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Mapping an ancient qanat system in a northern Arabian urbanized oasis

Results of GIS analysis and archaeological survey

Abstract

As an obsolete underground water supply system, the qanāt is particularly affected by the destruction and demolition taking place within the oases of Saudi Arabia. In a period of economic and demographic growth, the oasis of Dūmat al-Jandal (province of Jawf) is a good example of such an evolution. Qanāts have been replaced by everdeeper pumping systems since the mid-twentieth century, and the series of shafts associated with these monumental structures, well known elsewhere in the Middle East, are no longer visible from the surface, primarily for reasons of security. The investigation conducted since 2011 by the Saudi–Italian–French archaeological project in Dūmat al-Jandal provides a first image of the ancient hydraulic network through a combination of complementary analyses integrated into a GIS: field surveys, oral information gathering, underground exploration, analysis of old aerial photographs and comparison with recent satellites images.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The ArcGis background map was created by Guillaume Fortin and the wells and shafts were positioned and located by Anaïs Chevalier under the supervision of Guillaume Charloux.

  2. 2.

    Our sincere thanks to Hussayn Khalifa (SCTA, Jawf) who provided us with the aerial views.

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Acknowledgements

This research was undertaken within the framework of a French-Italian-Saudi collaborative archaeological programme led by Guillaume Charloux (CNRS, UMR 8167 Orient et Méditerranée, France) and Romolo Loreto (University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’, Italy). The programme is supported by numerous institutions and we thank them sincerely: the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, CNRS, UMR 8167 Orient et Méditerranée, ‘Mondes sémitiques’, Italian and French Foreign Ministries, French Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Airbus Group, University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’, Labex RESMED (ANR-10-LABX-72), and investment programme ANR-11-IDEX-0004-02. We would also like to thank Julien Charbonnier, Jérémie Schiettecatte, Jérôme Perrin of the BRGM in Ryadh, and Henri Paloc and Baudoin Lismonde of the BRGM for their comments and answers to our various queries.

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Charloux, G., Courbon, P., Testa, O. et al. Mapping an ancient qanat system in a northern Arabian urbanized oasis. Water Hist 10, 31–51 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12685-017-0203-4

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Keywords

  • Oasis
  • Water supply
  • Hydraulic system
  • Speleology
  • Saudi Arabia