Impluvium

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The impluvium is the sunken part of the atrium in a Greek or Roman house (domus). Designed to carry away the rainwater coming through the compluvium of the roof, it is usually made of marble and placed about 30 cm below the floor of the atrium.

The name is also used for a type of dwelling typical of the Jola in the Casamance region of Senegal. It is a circular mud building, built with a ring of rooms around a walkway that circumscribes a central water trench, fed by an opening that allows water into the building. Impluvia remain cool in very hot weather as the water evaporates. There is a particularly fine example that serves as a hotel in Enampore. Impluvial architecture is also used by the Igbo, Yoruba and Edo of southern Nigeria, in which they consist of small courtyards cornered with large pots to collect rain water. Edo and Yoruba houses usually consist of several impluvia and courts. The amount and size of these courts depend on the social and economic status of the individual. Royal palaces in Yorubaland and the Kingdom of Benin possessed hundreds of impluvia sometimes floored with elaborate pavements made of potsherds and quartz pebbles arranged in decorative patterns.

Inspection (without excavation) of impluvia in Paestum, Pompei and Rome by an American Civil Engineer indicated that the pavement surface in the impluvia were porous or the non-porous stone tiles were separated by a gap significant enough to allow a substantial quantity of water to stand in the...
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