National Geographic : 1944 Mar
AFountain House of2,500 Years Ago IN GREECE, just asinany other land which isbaked by the summersun, water has always been precious. To day the fountain inthesquare ofany small Greek town which does nothave amodern piping system isameeting place for mostof thewomen ofthevillage, who now fill empty gasolinetins, instead ofbeautiful clay jars, and carry them away ontheir heads. In ancient times, asnow, thecarrying ofwater -was woman's work,and inthepicture weseeagroup ofgirls who have cometo afountain house toperform their daily chore. The period represented iswhat isgenerally known as the Archaic;that is,itcomes somewhere between the seventh centuryand theendofthesixth century B.C. Many of thefountains were provided with draw basins, from which water could bedipped up, and theparapet wall was sometimescut away behind soastomake iteasier to let a water jar,or hydria, down into thewater. Infront of the parapet runs alittle channel tocarry offtheoverflow. It is provided with acatch basin tocollect silt, sothat the channel can bekept clear. The water basins and draw basins were waterproofed with a very hard, finestucco, and thearchitectural features, walls, and columns were also stuccoed, unless they were actually of marble. Marble was never used asabuilding material before the sixth century. The stucco, however, was ex ceedingly hardand white and gave analmost marblelike appearance to the stone. Bronze or marble spouts usually took theform oflions' heads and mightbeused tosupply thedraw basin; orsome- times they were arranged sothat ajarcould beplaced di rectly beneath them. The rear wall. ofthechamber con ceals alarge storage basin, orbasins, where agreat quantity ofwater could becollected totake care ofarush hour. The wide, bell-shaped echinus ofthecapital, below the square abacus block, ischaracteristic oftheearly period, as istherow ofleaves painted around thetopoftheshaft just below thespread ofthecapital. They recall thedeep gorge which often occurs oncapitals oftheMycenaean period. Frequently theoriginal spring from which thewater came was atsome distance from thefountain, and required along underground channel. Inother cases, asthefountain of Peirene atCorinth, thefountain house was cutinastratum ofstiff clay which underlay aformation ofconglomerate rock. Collecting channels were driven through theclay, and thewater which seeped through therock drained into them and thus was supplied tothereservoirs. The fountain, especially ifithad been thechief source ofwater from thetimes oftheearly settlement, naturally established thelocation oftheagora, ormeeting and market place, and might also dictate thelocation ofcertain indus tries. The waters ofPeirene had thereputation ofbeing peculiarly suited tothetempering ofbronze, forwhich Corinth was famous, and there isevidence that atonetime abronze foundry was setupclose tothis fountain. The women inthepicture wear theDoric peplos, ofwool, with brightly decorated borders, and two ofthem also carry acloak, orhimation. Felt caps, much like some worn today, acted ascushions forthewater jars carried onthehead.