The two earliest structures of Minoan Crete that may be considered as large cisterns were both built in the first half of the second millennium BC (the time of the first Minoan palaces) at Myrtos-Pyrgos (Ierapetra). A considerable feat of engineering and social management, they remain a most unusual attribute of a Minoan settlement, all the more so since the Myrtos river is/was available to supply water at the foot of the hill of Pyrgos. This paper presents these cisterns, briefly, in terms of geology and technology, the history of their use and re-use, and their relevance to understanding the culture and society (at local and regional levels) of Crete in the time of the Old Palaces, as well as their possible contribution to the political and military history of the period. I then review possible precursors of, and architectural parallels to, the Pyrgos cisterns at Knossos, Malia and Phaistos (none of which has been proved to be a cistern), and the later history of cisterns in Bronze Age Crete. Since only three others are known (at Archanes, Zakro and Tylissos, of Late Bronze Age date), the two cisterns of Myrtos-Pyrgos are an important addition to our still rudimentary knowledge of how the Bronze Age Cretans managed their water supplies.

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