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The ancient engineers drained marshland through a complex drainage control system, diverting six rivers and streams from the basin into two enormous canals that converged at the northeastern edge of the Kopais basin. The canals were flanked by massive embankments reinforced at some locations with double Cyclopean revetments that supported roads and were supplied with underground drains and channels directing water overflow into artificial polders, natural cavities and sinkholes, or to the Larymna bay. Archaeologists estimate that as much as 2,000,000 cubic meters of earth were moved to build dykes and embankments along the periphery of the basin, with more than 250,000 cubic meters of stone used to face the embankments.
The district comprising the Copaic basin was at the time of the Trojan war, and probably long anterior even to that, one of the richest and most populous parts of Greece. Its wealth of myth would prove this, even if historic record were wanting. A circle with a radius of twelve or fifteen miles drawn around Copais will include more sites famous in romance and in history than almost any other place of like extent on earth. The Bœotian plain is nearly shut in by mountains the bare mention of whose names calls up a vast panorama of heroic figures, with a shadowy background of demigods and of gods reaching back into cloudland
A still more ambitious undertaking of the ancient engineers was an attempt to penetrate the Hill of Kephalari at the north- east end of the lake by a tunnel more than a mile and a quarter long. This hill, a depression on the flank of Mount Ptoum, has a maximum height of one hundred and forty-seven metres above the sea and fifty-two metres above the bottom of Lake Copais. Across this depression, from near the openings of the Katabothra of Bynia in the Bay of Kephalari, runs a line of ancient wells or shafts in a general direction from southwest to northeast, not in a straight line, but following the contour of the hill, ending on the east side not far from where the katabothra opens into the Valley of Larymna
When we take into consideration the difficulties attending excavation in so marshy a soil, and of transporting across it the heavy stones for the embankments, and note the immensity of the plan and the thoroughness and solidity of its execution, we are moved to admiration for the engineers who conceived and built the great works which rendered this part of Boeotia habitable before the dawn of history.
A complete ancient system of hydraulic works dating from so remote a period that all record or tradition of their construction has been lost. This system, so vast and comprehensive as to excite the wonder of modern engineers, taking into consideration the primitive appliances of the ancients, served to convert this now miasmatic basin into a fruitful plain
The Kopais drainage project was colossal by both ancient and modern standards: it is estimated that 2,000,000 cubic meters of earth were moved to build the extensive dykes and massive embankments (2m high and 30m wide) running for many kilometers on the periphery of the basin, more than 250,000 cubic meters of stone were used to revet the embankments, and the water overflow of the main canal is estimated at 100 cubic meters per sec. The area once named “Arne ” was still remembered as “multi-vined” in the Iliad (“polystaphylon Arne,” II 507) and Orchomenos as one of the richest kingdoms of the heroic past (Iliad I. 381-382), whose wealth and power was associated in the ancient literary sources with the cultivation of the drained lake (Strabo IX.2.40; Pausanias IX.17.2; Diodorus IV.18.7).
A vast citadel, today known as “Gla(s)” or “Kastro” (=“castle”), was built on top of an island-like, flat-topped bedrock outcrop rising 20-40 m above the plain below and encompassing an area of 20 ha or 49.5 acres (ten times the size of Tiryns and seven times that of Mycenae) at the north-eastern edge of the Kopais basin. The Mycenaean citadel of Glas was fortified by a massive cyclopean wall (5.50-5.80m thick) which runs along the brow of the rocky natural platform for approximately 3 kms, features four gates (including one double gate), and encompasses a cluster of three adjacent and intercommunicating central enclosures.
I've read first about Lake Copais in a book by Robert Charroux titled 'Le livre des secrets trahis'(Paris, 1965). In it he wrote about the lake in a short section. He began with that the fables about Heracles only hide the truth. As the water-level began to lower at the end of the nineteenth century, "the ruins of a city aged 5000 years" has come to the daylight. The archaeologists have discovered with amazement a channel system, which was used for draining the water to the sea... This place was destroyed by a cataclysm, and it has been erased from the memory of the Greeks, which they accounted for Heracles. It had collecting-channels, immense dams and a tunnel, which cut through a mountain and was ventilated by air-shafts. "First and last, these all contributed to a titanic work", said Charroux, "which couldn't be completed in the time of Pericles's Greece, or even in our own."(1965)
Greece before the Greeks
The aim was to channel runoff waters from the Melas, Kephisos and Herkyna Rivers and some lesser streams, which became swollen during the winter and caused severe flooding. However, when the excess waters were removed, the marsh dried up, hence creating arable land.
Diking was done by building stone walls inside the lake basin so that an artificial channel existed between the dike wall and the natural lake bank. The width of the dikes was 40 m to 50 m with the channel between being 40 m to 60 m wide. Where the lake bank was too low, another wall was erected so that this particular area had an artificial channel between two walls.
The Minyans now had, in effect, a moat completely surrounding the lake with the mouth passing its runoff waters downstream, leading to an artificial channel 9 km long, then through a manmade tunnel 2.2 km in length through solid rock, continuing along a natural watercourse, and finally emptying into the Euboian Gulf which is part of the Aegean Sea.
In some areas such as the Kephisos and Melas river outlets, where runoff was excessive due to occasional freshets, extra precautions were taken. This additional work consisted of a 2 m thick double wall on either side of a 27 m earth filled section, giving a total dike width of some 66 m.
An artificial 9 m wide and 9 km long channel was dug from a point northeast of Topolia to Binia, picking up additional waters from the moat area east of Gla. They now had rushing waters funnelled into the underground tunnel from the east end of the channel at Binia running northeasterly for a mile and a third.
The tunnel, constructed about 3300 years ago was quite a project. Besides being 2230 m long, it also had 16 vertical square shafts placed at intervals between 100 m and 200 m. Depths varied between 18 m and 63 m. Minyan workers then excavated, at an 11% grade between the shafts. How they stayed on course and maintained their slope are mysteries. The shafts were used for inspection and maintenance purposes the same as our manholes of today.
Underground tunnels at irregular locations were found at Pyrgos, Topolia and the eastern side of the lake; however, their specific purpose has yet to be resolved.
As excavation evidence and tradition attest (e.g. Bulle 1907; Iakovidis 1995), the most important centre in northern Boeotia was Orchomenos, in the northwest corner of the Kopais lake/plain.
Furthermore, in the memory of the ancients, the legendary wealth of Orchomenos was due to the cultivation and exploitation of the drained Kopais Lake (Il. 9.381; Str. 9.2.40.). The power and plenty enjoyed by Orchomenos lasted, according to ancient tradition, until Heracles took vengeance on the King of Orchomenos, blocking the exit of the Kephisos River towards the sea, and thus flooding the Kopais once again (Apollod. 2.4.11, Diod. Sic.4.18.6
The enormous installation of Glas (E.g. Iakovidis 1983; 1998) is close to Orchomenos, built on a natural island in the east creek of the lake. The picture of the prehistoric drainage works in Kopais remained ambiguous, since the theories (Knauss et al. 1984) that have been proposed concerning their function and their precise date within the Bronze Age, were based solely on indications from the surface survey and not on documentation after archaeological or geophysical methods
A still more ambitious undertaking of the ancient engineers was an attempt to penetrate the Hill of Kephalari at the north- east end of the lake by a tunnel more than a mile and a quarter long. This hill, a depression on the flank of Mount Ptoum, has a maximum height of one hundred and forty-seven metres above the sea and fifty-two metres above the bottom of Lake Copais. Across this depression, from near the openings of the Katabothra of Bynia in the Bay of Kephalari, runs a line of ancient wells or shafts in a general direction from southwest to northeast, not in a straight line, but following the contour of the hill, ending on the east side not far from where the katabothra opens into the Valley of Larymna. There are sixteen of these wells, cut through the hard, gray limestone of which the mountain is composed, and carefully squared, with an average horizontal section of three to four metres. The first shaft, on the west side, is five hundred metres from the lake; the sixteenth, on the east side, two hundred and twenty-five metres from the opening. The wells are at an average distance from each other of about one hundred and sixty metres, and the whole distance from opening to opening is about twenty-four hundred metres.
Who were the authors of these great works concerning which history is silent and which are themselves their only witnesses ? Perhaps this question will never be satisfactorily answered.
originally posted by: LABTECH767
a reply to: Hanslune
Nevertheless it would show our understanding of Mycenea is still woeful
and that they were at least as far as infrastructor is concerned far more advanced than we today give them credit,
Fascinating and I for one find this as impressive as the pyramid's,
originally posted by: TheIceQueen
This is awesome! Thanks for posting, truly amazing information here, I hope that further research is done that will actually be treated seriously by mainstream historians.