January 8, 2006

Ancient American irrigation

In the Andean foothills of Peru, not far from the Pacific coast, archaeologists have found what they say is evidence for the earliest known irrigated agriculture in the Americas.

An analysis of four derelict canals, filled with silt and buried deep under sediments, showed that they were used to water cultivated fields 5,400 years ago, in one case possibly as early as 6,700 years ago, archaeologists reported in a recent issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Other scholars hailed the discovery as adding a new dimension to understanding the origins of civilization in the Andes. The canals are seen as the long-sought proof that irrigation technology was critical to the development of the earliest Peruvian civilization, one of the few major cultures in the ancient world to rise independent of outside influence.

From the NY Times. If it took me a while to post this, I can plead working on historian's time. As exemplified in the article itself:
The initial discovery was made in 1989, but it took years of further excavations, radiocarbon dating and other analysis before Dr. Dillehay felt ready to announce the find.

"We wanted to make sure that the dates were correct and to find more early canals," Dr. Dillehay said. "There are now four sites with canals and probably more."

Posted by David on January 8, 2006 2:17 PM

Comments

"The initial discovery was made in 1989, but it took years of further excavations, radiocarbon dating and other analysis before Dr. Dillehay felt ready to announce the find."

Which comes to 1993-1994. I thought so: I wondered at first, as I recalled reading about an Inca canal/irrigation system in valleys to the the Eastern side of the mountains several years ago. At that time, it was said that they intended to replicate a section of the irrigation system, which seemed more efficient than many current systems.

Posted by: John Anderson on January 9, 2006 2:20 PM
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