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Drain with decorated cover, Roman, 100-400 CE

The Roman civilisation is renowned for developing advanced systems that influenced the community’s health. These included the establishment of street cleaning, waste disposal and fresh water supplies in a large number of Roman towns and cities. This limestone drain with a colourful cover would have prevented material such as mud and rocks falling into the drain and blocking pipes. Drains were inspected for damage and blockages and were regularly cleaned by slaves or criminals as part of their punishment. The cover also prevented people getting their foot stuck. The drain belonged to the private collection of the Italian tenor Evangelista Gennaro Gorga (1865-1957). He sold part of his collection in 1924 to Henry Wellcome for the significant price of £8,000. A second part was offered and bought in 1936 after Gorga was experiencing financial difficulties.

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Glossary: drain

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