Can You Guess How Old This Water Pump Is?

Can You Guess How Old This Water Pump Is?

Photo credit: Nadine Korte

The ancient Romans are awesome! This is a bronze double-action water pump from approximately the 3rd Century AD, found in Bolsena, Italy. An 1800-year old piece of plumbing!

We all know how great the Romans were at constructing their water delivery systems, from the huge, empire-wide system of aqueducts to their beautiful fountains, public toilets, and baths.  Yet it’s easy to forget just how much engineering know-how had to go into making them all run. Here’s one small section of that system to get an idea of how much went into making everything work.

The original is housed in the British Museum, catalogue no: 1892,0517.1

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9 Responses to Can You Guess How Old This Water Pump Is?

  1. itwasjudith says:

    thanks! another thing I did not know 🙂 it appears to be very well preserved, i wonder how it made it through the centuries

    • My pleasure! :). It’s always amazing how some stuff survives. I saw a pair of leather baby booties from ancient Rome in a museum last summer and couldn’t get over how much chance went into its preservation!

  2. Romans were maybe the most amazing engineers the world has met at the time…. greeks were great theorists but romans had the power and the means to make that theory work!

    And it was arabs who kept and preserved a great amount of it when everything was lost and forgotten in Europe’s dark ages… till we took their knowledge and started to rebuild it in the renaissance… ah, Al-Andalus and its fountains!

    • I couldn’t agree more! 🙂 While the entire West fell into disrepair the Abbasid Empire was flourishing and helped saved a lot of Graeco-Roman knowledge. When the west could barely hold its towns and cities together, Baghdad was at 1 million in population! It’s amazing how knowledge of some empires survives while others who were just as important don’t get saved. Think of the ‘rediscovery’ of the Hittites!

  3. That is truly amazing.

    • I know, right! And it helps you identify with the ancient Romans a bit more, too. When I look under my kitchen sink, I see something very similar and almost two millennia separates us.

  4. WHAAAAAAAAAAT!!!!!!!??????? Fascinating!!! Oh those Romans!!!!

  5. According to BM description, a force pump was originally invented by a Greek barbers son Ktesibios who later was at Alexandria’s Library in the reign of Ptolemy II, circa 280 AD [who was quite a guy!].

    I’m interested in Old London Bridge, in 1582 Peter Morice asked the City of London to lease him some of the Bridge arches to build a water works to enable him to supply City dwellers with water. They agreed when he demonstrated his ability to ‘throw’ water over a nearby church steeple, and was given a 500 year lease – thats right, renewable in 2082!!
    So despite the roman baths at Bath, the old technology was lost in UK, and Morice was able to take advantage of his knowledge – it can be nothing other than ‘Ktesibios invention’ in action?
    Unsuprisingly when a bronze water pump inscribed ‘London Bridge Water Works’ came up for sale in January 2015, with that history it was my must have!
    If you are interested, a dealer, not my seller, shows images at;

    http://www.bayhallantiques/view.php.id=as208a470

    What do you think? There are no maker marks, but it must predate 1821 when the waterworks were removed, the only age clue might be the style of the block capital letters.

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