a lighter note - the sewage system in Moscow is estimated to be 6,000km in total length ("sewers" being tunnels and pipes over 125mm in diameter). Some parts date back to pre-communist times and in these older parts crystalline stalagmites have formed from seepage from the tunnel roofs, leading to some beautiful natural formations as below:

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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Thu 12 Feb 2015, 15:41

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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Thu 12 Feb 2015, 16:03

Thanks, nordmann, that makes me so sad, we were shown round by the on-site archaeologist and the collection of statues and sculptures in the storage building was eye watering. Apollonia and of course Cyrene as well are probably being gutted too, and the people - the sweet student lad who was our allocated secret policeman, complete with black leather jacket, who started off being so distant and ended up playing football on the beach with the men, what might have happened to him? The young folk at Sabratha who hugged us and wanted their photos taken with us - it's heartbreaking. And don't start me on Aleppo.

Back to excrement of a healthier kind, the indoor toilet facilities and drains in Skara Brae were pretty impressive for their time.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Fri 13 Feb 2015, 08:15

Contemporary with Skara Brae and in what might as well have been a different universe the Babylonians were independently coming up with remarkably similar domestic drainage solutions as in the Orkneys. However by 1500BCE or thereabouts they had undergone a revolution in Babylonia and became the first people we know of to mould clay pipes for sewage - with some very modern looking plumbing solutions for getting round corners as one would expect to see in any home today reproduced in plastic or copper and brass:



This development coincided with the Minoan construction of what appears to have been the first known "flush toilet" system in the Knossos complex (I refuse to call it a palace as the overwhelming evidence points to a cross between a necropolis and centralised ritual centre). However at its height the Knossos buildings certainly accommodated quite a few living people who all needed to poo and the solution was ingenious - a rooftop reservoir collecting rainwater which was plumbed into a system fed also by diverted stream water and then channelled underground to make a constantly flowing waste elimination route as well as inside the walls and out into latrines to ensure that the waste was immediately sent on its way.



Ironically most guided tours of Knossos fail completely to point out this remarkable feature - mainly because Knossos also has another drainage system (carved gypsum open ducts above ground level) and of course the infamous "royal bathrooms" that Evans misidentified when he mistook sarcophagi as bath tubs. Hans Wunderlich, the German geologist, did an exemplary job in his lifetime making the case for these open structures to have been connected with ritual rather than ablution, in particular, he surmised, the draining of blood from the slaughter of bulls.

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Fri 13 Feb 2015, 11:29

If it's ancient works on sanitation and latrines that interest you, then look up Mohenjo daro - circa 2500 -1900BC phot sites. The earlier years being more relevant because later layers are mostly  lost but were far more inferior in communal notions being just over building . On the system I am  using at the moment - troublesome - I cannot get the data uploaded for you.
The site is extensive and underground drain systems extensive. There are also surface drains in most roads. mostly loosely covered, they were gradient. These vast sites now sadly neglected will not last much longer, I fear. Excavation brought it the world's attention but now it  is in decay. I once saw an  ancient toilet  being put to use again - reminding me of seeing little children who do a wee or worse in today's showroom toilets.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Fri 13 Feb 2015, 18:56

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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Fri 10 Apr 2015, 23:03

The Siloam Tunnel under Jerusalem:



Nearly half a mile long - this early underground aqueduct is believed to date from at least the 7th Century BC.
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Tue 02 Jun 2015, 09:16

Did anyone else watch this programme last night?

http://michaelscottweb.com/index.php/invisiblerome/

took a look at the underground world of quarries, aqueducts, sewers and catcombs of Ancient Rome.
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PostSubject: Re: The Underground Architecture of Utility - Plenishment and Abstersion   Tue 02 Jun 2015, 09:20

3D image of part of the catacombs;



And an article about Roman concrete;

http://archserve.id.ucsb.edu/courses/arthistory/152k/concrete.html
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