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A watermill is a structure that uses a water wheel or turbine to drive a mechanical process such as flour, lumber or textile production, or metal shaping (rolling, grinding or wire drawing).



There are two basic types of watermills, one powered by a vertical-waterwheel via a gearing mechanism, and the other equipped by a horizontal-waterwheel without such a mechanism. The former type can be further divided, depending on where the water hits the wheel paddles, into undershot, overshot, breastshot and reverse shot waterwheel mills.

Western world

Classical Antiquity

The Greeks invented the two main components of watermills, the waterwheel and toothed gearing, and were, along with the Romans, the first to operate undershot, overshot and breastshot waterwheel mills.[1]

The earliest evidence of a water-driven wheel is probably the Perachora wheel (3rd c. BC), in Greece.[2] The earliest written reference is in the technical treatises Pneumatica and Parasceuastica of the Greek engineer Philo of Byzantium (ca. 280−220 BC).[3] The British historian of technology M.J.T. Lewis has shown that those portions of Philo of Byzantium's mechanical treatise which describe water wheels and which have been previously regarded as later Arabic interpolations, actually date back to the Greek 3rd century BC original.[4] The sakia gear is, already fully developed, for the first time attested in a 2nd century BC Hellenistic wall painting in Ptolemaic Egypt.[5]

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