A lead isotope perspective on urban development in ancient Naples

H. Delile, Duncan Keenan-Jones, J Blichert-Toft, J.-P. Goiran, F. Arnaud-Godet, Paola Romano, F. Albarède

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The influence of a sophisticated water distribution system on urban development in Roman times is tested against the impact of Vesuvius volcanic activity, in particular the great eruption of AD 79, on all of the ancient cities of the Bay of Naples (Neapolis). Written accounts on urbanization outside of Rome are scarce and the archaeological record sketchy, especially during the tumultuous fifth and sixth centuries AD when Neapolis became the dominant city in the region. Here we show that isotopic ratios of lead measured on a well-dated sedimentary sequence from Neapolis’ harbor covering the first six centuries CE have recorded how the AD 79 eruption was followed by a complete overhaul of Neapolis’ water supply network. The Pb isotopic signatures of the sediments further reveal that the previously steady growth of Neapolis’ water distribution system ceased during the collapse of the fifth century AD, although vital repairs to this critical infrastructure were still carried out in the aftermath of invasions and volcanic eruptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6148-6153
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'A lead isotope perspective on urban development in ancient Naples'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this