Historical gardens · Horticulture · Sustainability

Water control systems in ancient times

Who has the access to the water, has the power. Already people in ancient time were aware of that fact and therefore they put a lot of efforts in water control management. It included the storage and the transportation of water resources.

Let’s look at some most famous constructions and devices used for these purposes mainly in ancient time (excluding the most famous one like: natural spring, wells, ponds, irrigation canals, etc).



a hole after removing soil for house construction, used by Maya people to collect water.



a pipeline with supporting construction used for transportation of water from distant sources. Roman aqueducts are the most famous ones.



of artificial origin, in ancient time the main collector of water for a garden, in subsequent periods more and more of only artistic value.



an underground cave, used to collect water by Maya tribes, In the region of Yucatan Peninsula.



cistern constructed by Maya in ground, usually it was bottle shaped with narrow entrance at the top and large chamber below.




basin for catching the rain-water. Located usually in peristyle of ancient Roman houses.



basin surrounded by amphitheatre, used to present sea battle spectacles. Existing already in ancient Rome, one of most famous was built on Field of Mars (Campus Martius) in 46 BC.



construction used to measure the level of the rive to be able to compare with readings from previous years and predict the water level in coming flood. Used in ancient Egypt.



ancient place with springs consecrated to the nymphs , later – ornamental structure with natural or artificial water source, popular in Renaissance and Baroque gardens.



mechanism for raising water from a well, river or other basin used in ancient Egypt. It had a bucket at one end and a stone on the other one. It was also used in ancient Mesopotamia.




an underground irrigation system fed by springs or groundwater with a series of ventilating shafts.

Such underground canals existed in many regions throughout the Middle East, Gobi Desert to Spain, as well as in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Asia countries.

Qanat’s name in various countries:

  • falaj in Oman,
  • foggara in the Sahara regions
  • karez in China  (oasis at Turpan, in northwestern China)
  • khettara in Morocco
  • qarez in Persian
  • acequia in Spanish
  • qanat in Iran and Turkish.




  1. Majdecki L., 2016. History of gardens
  2. Wengel T., 1987. The art of gardening through the ages.
  3. WenJun Hu, JieBin Zhang, YongQiang Liu, 2012, The qanats of Xinjiang: historical development, characteristics and modern implications for environmental protection, Journal of Arid Land, 4(2): 211-220, doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00211
  4. Wulff H.E., 1968, The Qanats of Iran, Scientific American, 94-105

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