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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Plateau of Lassithi: the First Aeolian Park in Greece

The introduction of the pumping windmill in the plateau of Lassithi, in the late nineteenth century, represents the interrelation between the local tradition in the exploitation of aeolian energy and the geomorphology of the area that has a rich water horizon. The inventive and restless mind of a carpenter, Emmanuil Papadakis or Spirtokoutis (=Matchbox) from Psychro, who combined the kinetic mechanism of a windmill with the normal suction pump, led to the gradual replacement of the traditional method of pumping water with a hoist pump. To the original first pumping windmills that were stone-built and of a single weather, Spirtokoutis added later the kouloures device, an auxiliary mechanism that could rotate the mill axis according to the direction of the wind. Its modernization and development is ascribed to Stephanos Markakis from Pharssaro village, also known as Marko-stephanis, a Spirtokoutis’ apprentice. The technological magazines of the early twentieth century were emphatically referring to its superiority in purchasing cost, manufacturing and performance, in comparison with the relevant American device. The rapid spreading of this technology created the “miracle of the Lassithi windmills”, as the newspapers of the time called it. Today, these first wind-driven pumps remain inoperative. Their significance for the promotion of the pre-industria! heritage dictates that necessary initiatives and actions must be taken for the reformation of this unique cultural landscape. Yet, any intervention must balance, on the one hand the conservation and protection of the natural and cultural heritage; and on the other, the suitable development of the district as to become ever-flourishing. The scattered archaeological sites (Diktaion Andron or Phychrou cave, Trapeza cave, Karphi site), the inactive mill sites at Zaroma and Asphedami and the aeolian park of the plateau could thus form a significant cultural asset.