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Water: The Catalyst Of Development In Ancient Civilizations

1395 words - 6 pages

Water is the precious resource that has been a driving factor of progess in the past and the determining factor of development in the future. Ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, and China understood that water is not simply a valuable resource that is crucial to survival and is the very essence of life, but also an important prerequisite for further development. Many of these ancient civilizations flourished as a direct result of their close proximity to rivers and other water sources. The growth of these cities created a major problem in water delivery as these societies expanded deeper inland. The need for such delivery has sparked the development of these ancient civilizations technologically, economically, politically, and legally.
The need for a steady supply of water has sparked the technological development of ancient societies. The aerial photograph of a Pre-Roman city and a LANDMAT image of Mesopotamia reveal the irrigation systems that these ancient civilizations used. The extensive and widespread network of irrigation ditches in Mesopotamian proves that the Mesopotamians had the technology required to construct and maintain these man-made canals (Sources 1 and 2). While digging water canals and constructing dams were important, it did not solve the problem of delivering the water to the crop fields. Therefore water-transporting mechanisms such as the shaduf and the saqiya were constructed. The first water-lifting machine would be the shaduf, a simple lever mechanism that was used in ancient Egypt (Source 4). The shaduf consisted of a long stick that was attached to a bucket on one end and a rock on the other to act as a counterweight. These shadufs were quite small and simple in design making them economically feasible. However, operating shaduf is labor intensive and is not very efficient as it requires hundreds or even thousands of shadufs to irrigate massive crop fields. As time passed more water transporting machines were developed to accommodate for a higher necessity of water. One such example would be a noria, a ferris wheel like mechanism that rotates to carry buckets of water into a conduit where it can flow to where it is needed (Source 7). What is most important and fascinating about the noria, however, is that it is completely autonomous and is powered by the kinetic energy of moving water. In other words, noria is the ancient world’s first hydro powered water delivery system. From the analysis of these two ancient water transport machines with the same function shows that as time progressed technology also became much more efficient.
The quest for water in ancient civilizations has also led to economical developments. The advancement in technology made agriculture yield more crops and led to a surplus of food and resources. In source 9, the economy of Qin benefitted greatly from the 300 li long canal which was to be used for irrigating agricultural land. It was originally used to prevent the Qin state...

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