Chariot Tracks on The Streets of Pompeii

Mar 9, 2015 0 comments

The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, is located near modern Naples in Italy. Buried under tons of ash, the city was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599. When the site was excavated, starting from the middle of the 18th century, archaeologists discovered hundreds of buildings, a well connected network of roads, a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium and a port.

In those days, the Romans used chariots for transport and these horse drawn vehicles frequently plied the stony roads of the city. To aid their movement, the roads had, and still have, parallel ruts cut into the surface to keep heavy wagons on track. Because articulated front axles for wagons weren't invented until the late Medieval period, steering was extremely difficult. The tracks cut in the city streets helped wagons avoid obstacles and make turns. In some places forked tracks were used like railroad switches -- a strategically placed stone or wedge forced the wheels into the correct set of tracks.


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The streets also had raised blocks in the middle. These allowed pedestrians to cross the street without having to step onto the road itself which doubled up as Pompeii's drainage and sewage disposal system. The spaces between the blocks allowed vehicles to pass along the road.


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