Minoan Engineering

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The Minoans were the first civilization to use underground clay pipes for sanitation and water supply. The Romans would develop these sophisticated comforts - but not for 1500 years.

the Queen's Room at Knossos
The Queen's Room at Knossos, also called the Queen's Bathroom

Knossos had a well organized water system for bringing in clean water, taking out waste water and storm sewage canals for overflow ehen there was heavy rain. In addition to sophisticated water and sewer systems they devised elaborate heating systems.

minoan bathtub
restored bathroom in small room off the "Queen's Room'








Drainage channels
Stone drainage channels from Agia Triada, a villa

At Knossos, the Minoans took advantage of the steep grade of the land to devise a drainage system with lavatories, sinks and manholes. Archaeologists have found pipe laid in depths from just below the surface in one area to almost 11 feet deep in others.

They constructed a main sewer of masonry, which linked four large stone shafts emanating from the upper stories of the palace. Evidently the shafts acted as ventilators and chutes for household refuse. The shafts and conduit were formed by cement-lined limestone flags, but earthenware or burnt clay pipes were used in the remainder of the system. These were laid out under passages, not under the living rooms.

The sewer system consisted of terra cotta pipes, from 4"-6" in diameter.

sewer pipe
clay sewer pipe from Knossos

The rain water from the roofs and the courts, and the overflows from the cisterns carried the water down into buried drains of pottery pipe. The pipes had perfect socket joints, so tapered that the narrow end of one pipe fixed tightly into the broad end of the next one. The tapering sections allowed a jetting action to prevent accumulation of sediment.

At Knossos we find the earliest known flushing toilet. The toilet was screened off by partitions and was flushed by rain water or by water held in cisterns from conduits built into the wall.

Not just palaces but ordinary homes were heated with sophisticated hypocaust systems, where heat was conducted under the floor, the earliest known to exist.

In the room dubbed the "queen's bathroom" decorated with wall frescoes, we find plaster stands which held ewers and washing basins, and a five-foot long tapered bathtub made of painted terra cotta and decorated with watery

Knossos ceramic water main
ceramic water pipe from Knossos

reeds. There was no obvious outlet but used water was removed and discarded into a hole in the floor which connected to the main drain which discarged into the river Kairatos. Some of the stone slabs of the floor at Knossos have been partially removed to reveal the extensive sewage canal system underneath the whole settlement.

Pipes with running water and toilets found on Santorini are the oldest ever discovered. The dual pipe system suggests hot and cold running water.






Part of The Minoans a HistoryWiz exhibit

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