The little researched Roman and Byzantine Period ‘Cloaca Maxima’ (canal) located on the coastline north of Herod’s port in Caesarea, has suffered constant destruction and deterioration in recent years as a result of winter storms, coastal erosion, and human activity. The original coastal configuration of Caesarea is not agreed upon, and there are multiple theories regarding the coastal morphology at the time that Herod constructed the Roman-era harbour and associated monumental features. Searching underwater for the continuation of the canal can be used as a relative marker for distance from the ancient waterline, both vertically and horizontally.
The true purpose/s and technical functioning of the canal is also not entirely clear, though it is presumed that it was a major (maxima) exhaust for sewage and liquid waste, it has also been suggested that it served a flushing function for the entire infrastructure of the city plumbing system based on descriptions from Josephus and possibly a direct relationship to the ancient harbour for the purposes of keeping the harbour clear and operational. In 2010, an unexpected layer of fine silty mud was identified nearly 600 meters offshore of the cloaca and is suspected to be a rare patch of preserved sewage effluent. In this study by analysing the canal’s association to the aqueducts (low and high), the Roman and Byzantine city and these offshore sediments will help to complete the missing information about the water system in Caesarea. Since the canal has never been fully published and is under a process of rapid and continuous collapse, this research is of utmost importance.