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Dams and Water Management Systems of Minoan Pseira

Dams and Water Management Systems of Minoan Pseira

Philip P. Betancourt
with an Appendix by Floyd W. McCoy
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: INSTAP Academic Press
Pages: 92
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  • Book Info
    Dams and Water Management Systems of Minoan Pseira
    Book Description:

    Excavations at the Bronze Age seaport on Pseira Island uncovered the remains of sophisticated water retention systems that included the addition of retaining walls to prevent erosion, massive dams with associated reservoirs, and small check-dams to ravines that reached over one hundred meters in length in order to control water runoff and make it available for human use. Agriculture was one of the cornerstones of the Bronze Age Cretan economy, and it is no surprise that the ancient inhabitants of the island went to great lengths to control water runoff and make it available for human use. Despite the application of traditional archaeological survey methods, the full extent of the water management systems was not understood fully as the island's rugged topography prevented intensive and thorough survey of many places. The use of a differential Global Positioning System (dGPS) unit provided the opportunity to take a fresh look at the evidence for water management on the island. The results of this study contribute substantial amounts of new information on the little known subject of Minoan water conservation and control.

    eISBN: 978-1-62303-000-1
    Subjects: Archaeology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Philip P. Betancourt
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The Minoan archaeological site of Pseira makes a good test case for the examination of prehistoric water management for several reasons. It has two carefully excavated examples of Bronze Age dams and their associated corollary constructions, and the remains are reasonably well preserved. As a small island with only one main settlement, it provides information on one specific group of people and their responses to a need for better control of their environment. An island, of course, has carefully conscribed natural boundaries. Limits to a local territory that are set by topographic borders are always useful, even though in this...

  8. 2 The Pseiran Agricultural Crisis in the Middle of the Second Millennium b.c.
    (pp. 9-22)

    The topographic location of the Pseiran dams with their associated water management systems suggests that they were developed in order to improve agriculture and animal husbandry more than to provide water for the town. The systems are situated up in the hills away from the houses, and a ravine that terminates at the town itself did not receive any dam (Fig. 10). The water source for the domestic needs has not been discovered, probably because it consisted of wells that are hidden beneath later erosion. The digging of wells began early in Cretan history (Mantelli 1992; Wilson 2007), and the...

  9. 3 The Pseiran Water Management Systems
    (pp. 23-52)

    At the beginning of the Late Bronze Age, the Pseirans developed two different strategies to improve their agriculture due to the circumstances on the island. Their small island, with only 1.75 km² of land, was extremely rugged. At the northeast, most of the soil had eroded so completely that bedrock was visible across much of the landscape. Elsewhere, however, low hills afforded good farmland. The harvests were sufficient as long as the population was modest in size, but an increase in the number of inhabitants and the changes in climate that are documented in the previous chapter created problems around...

  10. 4 Comments and Discussion
    (pp. 53-62)

    During LM I, the Pseirans improved their agricultural terraces and constructed two ambitious systems for water management with several components including massive stone and soil dams. Two circumstances can be recognized in the need for an improvement in the retention of water on the small island at this time. The first stems from a gradual alteration in the regional climate picture. Studies of the pollen record indicate a gradual climate change during the second millennium b.c. that resulted in a drier and cooler period in comparison with the previous millennium (p. 11). The changes surely resulted in more erratic weather...

  11. Appendix: Geological Setting for the Dams of Pseira
    (pp. 63-78)
  12. References
    (pp. 79-88)
  13. Index
    (pp. 89-94)