Water History

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 397–418 | Cite as

Hydraulic landscapes in Mesopotamia: the role of human niche construction

Article

Abstract

Human niche construction emphasizes the capacity of organisms to modify their environment and thereby influence their own and other species’ evolution. For the hydraulic landscapes of southern Mesopotamia we employ geoarchaeological data, remote sensing and ancient texts to suggest that major irrigation systems in the central Mesopotamian plains were a form of herringbone system and that they developed through human niche construction as a result of the elaboration of crevasse splays along raised levees. The remarkable duration of these systems (some 4000 plus years) suggest that (a) they were sustainable over many millennia and (b) the short component canals could be managed by small lineages. However, equally they could be brought under the administration of the state.

Keywords

Human niche construction Irrigation Mesopotamia Sustainability 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. J. Wilkinson
    • 1
  • Louise Rayne
    • 2
  • Jaafar Jotheri
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  4. 4.Department of ArchaeologyAl-Qadisiyah UniversityAl DiwaniyahIraq

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