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No. 80: Mar-Apr 1992

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Ancient greek pyramids?

Yes, the ancient Greeks had their pyramids, too, only they had a very practical purpose: They were water-catchers. They had learned that piles of porous rocks could, in desert climes, capture and condense surprisingly large quantities of water. Take, for example, the 13 pyramids of loose limestone rocks that the Greeks constructed some 2500 years ago at Theodosia in the Crimea:

"The pyramids averaged nearly 40 feet high and were placed on hills around the city. As wind moved air through the heaps of stone, the day's cycle of rising and falling temperatures caused moisture to condense, run down, and feed a network of clay pipes.

"One archaeologist calculated a water flow of 14,400 gallons per pyramid per day, based on the size of the clay pipes leading from each device."

Weren't the ancient Greeks clever? But perhaps they had observed how some mice in the Sahara pile small heaps of rocks in front of their burrows and lick the condensed moisture off in the morning. Possibly we should have classified this item under "Biology"!

(Dietrich, Bill; "Water from Stones: Greeks Found a Way," Arizona Republic, p. AA1, December 22, 1991. Cr. T.W. Colvin.)

From Science Frontiers #80, MAR-APR 1992. � 1992-2000 William R. Corliss