Lapta Roman Fish Pools

Fish pools, cut from the solid rock, occur in several locations along the northern coast of North Cyprus, but the most well-known and complete can be found at Lapta, at ancient Lambousa. The map below shows their location close to the Beach of Mare Monte, in Alsancak.

Diagram showing the 3 groups of fish tanks at Lamboursa, the largest one on the right is shown below:

The tanks were an ingenious method utilised by local fishermen during the Roman period to keep fresh, until they were brought to market. In order to ensure that the fish stayed alive, it was important to ensure that the water stayed cool and was regularly refreshed, as a result the fish pools have inlet and outlets which allow the water to be regularly replaced. The tanks were believed only to store fish as there is no evidence they were used for fish breeding.

The tides and prevailing winds were deployed to drive sea-water in through the inlet channels which led to the sea in a north-westerly direction while the outlets to release the warm, stale water were positioned in an easterly direction. Sluice gates were used to help control the inflow of water due to the tides.

Diagram of the sluice gate on the outlet channel of the main fish pool. The pools do not work today due to changes in the sea level (a rise of 30cm every 1000 years) – William Dreghorn

Some people argue that these pools belonged to a Roman villa, this is derived from the fact that fish pools or Piscinae as they were known in the Roman period were usually associated with large wealthy villas and were used for wealthy families to store large quantities of fresh fish for banquets etc. No evidence has been found locally for a large Roman villa in the vicinity so it is more probable that the technique was adopted by local fisherman.

Source: Willaim Dreghorn, A guide to the Antiquities of Kyrenia 1982, p84-90; Late Holocene Sea Level Reconstructions Based on Observations of Roman Fish Tanks, Tyrrhenian Coast of Italy N. Evelpidou, P. Pirazzoli, A. Vassilopoulos, G. Spada, G. Ruggieri, and A. Tomasin

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