Handbook of Ancient Water Technology

By Örjan Wikander | Go to book overview

I.2
COLLECTION OF WATER

A. Trevor Hodge


Cisterns

Before water can be either used or conveyed, by aqueduct or otherwise, it has to be collected. Sometimes indeed, though rarely, it was collected directly from the ground surface and channeled into cisterns or aqueducts,1 on the same general principles that one sees today in the paved catchment areas serving Gibraltar and a good deal of Bermuda. Otherwise it may be collected naturally, forming springs, streams and lakes, which are then tapped by conduits, or artificially, by dams, reservoirs, and cisterns, not to mention wells, which will be dealt with in the following section.

The cistern differs from the other methods of collection mentioned in that its water does not require transport, for the cistern is located at the point of use. It is essentially an underground tank, built of masonry and lined with waterproof cement to prevent leaks, and fed by rainwater, either as surface water running along the ground, or, with domestic cisterns, as run-off from the roof of the houses they serve. The largest cisterns are those found in industry and agriculture. They can be practically any shape that is found locally convenient, though the circular and the rectangular are the commonest, and, as compared with their surface area, are relatively shallow, while house cisterns, where space is at a premium, are much deeper.

Set into the ground, they may go down to a depth of two or three meters below it, and are either open to the air, or, sometimes, covered by a wooden roof to restrict evaporation; the roof is supported by a central stone pier. Often there is, in one corner of the cistern, a flight of stone steps leading down to the bottom and giving access for cleaning and maintenance, and, doubtless, drawing water when the level was low. One is liable to encounter such cisterns almost anywhere, but local economics and climate (and the

1 Hodge 1992, 79.

-21-

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Handbook of Ancient Water Technology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • I. Water-Supply 1
  • I.1 - Geological Background, Climate, Water Resources 3
  • I.2 - Collection of Water 21
  • I.3 - Wells 29
  • I.4 - Qanats 35
  • I.5 - Aqueducts 39
  • I.6 Engineering Works 67
  • I.7 Purity of Water 95
  • Ii. Urban Use 101
  • Ii.1 - Urban Water Transport and Distribution 103
  • Ii.2 - Industrial Uses of Water* 127
  • Ii.3 - Drainage and Sanitation* 151
  • Iii. Irrigation and Rural Drainage 181
  • Iii.1 - Irrigation 183
  • Iii.2 - Water-Lifting 217
  • Iii.3 - Land Drainage 303
  • Iv. Larger Hydraulic Infringements on Nature 319
  • Iv.1 - Canals 321
  • Iv.2 - Reservoirs and Dams 331
  • V. Water-Power 341
  • V.1 - Theoretical Hydraulics, Automata, and Water Clocks 343
  • V.2 - The Water-Mill 371
  • V.3 - Industrial Applications of Water-Power 401
  • Vi. Water as an Aesthetic and Recreational Element 411
  • Vi.1 - Fountains and Nymphaea 413
  • Vi.2 - Water Landscaping 453
  • Vi.3 - The Water Management of Greek and Roman Baths 467
  • Vii. Water Legislation in the Ancient World (C. 2200 B.C.–c. A.D. 500) 537
  • Vii.1 - Mesopotamia, the Hittites and the Arabian Peninsula 539
  • Vii.2 - Egypt 551
  • Vii.3 - The Greek World 557
  • Vii.4 - The Roman World 575
  • Viii. Historical Context. the Socio-Economic Background and Effects 605
  • Viii.1 - The Neolithic and Bronze Ages 607
  • Viii.2 - The Iron Age, and the Archaic and Classical Periods 617
  • Viii.3 - The Hellenistic Period 631
  • Viii.4 - The Roman Empire 649
  • References 661
  • Indices 703
  • 2. Index of Personal Names 713
  • 3. Geographical Index 718
  • 4. Subject Index 735
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