Handbook of Ancient Water Technology

By Örjan Wikander | Go to book overview

I.4
QANATS

A. Trevor Hodge

The qanat was a type of water system that originated in Iran, spread throughout the Mediterranean with the expansion of the Saracen Empire, and is still in widespread use throughout the Middle East. It apparently did not get as far as Morocco, and though qanats exist there, the technique seems to have been brought there by Islam, from Spain after the Islamic conquest, arriving in Morocco only around the eleventh century A.C.; in Antiquity it did nevertheless get as far along the North African shore as Algeria.

The technique was probably derived from mining, and the earliest qanats seem to go back well before the eighth century B.C. Essentially, the qanat was a tunnel driven deep inside a hillside to tap a spring or aquiferous stratum inside it. From this underground source the tunnel had to run downhill, to keep the water flowing, until it eventually surfaced at ground level to deliver the water to the consumers (see figure 1). This meant that the hillside slope had to be steeper than the tunnel, so that the further the tunnel ran downhill, the closer it got to the surface. Throughout its downhill length, the tunnel was served by a regular series of vertical ventilation shafts, 5–20 m apart.

The name qanat is derived from the Akkadian qanu, “reed”, from which one finds the Biblical city of Qanatha, named from its qanats (Num. 32.42; I. Chron. 2.23; in the King James version it is spelled “Kenath”). In North Africa the name “foggara” was often used, also “kariz” and “madjira”, which last, from the profusion of Saracen qanats, gave its name to the city of Madrid (“Place of qanats”). In the New World the qanat even got as far as Los Angeles, where the earliest water supplies were so organised by the conquistadores.

The heart of the qanat was a vertical shaft dug down to intersect

1 On qanats see Henri Goblot 1979; this is the definitive work. See also the trea-
tise on qanat-building by Mohammed al Kardji (c. 1010 A.D.), available in a French
edition: Mazaheri 1973. Further bibliography in Hodge 1992, 391–2 n. 6. A read-
ily available account is Wulff 1968.

-35-

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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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