What did major cities use to transport water before the industrial revolution led to advances in metalworking capabilities?
In Prague, a network of wooden pipes made out of pine trees was employed beneath the city’s streets in the 1700s to bring water from surrounding areas into New Town.
And in the course of major reconstruction at the lower half of Wenceslas Square that is currently still underway, archaeologists have discovered a large network of these pipes in surprisingly well-preserved condition.
The wooden pipeline runs across the center of Wenceslas Square, about one meter below ground level.
“Historical water pipes from the mid-18th century reaching over twenty meters in length have been uncovered [under Wenceslas Square],” Olga Šámalová, Deputy Director for the Department of External Relations at the City of Prague Museum said in a press release, as reported by iDnes.cz.
“The water supply system was built in Prague’s New Town after its foundation. At Wenceslas Square, where the former Horse Market was, water flowed through the wooden pipeline from the settlement Rybník and was also the source of the New Town moat.
Because pine is rich in resin it’s more resistant to rotting than other forms of wood. But heading into the 19th century, advancements in ironmaking and other metal technologies soon made the wooden pipes obsolete.
While the use of wooden piping to transport water in larger cities during the 18th century is well documented, it’s rare to find such a well-preserved specimen underneath city streets in 2018.
Currently, the wooden pipes are in the care of the City of Prague Museum.
The renovations on the lower half of Wenceslas Square, intended to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, are expected to be completed by the end of the year.