Water History

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 85–98 | Cite as

Archaeology of a falaj in al Madam Plain (Sharjah, UAE); a study from the site

  • Carmen del Cerro
  • Joaquín M. Córdoba


Since the 1990s, several archaeological teams have been investigating the link between Iron Age settlements in the Oman Peninsula and qanat systems. It is assumed that the development of water-draining galleries, such as qanat, or falaj as they are called in Oman, allowed for the settlement of populations on the desert fringes and the growth of villages at this time. Fieldwork undertaken by a Spanish archaeological team working at al Madam has provided evidence for the existence of wells and water-draining galleries (falaj/aflāj) in contemporaneous use at the beginning of First Millennium BC. The excavation of an underground gallery, the course of which forms a zig-zag pattern, has revealed a system that would have permitted the collection of a significant amount of groundwater. This proves the existence in Antiquity of a large shallow water table in the area of al Madam. The water that was brought to the surface by this system was diverted into secondary channels, tree-pits, ponds and pools, corresponding to the ancient cultivated fields. This unprecedented network of irrigation channels was dug into the natural rock. The archaeological record of al Madam shows that this cultivated area was situated to the east of the village in the Iron Age, and included a palm grove of significant size (at least 15 ha).


Oman Peninsula Iron Age falaj Irrigation Channel Network Area Agriculture in Antiquity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ancient History DepartmentUniversidad AutónomaMadridSpain

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