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I'm currently on a vacation in Limassol, Cyprus and one thing I found interesting are these wall-like structures made out of stone that seem to exist along the whole coast.

stone barrier

They seem to be created out of piles of rocks that aren't connected in any way, but just stacked on top of each other and are located roughly 50-100 meters from the beach.

  1. Is there a name for these things, so that I can find more information about them?
  2. What would the purpose of these be? Only idea I have is that they possibly block large waves, but I'm not so sure about this.
  3. When were they built (if they are man-made)?
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They are called "groynes". A great addition to anyone's vocabulary http://onelook.com/?w=groyne&ls=a It is pronounced the same way as groin (i.e., as a diphthong that rhymes with 'loin').

Briefly, they are man-made structures designed to break the waves and thereby prevent erosion of the coast. They are all over the Med in places where the tide influences the landmass. Also ubiquitous in Europe. In the UK, groynes are very helpful in preserving grazing land for sheep. They also help prevent further erosion of the cliffs in Dover and regions on the east coast where the tides threaten the loss of landmass.

As a tourist, be aware that walking on a groyne may attract a reprimand if an official sees you. It is also not very smart because they are slippery and a fall will almost certainly be injurious.

If you want to take a photo where the view is unobstructed by a groyne it will be difficult unless you go to a beach in calmer waters.

Once the vocabulary is sorted out it all becomes rather boring, but you can find a wealth of information in Wikipedia.

As a scientific discipline, groynes are part of Coastal Management.

For your question about when they were built... Certainly the 19th century would weigh in as a centrality. Arguably, the most famous would be the Cobb in Lyme Regis. Speaking of the Cobb (a structure similar in appearance and function to a groyne), John Fowles writes...

The Cobb has invited what familiarity breeds for at least seven hundred years, and the real Lymers will never see much more to it than a long claw of old gray wall that flexes itself against the sea. In fact, since it lies well apart from the main town, a tiny Piraeus to a microscopic Athens, they seem almost to turn their backs on it. Certainly it has cost them enough in repairs through the centuries to justify a certain resentment. But to a less tax-paying, or more discriminating, eye it is quite simply the most beautiful sea rampart on the south coast of England. And not only because it is, as the guidebooks say, redolent of seven hundred years of English history, because ships sailed to meet the Armada from it, because Monmouth landed beside it ... but finally because it is a superb fragment of folk art.

Source: The French Lieutenant's Woman, Copyright © 1969 by John Fowles, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 77-86616

...which leads one to think that coastal management is at least 700 years old. The ones in Cyprus would most likely be dated to when the British arrived, but that's a guess.

The word itself is dated to the 16th century, the etymology of 'groyne' is a dubious theory that it comes from "pig's snout" in French.

Note: your image does not show the full shore line and so its orientation is not known. The structure could also be a "breakwater" or "jetty" or "mole" or an underwater groyne connecting to a breakwater or a "seawall" or an extension to a harbour wall, or sea rampart or even something more arcane. Limassol also has some ancient fishing shelters which may also qualify in appearance.

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    could also be a breakwater depending on its orientation relative to the coast right? – Formagella Jul 6 '15 at 13:41
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    "Groynes are structures built across a beach, usually from dry land out into the water, while breakwaters are built parallel to the beach. Both of these structures interrupt the alongshore movement of sand. A groyne acts as a physical barrier across the beach and collects sand on the up drift side, in what is called a fillet. Small groynes are useful for raising beach levels on a small scale. " -- environment.sa.gov.au/our-places/coasts/… – Kate Gregory Jul 6 '15 at 13:53
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    Re The French Lieutenant's Woman, unless there are groynes in there as well, the thing she walks out to sea on is the Cobb at Lyme Regis. The Cobb's isn't really a groyne, as it's much wider, thicker and more difficult to fall off (even in Victorian dress) - it's really a stone harbour wall. – abligh Jul 6 '15 at 17:49
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    I think these are also rip rap because they're rock not wood. Don't hold me to that though. – Tim Jul 6 '15 at 17:56
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    @Tim I once worked in a gravel pit. Rip rap refers to a specific size of rock and yes, it's used to prevent erosion - not just on shorelines but in ditches, on riverbanks, hillsides etc – Kate Gregory Jul 7 '15 at 12:44

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