Minoan Water Systems on Crete

The Minoans were a great Bronze Age civilization that peaked during the second millennium B.C. on Crete.  They had built multistory complexes, now referred to as “palaces,” which were actually distribution centers for large quantities of goods such as olive oil, wine, and grains.  The platial architecture featured colonnaded courtyards, sliding doors, and external staircases.  The monumental stone buildings were braced with wood beams.  Water technologies included running water within the palaces and other settlements, drainage systems, piping systems, rainwater harvesting, and other technologies.

map crete 001

Source: Gorokhovich, Y., L.W. Mays, L. Ullmann, A Survey of Ancient Minoan Water Technologies, Water Science and Technology: Water Supply, IWA, Vol. 114, pp. 388 – 399, 2011.


Map of eastern part of Crete (copyright with Yuri Gorokhovich)

Water Technologies of the Minoans

Water Technologies of Minoans

Source: Gorokhovich, Y., L.W. Mays, L. Ullmann, A Survey of Ancient Minoan Water Technologies, Water Science and Technology: Water Supply, IWA, Vol. 114, pp. 388 – 399, 2011.

Models of Minoan residents at Museum in Heraklion

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Tylissos, Crete

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Aqueduct leading into Tylissos from the Spring of Agios Mamas

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Sedimentation tank, cistern, and channel from tank to cistern at Tylissos, Crete

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Top view of sedimentation tank. Closeup of sedimentation tank showing the lower outlet to drain tank and the overflow outlet to the channel that leads to the cistern

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Channel that leads from sedimentation tank to cistern.

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Stairs leading down into cistern taken inside cistern showing the plastering on the walls of the cistern

Kato Zakros

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Kato Zakros to the left of the photo

Well at Kato Zakros

Well at Kato Zakros

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Cistern at Kato Zakros


Knossos is the most known and largest of the palaces, which was discovered in the early 20th century by Sir Arthur Evans.  The Minoan civilization declined with the arrival of the Dorians that settled on the Crete between 1100 ad 900 B.C.

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Bastion A at the north entrance showing the bull fresco.

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Model of Knossos at Museum in Heraklion

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Model of Knossos showing three koulares

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Two of the three

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One of three possible cisterns

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Drainage channel

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Terracottta pipe

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Stormwater drainage channel


Carved stone elements of rainwater harvesting system collecting water fram roof through light well.

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Stone channel

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Main drain lutlet

Stepped water channe bwl

Stepped water channel and sedimentation (desilting basin).  Along the stairway is a small
channel (for rainwater collection) consisting of a series parabolic-shaped
stepped chutes that convey rainwater down steam to the sedimentation tank or

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Photo by Susi Mays

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Sedimentation/desilting basin Photo by Susi Mays

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Area for storing wine or olive oil in vessels



Phaistos with Messara Plain in background




Courtyard also used for rainfall harvesting with cisterns (round structures) shown in background to the right.




Exit of main drain at southern end of palace.


Agia Triadha

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Channel empties into sedimentation basin (Photo by susi Mays)

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Sedimentation basin

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Channel downstream of sedimentation basin located in the background to the right.


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Boat dock facility

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Location of Myrtos-Pyrgos on top of hill

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View from top of hill

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Plaster on cistern wall

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Mallia (near town of Ierapetra)

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Mallia. Note the eight round structures (Koulares)

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Round structures at Mallia

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Magazine storage area for storing olive oil

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Well at Palaikastro

Kato Syme

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Kato Syme

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2 Responses to Minoan Water Systems on Crete

  1. Nick says:

    Wow, thanks for putting this online. The Minoan really were millennia ahead of their time. Such a sophisticated integrated system isn’t really seen again until the Industrial Revolution in Victorian Britain (but Rome clearly had some of technology)!
    I saw an out of place Minoan casting that could be a boiler. Is there any evidence, of dual (hot and cold) plumbing to communal buildings? Thanks.

  2. Ana Julia Mello Telles says:

    This helped me a lot in my school work about Minoan Civilization and it only further increased my desire to study about nations/peoples in the Ancient World. Thanks from Brazil. s2

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