The Environmental Evidence from the Church Street Roman Sewer System

Item

list of authors
P. C. Buckland
list of contributors
R. A. D. Cameron
J. R. A. Greig
R. W. Meyrick
D. J. Rackham
C. Simms
A. Wheeler
A. Wilson
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
The Past Environment of York [Volume]
volume
14
issue
01
Publisher
Council for British Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust
Date Copyrighted
1976
Date Available
Digitally available on 4 August 2023
Abstract
The excavation of a Roman sewer, apparently serving the bath house of the legionary fortress at York (AY 3/1 and AY 17/1), produced biological evidence representing species living in the sewer, those which could have come from the area of the fortress, and other non-local elements. The number of plants and animals in the samples was too small to permit certainty of interpretation: the most numerous animal remains were insects and these formed the basis of the interpretation suggested here.

The initial objective of the study was to establish whether the system was a foul sewer or a storm drain, perhaps also taking surplus water from the adjacent baths. The insect fauna included species tolerant of foul conditions, and there was some evidence to indicate that Side Passage 5 contained sediments derived from a latrine. The virtual absence of phytophages and the general outdoor fauna of the fortress, and the dominance in the insect fauna of synanthropic forms which must have lived inside buildings, suggest that the vertical chutes which fed the sewer were internal and not from roadside drains or from the outsides of buildings.

Pests of stored products suggested that grain was stored in a building in the vicinity of the sewer, though not in a granary of the normal Roman pattern with an outside drain. Several species, including the small vertebrates, may have entered the system when it was in decay, or by crawling up the outfall or falling down the chutes from buildings above.

The absence of water beetles implies that water for the baths came from a spring along a closed aqueduct, and that there was no open pool in the baths. This theory is supported by the pollen record, which does not represent the vegetation in the immediate environs of York and suggests that water was transported from an area of mixed oak woodland, by a closed system. The presence of ants in Side Passages 5 and 6 can be taken to support the suggestion of warm damp conditions such as would be found in a Roman bath house.
Rights Holder
York Archaeological Trust
Rights
CC BY 4.0
Format
Portable Document Format (PDF)
Is Format Of
Paper publication
Identifier
GB2837-PUB-AY-14-1
oclcnum
4200863
isbn10
0900312416
isbn13
9780900312410
Type
Text
Language
English
page start
1
page end
44
number of pages
44

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