Professor of Environmental Archaeology at the University of Athens
Water… the blood-producing system of the Earth
The planet Earth is covered with water, a simple chemical combination of two hydrogens and one oxygen, and of which only 1% is disposed for domestic use. The water which man consumes, comes from various sources ( rivers, lakes ) depending on the area one is. It is found in various forms : liquid, gas and solid.
Water, the beginning of all …
Many scientists, from Thales to contemporary scientists, believe that life started from water. The truth is that the history of water is older than that of man.It is known that all great pre-historic settlements developed near rivers of great significance, such as the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Starting in the paleolithic period, man settles near lakes, rivers and coastal areas with the purpose of having a direct contact with the element of water. During the Age of Copper, the element of water and the various elements which live in the Aegean Sea are represented in a miraculous way on the bodies of the well – crafted pots of marine rhythm of Minoan Crete. Later, during other historic periods, the element of water is portrayed as a deity in art and is personified by male and female figures, representing springs, rivers, seas and deities, all of which are connected with the element of water.
The relationship between man and water, which developed gradually, was beneficial for the former, as man managed to travel through the sea and river passages, so as to engage in trade, meeting new worlds and satisfying his curiosity. On the other hand, organisms living in fresh and salt water, became his basic source of nutrition. From a very early period, man managed to make the most of this element. A characteristic example is Egypt, the habitants of which converted the desert and barren land to a fertile area. So, it is jutifiably regarded by Herodotus as the gift of the life-giving Nile. Additionally, the efforts made by man to subdue and control this element, led him to great mechanical achievements, as is obvious from the great irrigation systems and in the myth of the cleaning of King Augeia’s stables by Hercules, who diverted the waters of the rivers Pineios and Alfeios into the stables so as to clean them from the manure.
Water is an indispensable ingredient… ofd the mythology of most rivers. In Ancient Greek mythology, the goddess Aphrodite emerges from the water, while according to the Assyro-babylonians, all creatures were created from the thawing of fresh and sea waters.
The role of water is also significant in religions. For example, in Zoroastrism, contaminated water represents the evil, while clean water represents purity and is considered sacred. In Christianity, the sacrament of Baptism is considered a symbol of life and purification. Water is regarded as a basic element of the survival and rebirth of the human kind as seen in stories of cataclysm, where water “washes out” everything that exists and creates something new; water is consequently considered as a symbol of fertility. From ancient times until today, the world of water holds a significant position in literature and constitutes an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
Water and Archeologists….
Thanks to the beneficial characteristics of water, archeologists managed to make great discoveries, which owed their preservation to the airless and humid conditions. A recent example in Greece is the discovery of the neolithic lakeside dwelling at Dispilio. Many archeological methods are based on water , a characteristic example of which is floating, due to which tiny ancient environmental elements come to light, such as the fragile bones of fish. Finally, it is quite characteristic how fast Marine Archeology has developed and how much it has been activated through thorugh researches.
What is actually happening today? Is the luxury of potable water , a staple element of survival, available to the whole world?
Unfortunately not. But that is not what is the worst. All the evil begins when man starts to show indifference for the environment and his fellow human beings, showing greed and taking from nature all the goods without caring for nature even when he egotistically deprived others from these goods. In the countries of the Third World, access to water is forbidden because of political and economical interests. Moreover, the money coming from most campaigns for the salvation of the planet end up in the hands of unconscious people.
So today, what for us is considered for granted and we get by simply turning on our tap, for others is considered a cause of wars, thousands of deaths, the degradation of people and other unpleasant situations. If this egotistical stance of the Homo sapiens Sapiens doesn’t change, we will very soon become witnesses of our own irresponsibility.