From Cut-in to Qanats-Ancient Groundwater Extraction Techniques

Hartmut Wittenberg, Hafzullah Aksoy*

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Where a hillside stratified aquifer intersects the earth surface, springs and seepings from the surface are observed. Cutting into this zone, thus opening it by digging, allows to increase and capture water outflow. As a matter of principle this classical method for water extraction without pumping, which is still found in hilly rural regions today, was already used 3600 years ago by the Hittites to fill the ponds of their capital Hattuşa in Central Anatolia. The today sedimented reservoirs were dug downhill of groundwater bearing zones. Rising in winter, groundwater discharged into the ponds through alongside cuts. The Hittites avoided the risks of strongly varying surface flows by opening near-surface groundwater and stratum aquifers. Although hydraulic investigation based on in-situ measurement of groundwater level supports the short-term efficiency of the ponds in supplying water to the ancient city, at the long-term, the decline of the Empire was probably triggered by severe droughts expanded over years. This seems plausible as severe droughts are still being experienced. For a higher and more reliable water yield, the further development went from ’cutting’ in to ’penetrating’ into the aquifer with tunnel-like drain conduits which collected the water and conveyed it to settlements and irrigation schemes. The improved water extraction system, named qanats, appeared in Eastern Anatolia and Persia about 500 years after the abandon of Hattuşa. An example of a qanat system in western Iran is presented in this study with less emphasis compared to the cut-in yet representative enough to demonstrate its role in supplying water sustainably. We conclude that the ancient time thinking is the same as that of modern engineering, and the ancient time hydraulic works are fundamental for today's civil structures.

Orijinal dilİngilizce
Makale numarası762
Sayfa (başlangıç-bitiş)65-85
Sayfa sayısı21
DergiTurkish Journal of Civil Engineering
Basın numarası2
Yayın durumuYayınlandı - 1 Mar 2024

Bibliyografik not

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024, Turkish Chamber of Civil Engineers. All rights reserved.


Boreholes above the ponds in Hattuşa were dug and groundwater measuring points were set up in autumn 2009 with funds from the GRH Foundation (Gisela and Reinhold Häcker Foundation, Österingen, Germany) and with the approval of the antiquity’s authority of Turkey. Without falling into clichés, archaeologists and engineers have different professional approaches. Cooperating however, the specific skills may add up and the human and professional gain will compensate occasional frictions. The authors, both civil engineers, thank the Hattuşa excavation director, Prof. Dr. Andreas Schachner, for the opportunity, suggestion, exchange and cooperation. The measuring assistant of the German Archaeological Institute, Mr. Murat Can, is expressly thanked for his commitment and reliability. We thank also Assoc. Prof. Dr. Babak Vaheddoost of Bursa Technical University, Turkey, for his help in the qanat-related part of this study, and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ebru Eris of Ege University, Turkey, for her help in the graphic-and figure-related issues. Groundwater levels in Hattusa were owned by Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (German Archaeological Institute) in Istanbul, Turkey. These data can be made available by the first author based on reasonable requests. Precipitation data in Çorum can be acquired from Turkish State Meteorological Service. Discharges at the Amir qanat were obtained from a published report as referenced in this paper.

FinansörlerFinansör numarası
Bursa Technical University
GRH Foundation
Gisela and Reinhold Häcker Foundation
Turkish State Meteorological Service
Ege Üniversitesi

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