At the time of the eruption Herculaneum had a population of 4,000 inhabitants. It extended over an area of 20 hectares contained within the city wall of which only a trace is visible facing the beach.
4.5 hectares are open to the public, while some important public or residential buildings, excavated along underground passageways during the 17 hundreds are inaccessible today. These latter are found outside the archaeological park, like, for example, the Theatre and the Villa of the Papyri.
The urban plan consists of 3 ‘decumani’, i.e. roads going Northwest/Southeast, of which only two were excavated under ‘an open sky’. These roads were intersected by 5 main roads at right angles to them and to the coastline. The third, fourth and fifth are visible today.
These roads, paved with blocks of lava and flanked by pavements, have no signs of grooves caused by the passing of carriages as in Pompei. The reason is, evidently, because , at least in the excavated sector, transport of goods was entrusted to porters or mule drivers.
Before the construction of the ‘Serino’ acquaduct, in Herculaneum, during the Augustan Age, wells were used. These were excavated from the rocky banks and contained and exploited rainwater. In the houses, in fact, at the centre of the atrium there was a bath - the ‘impluvium’ - which collected rainwater by, an appropriate opening in the roof called the ‘compluvium’. This opening in the roof also had the function of giving light to the space.
The water went from the ‘implùvium’ into a cistern underneath from where it could be drawn by means of a well. The ‘impluvium’ became a decorative element when the city was connected by an acquaduct.
Unfortunately, here at Herculaneum, the lead pipes that carried the water under the pavement were eliminated during Bourbon excavations. At the piping connections opening and closing valves were found similar to those we find in taps today!
Under each of the main roads there were sewage conduits. Waters from the buildings connected were discharged into these. There is evidence of one such sewage pipe under the road base at the southern end of the third lower main road, near the second entrance to the House of the Hotel.
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