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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Ancient Water Systems. Comparative remarks along the axes of small- large and dry-wet

Author(s): Maurits Ertsen

Year: 2016

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Summary

In Scarborough’s comparative work, when explaining the differences between Old and New World water systems, the differences between small-scale, local and imperial, large systems are important focus points for defining these differences. Furthermore, much of Scarborough's work suggests that the wetness and dryness of these worlds matter as well. Building on these key notions of the importance of environmental conditions in building understanding of water systems, this paper discusses the growing body of evidence that small, large, wet, and dry, are complex and cannot be easily associated with each other. It includes a critical discussion of the early over-arching models from “archaeology of power”, more specifically Wittfogel’s model of hydraulic civilizations. True, several later ancient states encouraged the spread of irrigation systems by exerting power over vast areas, but new evidence on early water systems in the ancient Near East suggests the importance of smaller-scale community-based systems. A re-appraisal of the Hohokam irrigation sites along the Gila and Salt rivers in the same bi-axial comparison will provide additional material to discuss a fruitful comparative approach to ancient water systems.


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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Ancient Water Systems. Comparative remarks along the axes of small- large and dry-wet. Maurits Ertsen. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403508)


Keywords

General
Scarborough Theory water


Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America