Science & Engineering Faculty

Depositional and diagenetic history of travertine deposited within the Anio Novus aqueduct of ancient Rome

Publication Date Jun 21, 2022


ABSTRACT Travertine deposits preserved within ancient aqueduct channels record information about the hydrology, temperature, and chemistry of the flowing water from which they precipitated. However, travertine is also chemically reactive and susceptible to freshwater diagenesis, which can alter its original composition and impact reconstructions of aqueduct operation, maintenance, and climate. Hydraulic reconstructions, in combination with a suite of high-resolution optical, laser, electron, and X-ray microscopy analyses, have been used to determine the original crystalline structure and diagenetic alteration of travertine deposited in the Anio Novus aqueduct built in A.D. 38–52 at Roma Vecchia. Age-equivalent travertine deposits, precipitated directly on the mortar-covered floor at upstream and downstream sites along a 140-m-long continuous section of the Anio Novus channel, exhibit consistent crystalline textures and stratigraphic layering. This includes aggrading, prograding, and retrograding sets of travertine linguoid, sinuous, and hummocky crystal growth ripples, as well as sand lags with coated siliciclastic grains deposited on the lee slope of ripple crests. The original aqueduct travertine, which is similar to travertine formed in analogous natural environments, is composed of shrub-like, dendritically branching aggregates of 1–3-μm-diameter euhedral calcite crystals. Dark brown organic matter-rich laminae, formed by microbial biofilms and plant debris, create stratigraphic sequences of high-frequency...


Euhedral Calcite Crystals Ancient Human Activity Siliciclastic Grains Travertine Deposits Plant Debris Downstream Sites Microbial Biofilms Original Composition Water Conveyance Systems High-resolution X-ray Microscopy

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No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors. The conception and design of the study, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretatio...

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