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Lime preparation in ancient Roman architectural and marine mortars

Author(s): Marie Jackson ; Gabriele Vola

Year: 2015

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Summary

Romans prepared lime for the volcanic ash mortars of conglomeratic concretes using methods (Vitruvius, de Architectura 5.1.2-3) that are reflected in modern Italian lime industry terminology. In mortars of architectural concretes in Rome (1st C BCE–3rd C CE) builders mixed quicklime with freshwater to form stiff putty (grasello di calce) and then incorporated moistened scoriaceous ash, shown by an experimental reproduction. Pure calcite in unburnt particles (incotti) suggests pre-orogenic Jurassic-Cretaceous limestone of the Monti Sabini 30km northeast of Rome, rather than syn- and post-orogenic Cenozoic carbonate deposits with detrital silicate minerals. High calcium lime (94 wt% CaO) was likely calcined at the quarry; no marine limestone aggregate occurs in the concretes. In mortars of maritime harbor concretes (1st C BCE–2nd C CE) drilled by ROMACONS, builders used fine sand- to gravel-sized lime (zolle or greggio di calce) mainly calcined from local limestone, with high calcium compositions (Portus, Pozzuoli Bay), mixed calcic and dolomitic compositions (Cosa, Anzio, Egnazia, Caesarea, Alexandria) and, rarely, argillaceous compositions (Chersonessos). The lime was likely aged in freshwater (calce spenta e maturata), mixed in a trough with pumiceous ash, and submerged in submarine forms. Carbonate rock is the predominant aggregate of eastern Mediterranean harbor concretes.

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Lime preparation in ancient Roman architectural and marine mortars. Marie Jackson, Gabriele Vola. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395475)


Keywords

Geographic Keywords
Europe


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America