The water pipe from the times of the Romans

The Roman city of Carnuntum consists not only of the famous archaeological park with its completely reconstructed Roman houses. Also away from it Carnuntum still offers numerous treasures of scientifically unique value. Such as a fresh water pipeline in the area of the former western suburb of Carnuntum.

This water pipe is not a modern reconstruction or renovation of a historical Roman water pipe. This is a real water pipeline from Roman times, which still transports fresh water to Carnuntum after more than 1,700 years. The achievement of the Roman engineers and the importance for research cannot be overestimated here.

Last winter there was now a break in this still intact Roman fresh water pipeline. For this reason, the Society of Friends of Carnuntum (GFC) and the Province of Lower Austria, in cooperation with the Federal Monuments Office and the landowner, decided to launch a comprehensive research project ("Research Project 'Abensperg-Traun Water Conduit'"), which, in addition to clarifying scientific questions, also aims to draw up a restoration concept.

Despite several investigations since the 1970s, geophysical measurements in recent years and small field archaeological investigations, the origin of the pipeline, the exact routing of the main water channel, branches and junctions of smaller pipeline strands remained largely unknown.

The pipeline, which is buried to a depth of 6 m, consists of a water conduit that can be walked on almost upright and is covered with flat bricks placed next to each other in a gable shape. Above it, a vault of about 30 cm thickness is built up in Roman cement construction. In the conduit, the water is led as an open channel over a base made of Roman flat bricks. Not only the execution, above all its longevity leaves one marveling at the abilities of Roman architecture.

An already exposed defective point of the water conduit in the area of the animal garden of Petronell Castle could be plastered over and completely documented at the end of 2019. At this point, the original Roman conduit meets a section of canal that was probably repaired with bricks and covered with large stone slabs during the Baroque period. The Roman conduit was backfilled almost to its full height with debris and sediment. In order to enable accurate documentation of the damage, a canal robot was sent into the canal in 2019 via manholes or inspection shafts, some of which had already been constructed in Roman times. However, due to silting, the robot could hardly move.

For this reason, speleologists were called in in February 2020, who examined the accessible pipeline sections over a length of about 100 meters. From this inspection, new insights were gained into the route of the main channel to the east up to a massive obstruction within the channel, as well as the discovery of a parallel branch line, which is connected to the main route via a right-angled pipe system and continuously tapers off. Obstruction and constriction prevented further progress by the cavers for the time being. Next steps are the data evaluation, the creation of a damage register and a rehabilitation concept. We will of course keep you informed about further developments.