Paleopolis irrigation project


Paleopolis river, J Bingen


Paleopolis river, J.Bingen


WCC Team-Kythera summer camp Paleopolis 1965


(Article by Jean Bingen for the Kythera Summer Edition 2011)


As of May 1960 Anna and George Koksma, from the Netherlands, worked at Kythira to improve living conditions on this in those years still remote island.

To their opinion the plain of Paleopolis with 2 large rivers was the most likely place to combine three of their main programmed projects: water economy, agricultural reform and promotion of tourism. To start with such a project however one needed a lot of water. A governmental hydrologist had pointed out a place 1500 m inland at a sharp curve of the dry river bed towards Mitata. There a large well could be dug.

Some 25 volunteers, boys and girls, age 18 to 25, were to arrive early July to camp at least 3 weeks in a corn field along the river bed and close to the beach. Daily by tractor they had to be transported up the dry river bed. One week before they were to arrive I already camped on the beach and with some local help I erected a shade near a fig tree next to a small well and had 2 wooden box toilets installed above holes dug in the dense weeds at the edge of the field, separating boys and girls. Neither drinking water nor electricity was available!


Summer camp open kitchen in Paleopolis.


The volunteers arrived from Holland, 60 hours by train, 12 hours by boat, in the middle of the night at Agia Pelagia and were taken by bus to Paleopolis. Next morning, after everybody making acquaintance, three working parties were formed for the daily work that had to be performed: 1digging the well,

2 fabricating drain channels,

3 the kitchen group.

3 The kitchen party, mainly girls, organized breakfast, midday and evening meals. For some reason the evening meals could not fill all the hungry stomachs and many of us were compelled to walk to Avlemonas to still our appetite. After the kitchen party had cleaned up after breakfast they could help in one of the other working parties.

2 The fabricating of 3 meter long drain channels was done close to the camp. On a flat concreted area a steel rebar cage was made and placed in a cleverly designed wooden framework (by carpenter Yannis Koutsouris from Chora) and filled with on the spot made concrete with sieved sand and gravel from the river bed.

1 To dig the well a square of over 5 meters sides was set out at the proposed location. Loose stones, pebbles and sand were removed. When they got deeper the team’s compressor (worked by Panayotis o Psilos from Frilingianika) is required to work loose hard spots and when we have to use dynamite to break too large stones everybody had to vacate to a very safe location. A wooden lifting device is constructed to lower people in the pit and to lift excavated material out. Deeper and deeper they went, the soil became moist, but no water was found.


To avoid wry faces the volunteers changed places regularly in the various groups as especially the work near the camp was considered less hard. The hot afternoon they could spend swimming and sun bathing. In the weekends trips by bus or tractor pulled trailer were organized to see some more of the island. When the volunteers had left, a safety barrier, a heavy stone dam, had to be constructed, to avoid that winter rains would fill the well with loose material. This construction started in September by a work party from Fratsia. By the end of October however a torrential rain fall caused a high flood through the river bed and filled the well completely. A unused steel rebar cage was swept into the sea. Although this was a severe set back the dam is finished. Then in November even more rain falls and part of the dam is toppled over.


This now is seen as an ill omen and the work has never been taken up again. Nowadays a small part of this dam still can be seen.

Jean Bingen

*Meer zomerkamp verhalen in Paleopolis van Jean Bingen 

*Summer camp girls and arheologist Huxley in 1965 (text hafl in Dutch half in English)



The two photos show a Protection dam under construction at well dug by campers in dry river bed Paleopolis, September 1965


14 m deep well dug by summer campers filled in due to torrential rain, Paleopolis Oct. 1965


Old lady with donkey at prefab site summer camp for concrete irrigation channels in dry riverbed, Oct. Paleopolis 1965


14 Protection dam in dry riverbed Paleopolis finished, Dec. 1965



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