Ancient Rome represents a rare opportunity to compare a longitudinal study of rainfall records with an unusually extensive historical record covering more than a millennium. However, the few existing climate records covering this period and region suffer from dating uncertainty, discontinuity and human impact. This paper investigates the potential of dark layering in calcium carbonate deposits formed in past water systems as a well-dated and high-resolution proxy for rainfall distributions, through a case study on ancient Rome’s Anio Novus aqueduct. Such a proxy would have broad applicability, since carbonate deposits are found in water systems from Australia’s Great Artesian Basin to pre-Columbian North America. Dark-coloured layers within deposits from this aqueduct have multi-scalar distribution and elevated organic concentrations that are consistent with formation during the organic-rich flows of the Anio Novus’s source water during storms (Keenan-Jones et al. 2014). This paper will present stable isotope ratio measurements from the Anio Novus deposits in order to investigate the time period over which these dark layers formed. Apart from its palaeoclimatic value, this rainfall record will illuminate the influence of climate on flooding, disease and fire, all of which were serious concerns in densely-populated ancient Rome.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at