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Medieval Hydrotechnology:

water management

in Messinia, southern Greece




The cultural landscape of Messinia, southern Greece, has been shaped by different rulers and ethnic groups over the centuries. Of particular interest are the diverse water systems of medieval and post-medieval times that have not been fully differentiated.

The EU-funded HYDROMEDIE project aims to identify and compare the water infrastructures (mainly cisterns, channels, terraces) in Messinia (and occasionally, in neighbouring Laconia) that arose from late roman, byzantine, frankish, venetian, ottoman and early contemporary societies.

The project team will perform fieldwork, surveys, and geoarchaeological investigation, historic landscape characterisation (HLC) using geographic information systems, 3D modelling of structures, microscopic analysis of mortars ad plasters, and scientific dating of samples using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL).

Among the outputs will be the documentation and interpretation of evidence not only from an archaeological but also from sociocultural perspective. That would lead to a clearer understanding of the regional history, heritage and cultural landscape management policies, adding to the archaeology of water in the broader sense.

The project is funded by Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships, implemented by Sophia Germanidou at the Centre for Landscape, School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the Newcastle University,

under the supervision of Prof. Sam Turner. 




Abandoned terraces, dried cisterns and ruined watermills,

in Rintomo gorge, Kentro, Outer/messinian Mani.  

...And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells...

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land 

During the implementation of the project, a wide and various range of water structures and sites will be recorded with 'traditional' and/or lab-digital methods.

A sample of them will be selected for further analysis and dissemination.

Some examples of the activities are shown below


Terraces' trenches

 for OSL sampling and dating


OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) is a method that can provide time-frames for structures that can't be otherwise securely dated.

Terraces, structures for effective cultivation and water usage, were excavated and sampled for OSL in the wider rural areas of Rintomo (Messinia),

Kitta and Mezapo  (Laconia

3-D modelling and aerial photography 

Drone and aerial photography, spatial data, 3-D modelling allow for a

visual and topographical reconstruction and mapping of a site or an individual structure.

These methods are performed in several sites, such as in a key-area of the project, in a complex of cisterns of several types -and probably dates-

in Pyrgos, Outer/messinian Mani

Scholar interpretation and academic dissemination 

Among the large catalogue of hydraulic-related sites and structures, many cases represent singularities that worth scholarly attention.

An example is the 'abutment' of water supply structures such as cisterns or fountains at the eastern or western sides of churches, or even below their ground floor.

A few of such cases have been recorded, such as the cistern (with immured a probably ancient sculpted fragment) attached at the external east side of the apse, at the church of Saint George, Ano Poula, in Inner/laconian Mani

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