5. As concerns those cuniculi excavated for other purposes, the farmers in ancient Latium were probably quite quick to realize just what possibilities cuniculi offered for the elimination of excess humidity or water diversion. As already mentioned, these were strictly secondary, not so much because these purposes were unimportant but rather because they were of lesser importance at that time than the collection of pure water.
When excavators managed to reach a perennial water table, they took advantage of the chance of having a continuous supply by using appropriately placed cuniculi to collect water.
Two cuniculi of this type are those found at Bagnoregio, 35 km, north of Rome, and at Paliano (Figure 23), 25 km. south of Rome. Both cuniculi were excavated at the base of hills and, even today, have a discharge of 0.5 and 1 l/s respectively.
Etruscan cuniculus. Paliano, Rome.

Fig. 23 Cuniculus located at Paliano. It was excavated at the foot of a hill. The lower part of one side of this hill was cut away in 1955 (when this photograph was taken). The two branches of this cuniculus carried water from a spring. This type of spring is rare in the Roman Campagna.

A typical example of cuniculi which served to drain off excess water is the network found in the sepulchral chamber of the Mengarelli tumulus in the Etruscan necropolis at Cerveteri, 35 km north of Rome. The tumulus is a sepulchre for inhumation composed of a series of chambers covered by a mound of earth. The tumulus is isolated by a ditch encircling it (Figure 24). The tumulus had a monumental aspect in the 7th century B.C. as it was built on a circular base about thirty metres in diameter cut in the natural tufo (Figure 25). Sepulchral beds are found in the subterranean chamber. One of the beds in the Mengarelli tumulus was cut by the Etruscans in order to create a cuniculus through which the water which had seeped into the chamber could be led away as there was no natural outlet for this water (Figure 26). Another cuniculus having the same function still today leads the runoff water, which has collected in the circular ditch, away from the tumulus (Figure 25).

Etruscan necropolis at Cerveteri (Lazio)..

Fig. 24 Plan and cross-section of tumuli in the Etruscan necropolis at Cerveteri (A - tumulus of Colonello, B - Mengarelli tumulus, D- ditch, C - cuniculi).

Etruscan tumuli. Cerveteri.

Fig. 25 Etruscan tumuli photographed in Figure 24. Note the cuniculus which takes water away from the ditch.

Etruscan cuniculus. Tumulus Mengarelli, Cerveteri.

Fig. 26 Cuniculus which takes water away from the sepulchral chamber in the Mengarelli tumulus (see Figure 24). Note that the cuniculus cuts through a sepulchral bed.

A very complex network of cuniculi is visible in a locality called Ponte Terra 25 km east of Rome (Figures 27, 28). Here an earth dam had been constructed in ancient times to hold back the water. The water was first led into large tunnels excavated in the more resistant tufo of the banks to bypass the dam. At present a small quantity of water flows into the tunnel on the right. It is probable that by closing the conduit, the water level could be raised and then derived downstream by the numerous cuniculi which are still visible today. An old road connecting the towns of Tivoli and S. Vittorino still passes over the dam.
Ponte Terra dam, Vittorino (Lazio).

Fig. 27 Network of cuniculi at Ponte Terra (A - tributary of the Aniene River, E - ancient dam, D - bypass tunnels, B - old road, C - cuniculus).

Ponte Terra dam, Vittorino (Lazio).

Fig. 28 Ponte Terra. The water flowing into the bypass tunnel and the dam are both visible.

This is an example of transportation of water for uses other than for drinking. The water was, in this case, probably used for irrigation.
One might suppose that a discharge greater than those collected by the cuniculi would have been necessary for the purposes of extensive irrigation. However, pre-Roman (and also early Roman) agriculture was based mainly on winter cereals (wet winters in Italy), legumes, some fruit and olives, all crops which could be grown in a natural water regime.
Only in exceptional cases were single cuniculi excavated for several kilometres for the purpose of collecting larger quantities of water. An interesting example of such a cuniculus is the one near Formello which is about 4 km long and terminates near the ancient Etruscan city of Veio (Figures 29, 30). Its precise function is not known as there are no constructions at the mouth of the cuniculus which could suggest an interpretation. It is however probable that this cuniculus was excavated for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants of Veio with drinking water and also, perhaps, irrigation water.

Cuniculus of Formello (Lazio)

Fig. 29 Cuniculus near Formello. Two secondary branches (B, C) are connected to the main cuniculus (A). Today only the main cuniculus carries water. Its floor has been eroded by the water. The secondary branches of the cuniculus have caved in.

Cuniculus of Formello (Lazio)

Fig. 30 Cuniculus near Formello, near the point where the water from the nearby valley flows into the cuniculus by the shaft. The floor of the cuniculus has been so heavily eroded that the cuniculus is visible at the top.

Another example of a cuniculus for the diversion of water is the very famous and still visible one which brought water from the Volchetta creek (the ancient Cremera) into the Fiordo creek just north of the plateau on which the ancient city of Veio was situated. The cuniculus served to balance the total water flow between the two creeks which flowed along the west and east sides of the city.

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