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