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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Roman water wheels unearthed
A wooden water container from the Roman waterworks, AD63
A wooden water container from the Roman waterworks
Excavations have uncovered two examples of Roman engineering which have been preserved by London's rising water table.

The water wheels, found in two deep wells, date from AD63 and AD108 and are the first of their kind to be discovered in Britain.

The sophisticated mechanical systems were capable of delivering large amounts of water to the surface.

The rare machinery was discarded in the water-filled wells on a site being redeveloped in Gresham Street, London.

Computer reconstruction of Roman waterwheel AD63
A reconstruction of a Roman waterwheel AD63
The Museum of London Archaeology Service (MoLAS) and the AOC Archaeology Group, said the finds are providing new information on the development of Roman engineering.

Early examinations of the wheels show that water management in Roman London was far more advanced than previously thought.

Hedley Swain, head of the Early Department at the Museum of London, said: "I can't emphasise enough how important they are.

Slave powered

"Anyone from this point on who takes seriously engineering in the Roman world is going to have to think differently about it.

"The wheels have given us a fantastic amount of information and made us think again about the procedures of the Romans in Britain, how intense and how organised they were."

Slaves are thought to have powered the water works by walking about 10 metres to turn the treadmill, which would raise 100 litres of water.

Working models of the water wheels will be on display at the Museum of London from Thursday 26 September 2001 to Monday 7 January 2002.

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See also:

29 Aug 01 | Education
Digging the past
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