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Highway Construction in Crete Reveals Ancient Pipelines

Roman aqueduct Crete
A section of an ancient Roman pipeline part of the Hersonissos aqueduct on Crete was discovered during the construction of a new highway on the island. Credit: Manolis Makrakis, Head of the Directorate of Primary Education of Lasithi, Crete, Greece  / Facebook

Ongoing construction work on a new highway on the island of Crete revealed parts of an ancient water transport pipeline built during the period of Roman rule on the island.

The archaeological discovery reportedly consists of a water transport pipe that was part of the Roman aqueduct of Hersonissos.

Aqueducts were an essential element of Roman infrastructure across the empire, including in ancient Greece. They ensured the availability of fresh water in densely populated urban areas where demand was high.

Roman aqueduct discovered in Crete

Manolis Makrakis, the head of the Directorate of Primary Education of Lasithi, spoke at length about the discovery of parts of the Roman aqueduct on Crete.

“The section of the pipeline is located 5 km south of the national hub of Hersonissos and came to light, as part of the works for the opening of the road that will connect BOAK with the airport of Kastelli,” said Makrakis.

“The pipeline carried water from Kalo Chorio and Krasi to the Peninsula. It consists of two parts, an open (groove) width of approx. 40cm and a clay (closed) one with a diameter of approx. 25cm. We are waiting for more information from the archaeological service,” he added.

Roman aqueduct, Crete
Remnants of a Roman aqueduct on Crete. Credit: Manolis Makrakis / Facebook

Historical context

Makrakis, who authored the book Story of Crete, spoke at length about the history of Roman aqueducts and water transport pipelines on the island during antiquity.

Quoting an extract from the book, Makrakis explained “The aqueduct of Hersonissos was a great work of the Roman era. The Romans were leaders in similar projects. Because the morphology of the land consists of ups and downs, they made the necessary works with the water bridges so that the water flows smoothly in the groove above the bridges. In many places, this groove was supported by wall constructions.”

“Its length was 14km, it took the water from two sources located at a great distance from each other,” the author continued. “The first source was located at the “Leontari” location in Krasi, while the second one was 3 meters south of the tap of the community reservoir of Kalos Horiou Pediados.”

“Then the two pipelines joined into one that ended in the Peninsula. The transport capacity of the pipeline was twice that of Lyktos. The pipeline passed through gullies, ravines and steep (inclined) slopes), through the uneven surfaces of the mountains and ended at the Peninsula.”

“The water of the pipeline was collected in a very large tank located on a hill south of the Port of Hersonissos at the “Palatia” location. This covered vaulted tank was 58m long, 22m wide, and 5.5m deep. The 4.5m underground section was carved out of natural rock. The thickness of the western walls was 1.60m.”

The Romans ruled Crete from 67 BC and they developed infrastructure such as aqueducts in and around the island’s pre-existing ancient Greek cities.

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