Monday, September 03, 2012

Ancient water management and field systems in southern Jordan

About 15 km to the south of the ancient city of Petra, archaeologists from the University of Leiden have discovered an impressive network of ancient water conservation measures and irrigated field systems.

Some of the remnants of the water conservation measures are still intact Credit : Universiteit Leiden

"A huge green oasis" is how Dr. Ir. Mark Driessen describes it. "That's what this part of the desert must have looked like in past times."  In Antiquity, an ingenious system of underground canals, hacked out of the limestone bedrock, in addition to specially built aqueducts and reservoirs with capacities of millions of liters of water, transformed this marginal region into a complex man-made landscape."

This is a fantastic example of ancient water-management technology, constructed to irrigate the surrounding terraced field systems.

"Thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of the students and staff of the Faculty of Archaeology we have succeeded in linking the diverse elements of this complex which lie scattered over an immense area of many square kilometers, thereby closing the gaps in this fascinating archaeological puzzle', explains Driessen, director of the Udhruh Archaeological Project.

It is possible that parts of this agricultural system – which was certainly exploited in the 6th century – were already established around the beginning of our Era. Analysis of construction mortar and other artifacts such as pottery will hopefully provide us with answers.