Hittites ahead of their time in dam building

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A dam unearthed during excavation work in the northern Anatolian province of Çorum reveals that the dam construction techniques of the ancient past are similar to the techniques used today, according to archaeologists.

Hittites ahead of their time in dam building
The discovery of a Hittite dam constructed more than three millennia ago at the ancient site of Alacahöyük in northern Anatolia suggests that little has changed in the past 3,000 years in terms of building barrages [Credit: AA/Hurriyet]

“We excavated the area but could not unearth the dam completely. This dam was built 3,250 years ago but with the same technique used today. They used clay instead of cement. It is important for us because even the Hittites understood 3,250 years ago that it was not possible to live in Anatolia without constructing a dam,” said Professor Aykut Çınaroğlu, who heads the excavations at Alacahöyuk.

Excavations in the area have continued to shed light on history. The dam, which dates back to the Hittite period, is the oldest one ever found in Anatolia.

The excavation works

Çınaroğlu said the existence of a dam in the region had been known since 1935 but added that nobody had attempted to unearth it. But with the encouragement of former Çorum Gov. Atıl Üzelgen and the financial support of former Environment Minister Fevzi Aytekin, archaeologists began excavation work in the area, unearthing the dam, Çınaroğlu said.

Çınaroğlu said the dam was constructed due to problems with drought. “There was a big problem of drought in that period. It has been proven with a technique called ‘dendrochronology’ and determined that this drought stretched to Spain,” he said, adding that 11 to 13 dams were constructed in Central Anatolia during the same period.

“These are small lakes under present conditions. When we consider that these dams were built by hand, they were [comparatively] very big. We also found which king had ordered the construction of this dam on a hieroglyphic tablet. It was ordered by Pudu-Hepa, the wife of the King III Hattushili, the ‘Hürrem Sultan’ of the Hittite period. It was dedicated to the goddess Hepat,” Çınaroğlu said.

The professor said the dam was the only one in the world at the time that was constructed for both irrigation and to provide drinking water.

“The dam had been used to provide water for animals for thousands of years. Analyses have shown that its water is very clean. It could even be sold under the name Hittite water,” he said. 

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [November 05, 2012]

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