Skip to comments.Archaeologists Trace Early Irrigation Farming In Ancient Yemen
Posted on 07/22/2008 11:10:49 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
In the remote desert highlands of southern Yemen, a team of archaeologists have discovered new evidence of ancient transitions from hunting and herding to irrigation agriculture 5,200 years ago.
As part of a larger program of archaeological research, Michael Harrower from the University of Toronto and The Roots of Agriculture in Southern Arabia (RASA) team explored the Wadi Sana watershed documenting 174 ancient irrigation structures, modeled topography and hydrology, and interviewed contemporary camel and goat herders and irrigation farmers.
"Agriculture in Yemen appeared relatively late in comparison with other areas of the Middle East, where farming first developed near the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago," says author Michael Harrower, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto.
"It's clear early farmers in Yemen faced unique environmental and social opportunities and challenges. Our findings show farming in southern Yemen required runoff diversion technologies that were adapted to harness monsoon (summer) runoff from the rugged terrain along with new understandings of social landscapes and rights to scarce water resources."
The researchers used computer Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping to determine that ancient forager-herders developed expert knowledge of hydrology and targeted particular small watersheds and landforms for irrigation. Studies of contemporary land and water rights, including principles enshrined in Islamic law, suggest their origins lie at the very beginnings of water management as tribal principles of water equity intertwined with changing ideologies and culture.
These and other discoveries in southern Arabia have recently helped document the diversity of transitions from foraging to agriculture that in Yemen later gave rise to powerful ancient cities and states with advanced irrigation technologies that transformed deserts into lush, bountiful oases.
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Figure 1: Map of southern Arabia and RASA study sites.
In Southern Arabias highland Southern Jol, the RASA Project has documented and dated early water management structures, with important repercussions for prehistoric Arabian resource manipulation and food production. Investigations revealed semi-sedentary occupation by early Holocene people, whose diverse activities included construction of water check dams in the Wadi Sana system (Figure 1.)
Using high-resolution GPS-GIS survey, RASA documented 13 ancient check dams. They are notoriously difficult to date; Yemens examples are no exception. In northern Yemen, early agricultural structures usually have been dated by associated settlement (Ghaleb 1990; Edens et al. 2000). Some water management structures clearly have had no recent use, for they can no longer be reached by surface water or canals. Annual precipitation (50100 mm) is too low for dry-farming, so for at least the past 5000 years, agriculture in southern Yemen has required water management.
Figure 2: Ancient checkdam constructed of domino-aligned slabs, collapsed during flooding.
In the Wadi Sana and its Wadi Shumlya tributary, check dams lie buried in silts deposited 13,0005000 years ago. Embedded in a gravel bar deposited more than 5000 years ago, an alignment of imbricated bedrock slabs shows the former contour of a check dam (1998-000-B) (Figure 2 destroyed by floods.)
Figure 4: Ancient checkdam remains have slumped into erosional channel but remain embedded in silts in foreground and rear.
Future research will map and explore the purposes of early water management. While agricultural activities cannot be excluded, the Wadi Sana remains predate known Arabian agricultural systems. Other purposes might include flood control, enhanced grazing, and promoting non-cultigen vegetative growth.
The Marib dam got higher over time in order to hold more of the declining runoff, to the point that it blew out. It must have been something to see, before, during, and after the blowout. :’)
Ancient Marib Discoveries Marvel Of World (Yemen)
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Posted on 12/18/2005 10:56:55 AM PST by blam
Fred Nerks’ post with pix:
The History: Thalia, Internet Classics Archive | tr by George Rawlinson
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The other side of Socatra: Archeological discoveries
Yemen Times | Issue: (1064), Vol 15 , 2 July 2007 to 4 July 2007 | Nisreen Shadad
Posted on 07/04/2007 11:47:25 AM PDT by SunkenCiv