June 22, 2012 at 6:53 PM ET
Roman archaeologists are using an interesting new tool to map and study one of the ancient city's little-appreciated features: Its sewers. They've deployed a remotely controlled rover called an "archeo-robot" to help them create a detailed and complete map of the extensive waterways.
Ancient Rome's "cloaca maxima," Latin for greatest or largest sewer, was a marvel at the time of its use, permitting great quantities of waste water to flow away from the city center. It still functions today, draining rainwater from the historic Forum area of Rome.
A team was recently brought in to study and map the main sewer and its several secondary tunnels. To do it properly, they decided to use a little remote bot equipped with high-definition cameras, atmospheric sensors and a laser-scanning system that would capture the pipes and stones in 3-D. This will allow them to get very exact dimensions as well as an explorable model.
The results are quite cool-looking, and should be of utility to scholars and historians who have often wondered about the cloaca maxima and its construction. You can see a short video of some of the data they've collected here.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.