A Roman provincial city and its contamination legacy from artisanal and daily-life activities

Genevieve Holdridge, Søren M. Kristiansen*, Gry H. Barfod, Tim C. Kinnaird, Achim Lichtenberger, Jesper Olsen, Bente Philippsen, Rubina Raja, Ian Simpson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Roman metal use and related extraction activities resulted in heavy metal pollution and contamination, in particular of Pb near ancient mines and harbors, as well as producing a global atmospheric impact. New evidence from ancient Gerasa (Jerash), Jordan, suggests that small-scale but intense Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad period urban, artisanal, and everyday site activities contributed to substantial heavy metal contamination of the city and its hinterland wadi, even though no metal mining took place and hardly any lead water pipes were used. Distribution of heavy metal contaminants, especially Pb, observed in the urban soils and sediments within this ancient city and its hinterland wadi resulted from aeolian, fluvial, cultural and post-depositional processes. These represent the contamination pathways of an ancient city-hinterland setting and reflect long-term anthropogenic legacies at local and regional scales beginning in the Roman period. Thus, urban use and re-use of heavy metal sources should be factored into understanding historical global-scale contaminant distributions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0251923
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2021


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