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Learning from the ancients - Mar 27

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What Modern Society Can Learn From a 2,800 Year Old Earthen Water Well

Tafline Laylin, Green Prophet
Leading researchers from around the world gathered in Istanbul, Turkey last week to marvel at the sustainability of ancient water conservation methods.

Even though World Water Day is behind us, many researchers are looking to our forebears for inspiration to deal with ever present challenges. At the third Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies in Ancient Civilizations (WWTAC) held last week in Turkey, attendees from Libya to Australia and Israel revealed technologies used by their respective ancestors that were in many cases far more sustainable than our modern interventions. Case in point: a 56 km 2,800 year old earthen water well from Eastern Anatolia that still works today!

Ancient water works
Today’s Zaman explained that throughout the three day event held at the Barcelo Eresin Hotel in Istanbul, leading academics discussed an enormous variety of water technologies employed by ancient civilizations, including the Hittite Ponds of Hattusa, the Nomad Cisterns in Antalya, to the Ancient Greek method of water conservation...
(26 March 2012)



Prehistoric fisheries offer clues to sustainable catch

Jude Isabella, New Scientist
Efforts to reform fisheries in the present just got a boost from the past. Two quantitative studies of prehistoric fisheries show that some early cultures figured out how to get high yields without overexploitation.

Jack Kittinger of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and Loren McClenachan of Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada, studied the reef fisheries in Hawaii since the islands were first colonised 700 years ago.

With little archaeological evidence of farming, the earliest Hawaiians were reliant on the sea for much of their food. Previous estimates suggest they each consumed about 182.5 kilograms of seafood per year – similar to levels in Pacific island countries which rely on seafood today. Kittinger and McClenachan worked out the total annual catch, assuming a conservative estimate that Hawaiian population reached 160,000 before contact with European settlers. It is thought that the population was probably more like 250,000 at its pre-settler peak.

"The coral reef fisheries yielded three to four times what people think is the sustainable yield for reef fisheries today," Kittinger says. "And we were very conservative in our yield estimates – it's crazy."
(23 March 2012)



Ox Carts and No Coffee: Building a Monastery the Medieval Way

Angelika Franz, Der Spiegel
Historians, architects, archaeologists and volunteers in Germany are teaming up to build a medieval monastery the old-fashioned way. Working conditions will be strictly 9th-century, without machines, rain jackets or even coffee. It will take decades, but they hope to garner fresh insights into everyday life in the 800s...

The lengthy time frame [project expected to complete 2050-EB editor] betrays the ambitious dimensions of the project, which is not just a tourist attraction, but also a meticulous scientific undertaking. Twelve experts, including historians, architects and archaeologists, form the scientific council that oversees the monastic town. Their job is to advise the artisans while simultaneously learning from their experiences.

Such experiments offer a rare glimpse into the everyday life of past centuries. Often there is only one way to find out how people once built their homes, prepared their food or sewed their clothes -- by recreating the historic experience. Experimental archeology researchers have discovered that antique linen armor offers as much protection as kevlar vests, how beer was brewed in the Bronze Age and how Stone Age people sharpened blades.

The 9th century -- the era which will be recreated by the Carolingian monastery town project -- is a particularly interesting focus for such experiments. There are few surviving documents from the period some 1,100 to 1,200 years ago. "Our goal is not to end up having a monastery town, but to build it," says Geurten.

The first building will be a small wooden church. "Of course, in the Middle Ages, they didn't build the large stone church first," says Geurten. The craftsmen at that time did not want to postpone their prayers until the stone church was finished, so they constructed a simple wooden church as an interim arrangement until they could move into the magnificent stone building decades later...
Photo gallery
(21 March 2012)


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