Handbook of Ancient Water Technology

Handbook of Ancient Water Technology

Handbook of Ancient Water Technology

Handbook of Ancient Water Technology

Synopsis

A magisterial new handbook replaces the discussion of water technology in antiquity in R. J. Forbes Studies in Ancient Technology and the first two volumes of A History of Technology, edited by Charles Singer et al. It surveys water use and water technology in an area from Mesopotamia to the Atlantic Ocean, from the beginning of the Neolithic period up to ca. A. D. 600, based on the archaeological and written evidence. 11 authors from very different backgrounds and with varying scholarly perspectives discuss the socio-economic background, irrigation and drainage, water supply, water in recreation (fountains, baths, etc.), larger hydraulic works (canals and sluices, dams, drainage), water-power, water legislation and the administration of water resources. This handbook incorporates the results of four decades of historical research, important archaeological finds, extensive theoretical debate in a precise, up-to-date and reliable way and offers scholars and students a new basis for discussion of technical progress in antiquity.

Excerpt

For almost two generations, public knowledge of technical progress in Antiquity has been based upon two magisterial handbooks from the 1950s: Robert J. Forbes' Studies in Ancient Technology(1955–1964), and the first two volumes of A History of Technology,edited by Charles Singer and others (1956–7). Their merits were obvious. But more than four decades of historical research, important archaeological finds and extensive, theoretical debate have provided a completely new basis for this scholarly field. Summarizing our present knowledge into new handbooks does, however, involve problems of more than a practical nature. If it was difficult for Forbes, forty years ago, to cover by himself the entire field of ancient technology, it would be almost impossible today for any single scholar to treat with success even a specialized field like ancient water technology. On the other hand, the multi-author work of Singer et alii reveals the danger of splintering reality into fragments so disjointed that deeper analysis of the socio-economic background of technical change becomes unfeasible.

The scope of the present volume is clear: a presentation of water management and hydrotechnology in an area from Mesopotamia (occasionally even Iran and the Indus valley) to the Atlantic Ocean, from Prehistoric times to the sixth (or even seventh) century A. C. The predominance of Classical Antiquity is obvious—and reasonable, considering the enormous achievements of the Greek and Roman civilizations in this field. Nevertheless, I do regret that the classical background common to all scholars involved in the project occasionally resulted in an underestimation of the contributions of the eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age cultures to the progress of water technology.

In other respects, however, the eleven authors responsible for the various sections of the book have very different backgrounds, with varying scholarly experience and originating from seven countries on both sides of the Atlantic. Together, by their expert knowledge, they vouch for a preciseness and up-to-date reliability of the information . . .

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