Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


27 February 2014

On the flow characteristics of the conical Minoan pipes used in water supply systems, via computational fluid dynamics simulations

G. Tseropoulos, Y. Dimakopoulos, J. Tsamopoulos & G. Lyberatos Journal of Archaeological Science 40:4 (April 2013): 2057–2068.


The Minoan Terracotta pipes with their conical shape were widely used in the water distribution system in the ancient Minoan civilization. They remain one of the brightest achievements of the Minoan tribe in water supply technology and raise admiration as well as many questions about the technological advancements of antiquity, that are yet to be understood. The present work aims at answering the following questions: a) what inspired the Minoans to manufacture pipes with such a peculiar shape, that differs greatly not only from later pipe designs of antiquity, but also from contemporary cylindrical pipes and b) why was the design of those pipes abandoned after the fall of the Minoan civilization? It tries to address these questions by investigating the flow physics and dynamics that take place in such pipes, adopting advanced numerical and computational methods. The time-averaged Navier–Stokes equations along with the k − ɛ turbulence model are solved for a variety of geometrical parameters, pipe orientations and flow rates, in order to produce a comparative picture of the hydraulic efficiency of the conical Minoan pipes. The flow field is visualized and critical flow parameters, such as the head loss, the velocity magnitude and turbulence intensity, are calculated. These calculations show clearly that the conical Minoan pipes exhibit significantly higher pressure drops along their length compared to an equivalent straight pipe. In their widest part an extended recirculation appears, which could wash out impurities that may be present in the water, which at the same time cannot be deposited on the pipe wall. This evidence proves that the Minoan pipes are energetically expensive to operate and consequently their replacing by cylindrical pipes was inevitable. Therefore, it seems that the main advantage and purpose of the particular geometry was that they could be easily connected on site, forming long straight or slowly bending lines without having to add straight or many different fittings in between.


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