A Better Understanding of Ancient Farming through Hydrology

Author(s): Maryann Wasiolek

Year: 2015


Physical evidence that ancient people manipulated their environment in order to better manage water resources for the purpose of facilitating agriculture has long been recognized. Remnants of canal systems indicate diversion of the flow of streams and springs and the direct application of surface water to irrigated fields. Terraces and check dams provide evidence of the diversion of overland runoff, while mulched fields, pumice patches, and dune fields imply that early farmers sited fields so as to take advantage of retained soil moisture. Excavated pits and possibly augmented karst features suggest use of shallow groundwater in conjunction with captured runoff. The probable operation of these systems has been noted by many investigators, and the types of cultivation techniques have been described and classified. However, relatively little quantitative assessment has been done to determine how the systems actually worked to move and distribute water, or what effect they had on the availability of water to crops. Physical measurements of surface and sub-surface flow using standard hydrologic instrumentation could provide answers to these questions. Understanding the engineering of the systems could determine under what hydrologic conditions the systems were effective, and might also identify unique, spatially or temporally traceable engineering techniques.

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Cite this Record

A Better Understanding of Ancient Farming through Hydrology. Maryann Wasiolek. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396001)


Geographic Keywords
North America - Southwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;