Ancient hydraulic works


Use: Urban Water Supply
Construction era: Mycanean
Types: Cistern
Operation era: Mycanean
Location: Greece - Mycanae

In the third and final building phase at Mycenae in the late 13th century, the fortification walls were extended to protect the water supply for the citadel in case of siege. An underground cistern collected water from the Perseia Spring near the Lion Gate, conveyed by an underground conduit consisting of clay pipes. The problem of bringing this conduit inside the fortification wall, where it would be accessible only from within the citadel was solved by the Mycenaean engineers in what is considered to be “one of the most impressive technical achievements of the Mycenaeans” (Iakovidis, 1983), “an outstanding example of [their] architectural ingenuity and building skill” (Scoufopoulos, 1971). An underground cistern was constructed about 18 m below ground level and a roofed staircase was built leading down to it, protected by the new extension of the wall. The staircase is in three sections, with changes of direction and intervening landings (Fig. 2). The first section has a corbelled ceiling, as does the remainder in part, alternating with a saddle roof. In total the staircase extends to about 40 m and includes 83 steps (Scoufopoulos, 1971). The well-shaft itself is 3.50 m deep and the level of the water it held fluctuated with the seasons and the supply from the spring. The well-shaft and the lower courses are lined with two layers of stucco for waterproofing. A row of stones acted as a filter at the point where the conduit emptied into the cistern (for fuller description, with references, see Scoufopoulos, 1971; Iakovidis, 1983).

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