The Domestication of Water: Water Management in the Ancient World

The Domestication of Water: Water Management in the Ancient World

The ancient civilizations were dependent upon sophisticated systems of water management.


Faculty of Science, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 220,

Reading RG6 6AF, UK

The hydraulic engineering works found in ancient Angkor (ninth to thirteenth century AD), the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan (thirteenth to fifteenth century AD), Byzantine Constantinople (fourth to sixth century AD) and Nabatean Petra (sixth century BC to AD 106) are particularly striking because each of these is in localities of the world that are once again facing a water crisis.

Without water management, such ancient cities would never have emerged, nor would the urban communities and towns from which they developed.

Indeed, the ‘domestication’ of water marked a key turning point in the cultural trajectory of each region of the world where state societies developed.

This is illustrated by examining the prehistory of water management in the Jordan Valley, identifying the later Neolithic (approx. 8300–6500 years ago) as a key period when significant investment in water management occurred, laying the foundation for the development of the first urban communities of the Early Bronze Age.

Keywords: water management; Jordon Valley; Neolithic; urban; domestication of water; water crisis  

Source: The Royal Society