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Ancient Irrigation System Found in Northwest China

Friday, January 5, 2018

Silk Road irrigation


ST LOUIS, MISSOURI—Newsweek reports that a team of archaeologists led by Yuqi Li of Washington University in St. Louis has discovered an irrigation system dating to the third or fourth century A.D. in the foothills of northwestern China’s Tian Shan Mountains. The researchers spotted the canals, cisterns, and check dams with drones and satellite imagery, and created a 3-D model of the site with aerial photographs and photogrammetry software. “The systems built by the local agropastoralists were oriented towards conservation and efficiency,” Li explained. “They were built in an energetically conservative way and they emphasized water storage rather than constant supply of water.” The region where the irrigation system was found lies along the central corridor of the Silk Road. Li suggests knowledge of irrigation technology may have spread along the trade route, with staple crops like wheat and millet. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Underground Party.”