Evolution of Sanitation and Wastewater Technologies Through the Centuries

Evolution of Sanitation and Wastewater Technologies Through the Centuries


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ISBN-13: 9781780404844
Publisher: IWA Publishing
Publication date: 03/15/2014
Pages: 500
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.75(d)

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Sanitation and wastewater technologies in Minoan Era

A. N. Angelakis, E. Kavoulaki, and E. G. Dialynas


'... all the sewers were still working! It was very interesting for me to see the water in the drainages and sewers so big that a man could enter. I doubt if there are other examples of ancient sewerages working after 4 thousand years ...' Angelo Mosso, during his visit at the palace of Phaistos in the beginning of 20th century (Mosso, 1907).

The history of water supply and wastewater engineering on Crete dates back more than ca. 4500 years. From the Early Minoan period (ca. 3000–2000 BC) issues related to water supply were considered of great importance and were accordingly developed. Archaeological and other evidence indicate that during the Bronze Age advanced water management and sanitary techniques were practiced in several settlements on Crete (Angelakis & Koutsoyiannis, 2003). The emergence of the palaces revealed a remarkable development of water management in the urban context. Moreover, during the Middle Minoan period (ca. 2000–1700 BC) and the beginning of the Late Minoan periods (ca. 1700–1100 BC) a 'cultural explosion' occurred on the island. A striking indication of this is manifested, inter alia, in the advanced wastewater and stormwater management techniques practicede at that time. These included various scientific fields of water resources, such as wells and ground-water hydrology, aqueducts, and domestic water supply, according to local condition in terms of climate and geomorphology (De Feo et al., 2012). Additionally, the construction and use of sanitary facilities, even the recreational uses of water, signify attitudes of life and taste (Lyrintzis & Angelakis, 2006). Furthermore, numerous very advanced and wonderful water wastewater systems, including aqueducts, cisterns, filtering systems, rainfall-harvesting systems, terracotta pipes for water supply, fountains, baths, sewers, and lavatories were practiced in several Minoan palaces and other settlements (Angelakis et al., 2005; Antoniou & Angelakis, 2013).

The Minoans came up with many innovations, such as those related to water and wastewater management. In their palaces, they had running water and flushing lavatories. Thus, all wastes were transferred outside the building, and away from the living places. In their houses, the bathtubs were moveable, allowing to move them to different rooms. The palaces of the Minoans were very open without lockers, served as community centers, and people could walk into any room they wanted To serve their gods, the Minoans had ritual baths in their palaces (Angelakis & Spyridakis, 1996a; De Feo et al., 2012).

One of the salient characteristics of Minoan Era was the hydraulic function of the storm water and wastewater in the palaces and towns. In the entire structure of the Minoan palace nothing is more remarkable than the elaborate sewerage system that runs throughout its domestic quarter and adjoining halls. Evans (1921–1935) and MacDonald and Driessen (1988), described the course of these sewers and drew plans of what they considered to be their original form.

At Knossos, the Minoans took advantage of the steep grade of the land to devise a drainage system with lavatories, sinks and manholes. Archaeologists have found pipes laid in depths from just under the surface in one area to more than 3 m deep in others. Such a plan of the entire sewerage system of Knossos was previously reported (Angelakis & Spyridakis, 1996a; Antoniou & Angelakis, 2013; MacDonald & Driessen, 1988 and others). This plan could provide the visitor with a basic orientation of the site and help him to view the entire network in an integrated manner. A stone-by-stone description of the sewerage system with reference to the architecture above has been given as well by MacDonald and Driessen (1988). The total sewerage system, including outlets and tributaries, exceeds one hundred and fifty meters. The diminutive size of the channels and other obstacles prevented a more thorough examination.

The Minoan palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Zakros, and Galatas were the seats of a powerful centralized administration that controlled trade and carried out large-scale public works, ranging from the construction of roads to water supply and drainage and sewerage systems. It is evident that during the Minoan Era extensive drainage systems and elaborate structures were planned, designed and built to protect the growing population centers and the agricultural land. In several Minoan palaces and other settlements, one of the most important elements was the provision and distribution of water and the transfer of stormwater and sewerage in drains by means of hydraulic systems. Rainwater from the flat roofs of the palace at Knossos was carried off by vertical pipes; one of these, located in the eastern wing, was emptied into a stone sewer-head from which a stone channel carried the flow of storm water (Angelakis & Spyridakis, 2013).

Many remains of sanitary structures have been found in the greater region of the ancient Hellenic world. Some of them are dated even in the Minoan Era (e.g., Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Gournia, and Tylissos sites). The installation of hygiene can be classified as a characteristic factor of living's standard and economic prosperity, both in domestic and public uses. Because of these reasons lavatories have become, and often still, are considered as luxury elements (Antoniou, 2007). The bathing facilities remained mainly public until the establishment of Etruscan civilization (ca. 800–100 BC) in the central Italy, which appears to develop a rational planning of urban areas with a clear distinction between public and private spaces with specific water systems supplying workshops (Angelakis et al., 2012a). Nevertheless, this is a tradition still maintained in several communities in the Middle East. On the other hand, the sanitary facilities had been widely applied in domestic-residential buildings (Antoniou & Angelakis, 2013).

In this Chapter significant developments relevant to the hygienic lifestyle in Crete, Hellas during the Bronze Age are considered. Special references to sanitary and relevant structures, such as sewers, drains, bathrooms, and lavatory are made, following a short review of Crete physical setting.


1.2.1 Location

In modern geographical terms, Hellas is located in southern Europe, between Albania and Turkey, surrounded by the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean seas. Crete is a Hellenic mountainous island located at the eastern Mediterranean, in the southern part of the Aegean sea. The island of Crete measures approx. 260 km east to west and 60 km north to south at its widest point; its landmass covers an area of 8336 km2 with a coastline of 1046 km (Angelakis et al., 2012a). Due to its position between Asia, Africa and Europe, Crete holds a strategic location, as it forms a natural and vital bridge between the three continents. This unique geographical position determines its historical course throughout both antiquity and modern times. During the ancient period the island was wracked by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and winter storms (Gorokhovich et al., 2011). A map of Crete with the major Minoan archaeological sites considered in this Chapter is shown in Figure 1.1.

1.2.2 Climatic conditions

Today, Crete straddles two major climatic zones, the Mediterranean and the North African, mainly falling within the former. As such, the climate in Crete is primarily temperate. The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea, whilst winter is fairly mild. Snowfall is common on the mountains between November and May, but rare in the low lying areas, especially near the coast. However, deviations from this regime are not uncommon, such as the heavy cold snap that swept the island in February 2004, when the whole island was blanketed with snow. In the summer, average temperatures reach the high 30's and the low 15°C, with maxima touch the upper 40's°C (Angelakis et al., 2012a). The south coast, including the Messara valley and Asterousia mountains, belongs to the North African climatic zone, thus enjoying significantly more sunny days and high temperatures throughout the year. In southern Crete, date palms bear fruit, and swallows remain year–round rather than migrate to Africa.

It is known from several studies on climate variations in the Mediterranean region during the Holocene period, that a number of different climatic periods have occurred during the past 5000 years (e.g., cold period, ca. 4500–3000; cold and humid period, ca. 3000–2200; and a warm period, ca. 2200–1400 BC) (Angelakis & Spyridakis, 1996). Despite varying climatic conditions over the past 5000 years, it may be conjectured that a clear abundance of water resources cannot be documented in the sites of significant cultural development in Crete, including centres such as Knossos, Zakros and Phaistos. Given these climatic and hydrological considerations, early Cretan urban societies had to develop innovative technological means to capture, store, and convey water even from long distances; moreover, legislation and institutions to manage water more effectively had to be established (Angelakis & Koutsoyiannis, 2003; Angelakis et al., 2012a).

1.2.3 Hydrology

Cretan hydrology varies greatly from west to east and from north to south. Geologically, numerous water basins exist, yet the island is officially considered as an independent river basin district (RBD). The atmospheric precipitation is mainly frontal, linked to 'the interaction of contrasting air masses in eastward moving depressions', and orographic due to the existence of three main mountainous formations (Grove & Contario, 1995). Therefore, it exhibits intense spatial and temporal variation; it decreases from west to east and from north to south (Voudouries et al., 2006), whilst also increases with altitude. In particular, the average precipitation ranges from 440 mm/yr on the plain of Ierapetra (southestern Crete) to 2000 mm/ yr in the Askifou uplands (northwestern Crete). The mean annual precipitation in eastern Crete measures 816 mm/yr while in western Crete it measures 927 mm/yr. Moreover, annual precipitation is divided into a wet and a dry season; the first one lasting from October to March, and the second one from April to September. The atmospheric precipitation in Crete indicates intense spatial and temporal variation. Generally the precipitation decreases from west to east and from north to south and also increases with altitude.

In Crete the air temperature increases from the west (16.96°C Alikianos station) to the east (18.33°C Siteia station). The mean annual temperature ranges from 17°C to 20°C. The prevailing wind direction is north and north-westerly. High speed winds can occur any time during the year. The driest months of the year are June and July (with a mean relative humidity ranging from 48.9% recorded at Souda station to 59.9% in Iraklion station). The most humid month is December (Angelakis et al., 2012a).

Potential evapotranspiration (ET), as estimated using the Penman-Monteith method, a system which provides the most accurate estimates, varies from 1240 mm/yr to 1570 mm/yr. Within the annual circle, the monthly ET rate changes from about 25 mm in winter to 225 mm in summer. The mean annual actual ET has been estimated to represent 75% to 85% of the mean annual precipitation in low elevation areas (less than 300 m asl) while dropping to 50% to 70% in high elevation areas (Angelakis et al., 2012a).


The island of Crete was the center of Europe's first advanced civilization, the Minoan (Mays et al., 2007). The earliest human settlements on the island date back to the Neolithic period (ca. 5700–3000 BC). Ancient Knossos was one of these major Neolithic settlements. Later on, Knossos became the capital of the Minoan Crete which reached its peak during the Bronze Age (ca. 3000–1100 BC). Soon, its cultural influence and trade relationships extended beyond the borders of the Cretan island reaching destinations as far as Cyprus, Egypt and Anatolia. Contacts of Minoans with other prehistoric civilizations (e.g., European, Asian, and even North American) has been reported (Mariolakos, 2012). The Cretans were well-known for their navy which dominated the Aegean sea, their artistic pottery, and their luxurious palaces and villas.

Cultural advancements can be observed throughout the third and second millennia BC, but great progress was made in Crete, especially during and after the Middle Minoan period (ca. 2000–1700 BC), when the population in its central and southern regions increased, towns were developed, the first palaces were built, and Crete achieved a prosperous and uniform culture. In the early phases of the Late Minoan period (ca. 1700–1100 BC), Crete appears to have prospered even more, as evidenced by the larger houses and more luxurious palaces of this period (Koutsoyiannis et al., 2008). At this time, the flourishing arts, improvements in metalwork along with the construction of better-equipped palaces, and an excellent road system, reveal a wealthy, highly cultured, well-organized society and government. However, one of prominent characteristics of the Minoan Era was the architectural and the hydraulic function of the sanitary structures, such as sewers, drains, bathrooms, and lavatory (Angelakis & Spyridakis, 1996a).

1.3.1 Use of harvested water in minoan crete

A systematic evolution of water management in ancient Hellas began on Crete during the early Bronze Age, for example, the Early Minoan period (ca. 3000–2000 BC). Wells, cisterns, water distribution, fountains, and even recreational functions existed. In prehistoric Crete rivers and springs provided people with water. In the Early Minoan period II, a variety of technologies, such as wells, cisterns, and aqueducts were used. Also the Minoan architecture, including flat rooftops, light wells, and open courts played an important role in water management. The rooftops and open courts acted as catch basins to collect rainwater, which was sent to storage areas or cisterns, like those found in Knossos, Phaistos, Archanes, Myrtos Pyrgos, and Chamaizi (Angelakis & Spyridakis, 2013).

Anthropological studies in developing countries show that in communities without direct access to potable water sources, the domestic water use was in the range of 10–20 L/inh.d (Mays et al., 2012). In such villages all water had to be stored in water cisterns and/or carried in pots and buckets some distance from the water source to the home. For a family of 6, 60–120 L of water each day had to be transferred. Based on this it is assumed that water consumption during the Minoan Era was not exceeding 15 L/inh.d at any time of its long period.

Historically, drinking water has been considered as the clear water. Considering the scientific knowledge of that era, this simplification was totally justified, even without the tools of chemistry and microbiology. Even today, clarity (and probably taste) is the main criterion for classifying water as suitable for human consumption (Mays et al., 2012). One of the salient characteristics of the Minoan Era (ca. 3200-1100 BC) was the treatment devices used for water supply in palaces, towns, and villages from the beginning of the Bronze Age. It is truly amazing that the most common water quality modification technique for providing suitable domestic water supplies was known to Minoan engineers. Thus, according to Dafner (1921), a strange, oblong device with an opening in one of its ends, was used to treat domestic water (Figure 1.2a). The device was constructed in a similar manner and with the same material as the terracotta water pipes. Spanakis (1981) theorized this device as a hydraulic filter which was probably connected to a water supply reservoir by a rope passing through its outside holds. Its operation relied on local, high speed, turbulent conditions in order to continuously clean the porous surface thus allowing the continuous flow of filtered water to the jar. For cleaning purposes, after extensive solids accumulation, it was possible to release it from the pipe end by loosening the rope in the holes. A similar clarifying device was used by Egyptians in the tomb of Amenophis II and later in the tomb of Rameses II. This device allowed impurities to settle out of the water and then the clarified water was siphoned off and stored for later use (Mays et al., 2012; Antoniou & Angelakis, 2013).


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Table of Contents

Table of Contents: Sanitation and Stormwater and Wastewater Technologies in Minoan Era; Sanitation and Wastewater Technologies in Harappa/Indus Civilization (ca. 2600-1900 BC); Wastewater Management in Ancient South Asia; Evolution of Sanitation and Wastewater Technologies in Egypt through the Centuries; Sanitation and Wastewater in the Central Andean Region, Peru: An overview from Pre-Columbian and Colonial Times to nowadays; History of Urban Wastewater Sanitation Technologies in Greece; Evolution of Sanitation and Wastewater Technologies in Iran through the Centuries; Sanitation and Wastewater and Stormwater Management in Ancient kingdom of Makedonia, Hellas; The History of Sanitation and Wastewater Management in Cyprus; The History of Sanitation and Wastewater Management in Portugal; From Volubilis to Fez: Water Sanitation and Wastewater , Witnessed a Transfer of an International Héritage; Sanitation and Wastewater Technologies in Ancient Roman Cities; The Sanitary System in Ancient Roman Civilization: An Insight on Tunisia; Revisiting Technical and Social Aspects of Wastewater Management in Ancient Korea; Drainage and Sewage Management in Ancient Athens, Greece; Water supply and sewerage system of Diocletian's Palace in Split; The Evolution of Sanitation in the Rural Area of Southwest China: with Case of Dai Villages of Jing Hong, Yunnan Province; Evolution of Sanitation Services in Rome city's Between Urban Development and Environmental Quality; History of the sewerage system in Barcelona, Spain: From its origins to the Cerdà Plan; The Prague Sewerage System: A short history and the importance of role of William Heerlein Lindley; Water Borne Diseases and Hippocrates: The Treatise On Airs, Waters, and Places; Ancient Greek and Roman Authors on Health and Sanitation; The Historical Development of Sanitation from Latrine to Centralized and Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Plants; Progress Through Revolutions; The History of Land Application and Hydroponic Systems for Wastewater Treatment and Reuse; The Valencian, Spain Court of Water (Wastewater); The Evolution of Sanitation and Wastewater Management Throughout the Centuries: Past, Present, and Future

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