Author(s): Pablo Doncel
Linked Author(s): pablo doncel fuentes
Keywords: Watermill genesis; Hydropower diffusion; Geo-historiography; Andalusian heritage
Abstract: Guadiana Springs are an exceptional landmark where the surplus water of the largest Spanish aquifer used to emerge, setting an oasis that powered up to sixteen watermills located along forty kilometres of the river’s upper reach. Such industrial hub lasted until the second half of the last century, when a fatal combination of drainage work and aquifer overdraft brought along a distressing parched and scorched land where water and life had been dominant for centuries. Based on the “to know is to conserve” principle, this independent PhD research, developed at Regional Centre Water Research of Civil Engineering Faculty (UCLM), aims to evoke this matchless ancient engineering system through an integrative and multidisciplinary approach. It embraces the whole life cycle through three main aspects: lost hydraulics, genesis, and downfall. The ultimate target is to boost social awareness and demand consistent conservation policies towards our hydraulic heritage, essential to revive traditional and sustainable water uses. The aim of this second section is to attempt to shed light on the likely origins of such hydraulic infrastructure, by assessing the most probable driving forces that promoted its uprising. The logical and intuitive methodology commences by outlining the earliest known literary, historic, and archaeological references on these ancient works, as well as their surrounding settlements, which played a key role in human development. Follows a technical analysis on pristine hydropower machinery types and required ancillary civil works, to approach the pure historiographical assessment on those key factors influencing the expansion of hydraulic works until Renaissance. It also infers a bidimensional technological diffusion pattern and probable engineering fluxes experimented over the Mediterranean and Middle East regions, focusing on riverside assets, and downscaling into the Central Iberian Peninsula, where La Mancha plain lays. The geo-historiographic outcome is backed by a compilation of real examples of Iberian riverine hydraulic works referenced during the Middle Age, soon after the Christian subjugation of Al-Andalus, a climatic revision, and an analysis of the pathways network evolution over the study area. To conclude, a relationship between work typology and likely construction period is established, distinguishing those watermills that would have disrupted the due operation of the system.