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foto dr Berislav Horvatić, fotodr Borut Juvanec

Water-permeable (!) Corbelling - the Shepherds’ Cisterns (bunari) of the Village of Draga Bašćanska on the Island of Krk in the Northern Adriatic

For at least 6000 years corbelling has been the ingenious way of building a rainproof roof in dry stone, producing a false dome to cover e. g. a dry stone shelter. A corbelled roof deliberately constructed to be water-permeable does not make much sense, unless it covers a cistern for collecting and storing rainwater.

A fine and rare example are the shepherds’ cisterns of the village of Draga Bašćanska on the island of Krk in the Northern Adriatic. A dozen or so of them are scattered over the common grazings (komunada) on the barren northeastern plateau of the southern part of the island. They have been built, maintained and used by the local shepherds who graze their sheep in the corresponding “patches” (pajiz) of the common grazings during the summer half of the year.

These cisterns are exceptional for having an above-ground dry stone shelter with a water-permeable roof, usually corbelled or partly corbelled, built above the underground storage tank. The flat outside surface of the roof is the (only) rainwater catchment area, while the false dome lets the harvested water permeat down into the reservoir. The shelter protects drinking water from pollution and ensures natural cooling due to constant streaming of air through the dry walling, driven by sunshine which heats one side of the building at a time. Since the water inside is only for people, the building usually has a narrow entrance, a sqeeze stile (škalica), impassable by sheep. A small vestibule follows, from which a stone staircase leads down and inside to the water.

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