PNAS: A lead isotope perspective on urban development in ancient Naples

A lead isotope perspective on urban development in ancient Naples

Hugo Delile, Duncan Keenan-Jones, Janne Blichert-Toft, Jean-Philippe Goiran, Florent Arnaud-Godet, Paola Romano and Francis Albarède

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2016: doi: 10.1073/pnas.1600893113

A well-dated sedimentary sequence from the ancient harbor of Naples sheds new light on an old problem: could the great AD 79 Vesuvius eruption have affected the water supply of the cities around the Bay of Naples? We here show, using Pb isotopes, that this volcanic catastrophe not only destroyed the urban lead pipe water supply network, but that it took the Roman administration several decades to replace it, and that the commissioning of the new system, once built, occurred nearly instantaneously. Moreover, discontinuities in the Pb isotopic record of the harbor deposits prove a powerful tool for tracking both Naples’ urbanization and later major conflicts at the end of the Roman period and in early Byzantine times.

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