Engineering the Byzantine water supply: procurement, construction and operation

This innovative research combines construction process modelling and contemporary network software to gain new insights to conceptualise the construction and distribution of the city’s hydraulic networks.

The project builds on a previous study of the water supply of Constantinople through the application of current civil engineering and construction management techniques to investigate the operation of the water distribution system within the ancient city and the procurement of materials, workforce and processes of its construction. Modern construction process modelling and contemporary network modelling software will be applied to the geo-spatial data available from fieldwork and research, with appropriate assumptions based on the latest archaeological evidence from collaborators in Istanbul. The output will be an engineering model allowing a step-change in the elucidation of the ancient water system.

This was one of the largest water systems in the ancient world: the Aqueduct of Valens was started around 345, and took thirty years to construct, eventually extending to 150km in length and including over 30 stone bridged. Meanwhile in the city there were around 100 cisterns storing 800-900,000 m3 of water. The system remained in use until around the 12th Century.

Previous work by Prof Crow has identified and catalogued the remaining structures, but there is still little understanding of how the system actually functioned or how the materials and workforce required to create such complex infrastructure might have been procured and deployed.

Dr Crapper will study the hydraulic engineering aspects of the water systems, applying modern engineering modelling techniques to investigate how water may have flowed during the various historical phases of the system; meanwhile Dr Smith will apply construction management methods to gain insight into the materials and skills required to build and maintain the structures; Prof Crow will provide archaeological and historical oversight to inform the engineering study.

Ancient Byzantine Water Aqueduct

Principal Investigator: 


Prof Jim Crow

Postgraduate Researchers: 

  • Ms Kate Ward
  • Ms Francesca Ruggeri
  • Dr Riley Snyder

Research Institutes: 

  • Infrastructure and Environment

Research Themes: 

  • Environmental Engineering

Last modified: 

Thursday, May 13, 2021 - 17:02