The Dams and Water Management Systems of Minoan Pseira
Philip P. Betancourt
City: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Publisher: INSTAP Academic Press
Description: Paperback, xv & 95 p., 39 figures, 22,3x14,9 cm
From the introduction
When the Temple University archaeological project was excavating at the Bronze Age seaport on Pseira Island and Richard Hope Simpson discovered two massive stone and soil dams that were built in the middle of the second millennium B.C., we knew we had opened a new chapter in prehistoric engineering and water management. What we did not realize at the time was that these dams were not isolated constructions in the countryside,but parts of very sophisticated water retention systems. The Pseirans added 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. Additional examples of Minoan dams have now been recognized at Gournia, Choiromandres, and perhaps Chalinomouri (all in eastern Crete), so we know that these Bronze Age projects were well known to Minoan builders as one of the options available to them to improve their agricultural potential. The restudy of the Pseiran examples over 20 years after they were discovered results in a much better appreciation of how they were used.
The opportunity to take a fresh look at the Pseiran water management system was inspired by the purchase of a differential Global Positioning System (dGPS) unit by the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete (INSTAPSCEC). The unit uses satellite links to establish points for measuring and mapping, and a trained operator can map a region in a single day in a way that would once have required weeks. The unit is especially useful in a rugged topography like the island of Pseira where in many places no previously surveyed points are visible for measuring. We are extremely grateful that the INSTAP Study Center offers this service to archaeological projects; and the results achieved for this study contribute substantial amounts of new information on the little known subject of Minoan water conservation and control. Agriculture was one of the cornerstones of the Bronze Age Cretan economy, and the ways to improve it must have been a major concern for those who depended on it for their existence.
List of Figures [vii]
1. Introduction 
2. The Pseiran Agricultural Crisis in the Middle of the Second Millennium B.C. 
3. The Pseiran Water Management Systems 
4. Comments and Discussion 
Floyd W. McCoy, Geological Setting for the Dams of Pseira