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DOI 10.4461/GFDQ.2016.39.14


Fluvial dynamics and water mills location in Basilicata (Southern Italy)

Pages 149-160


Watermills (grain mills, waulk mills, olive mills, sawmills and threshing machines) operated in the Basilicata Region from the Roman Period until the early decades of the twentieth century, representing an important feature of waterways that is today almost totally forgotten. Using documentary sources, ancient maps and field survey it is possible to catalogue and identify the location of these ancient hydraulic structures. Watermills were usually placed far enough away from the river to avoid inundation during floods, and near natural knickpoints or artificial steps in the river long profile that were created by mill engineers. Mill construction often had significant impacts on a river morphology, because it was necessary to divert the river discharge towards the mill wheel, to drive the grain-grinding mechanism. Watermill typological variations have been examined in relation to variations in river pattern to assess the ways in which the hydrographic and hydrological settings of the Basilicata Region have affected mill siting and operation. Most Basilicata watermills were built with a horizontal water-wheel and a tower. The characteristics of the tower and the associated hydraulic structures varied according to the environmental setting. Finally, mill positions define also the locations on the river system that have already been used to exploit hydraulic power and thus could be useful for future use in the micro-hydroelectric sector.

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