The Importance Of Water In Early Societies

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Water was of great importance to early complex societies. Without water, there simply was no life. It was not only a very important resource and a contributor to survival, but it was also very important to the future and future development of these societies. Over the past thousands of years, water has shaped our society greatly. The power of water influenced the early societies, brought along a great number of changes, defined social and political prominence, and still carries a heavy importance to this day. Water meant a lot to the early societies and had lots of influence.

In fact, water may have been the very reason that allowed for the expansion of not only early societies, but cities as well. Water, for the most part, ultimately meant survivability. The access and proximity to water, specifically river valleys such as the Tigris and the Euphrates, the Nile, the Indus, and the Yellow, allowed for soil irrigation. This had meant that societies and cities were able to harvest more food and could generate a larger stockpile. This ability made it much easier to support a more massive populace. Although, in Mesopotamia, irrigation and cities would not work without one another. Simply put, “cities could survive only where there was a food surplus created by irrigation, and irrigation could be implemented only where there were enough people to construct and maintain ditches and other components of the system” (Wiesner et al. , 2). On top of bringing a lot of meaning and influence to early societies, water had brought along a bunch of changes, both good and bad. While it was good that water created more irrigation, it had created a problem in regards to population.

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The irrigation was able to sustain a more massive populace as previously stated, but cities kept rapidly growing. Irrigation just was not able to catch up to the rise of the population. Since the towns and cities extended further and further, the distribution of water became more and more of a problem. Although this may have seemed like a technological problem, it carried “economic, legal, social, and political implications as well” (Wiesner et al. , 2). While this was the case, change was needed and ultimately inspired the early societies to be more technological in their approach. It cannot be determined as to when these technological advances were set in place, but it could be seen by looking at older photographs. The aerial photograph of the Pre-Roman City in Italy, for example, shows what appears to be canals and ditches, which shows us a lot about the technological advances of the early Roman society (Wiesner et al. , 8). Pipes and other means of transportation, such as aqueducts, were also very popular inventions that were used to transport water. Eventually much more advanced ways of getting water were created. This was in the form of water machines. As depicted from the illustrations in the text, this included machines like the shaduf, the saqiya, and the noria (Wiesner et al. , 11). The shaduf is a device that lifts water and operated by hand. The saqiya was more of a land-based machine that depended on a strong animal to lift water from the wells. The noria used the sheer power of the water current to move and lift water. Overall, major changes in the early societies took place. Water in the early societies also came to define social and political prominence. Socially, an example can be seen in the Code of Hammurabi referring to irrigation. It seemed that this code was a list of rules that farmers had to abide by. It also seemed to have acted as some sort of coverage at the same time. When it came to the amount of water and the transportation of water, it changed the whole evolvement of the Babylonians in this instance, which shows the social prominence of water as a whole.

When talking about water and political prominence, that can be seen with the water projects undertaken by Emperor Claudius. On top of showing political prominence in this instance, it also showed economical prominence. When looking at the political prominence of water, going through and completing the public works would seem to fall under this category. These public works include “the drainage channel of Lake Fucine and the harbor at Ostia. . . ” (Wiesner et al. , 13). It was also mentioned that “he knew Augustus had refused the former to the Marsians in spite of their frequent requests, and that the latter had often been considered by the deified Julius but given up because of its difficulty” (Wiesner et al. , 13). He went through with these plans because he wanted to make himself look good as leader, because what he was doing would show his dynamism. These public works, though, required lots of labor and work. This is where water showed its economical prominence. More jobs were able to be established and the economy was able to go through a major breakthrough by allowing water to flow to more regions. The importance of water still carries on to this day. To really see how important it is, though, it is definitely needed to look back at our history with water. Water may have been the single biggest influence in the world when it came to the early societies, since it was the mold of these societies. Water was also very treasured by the societies. For example, a land with irrigation was far more of value than just a simple piece of land was. Water also allowed the powerful leaders to show their power.

Looking at how this history has shaped our modern day version of water, major differences can be seen. We now have all different forms of water that come in all different shapes and sizes. It is still vital for the survivability of all of us, but it would be thought that we take it for granted. Water seems to run a little bit limited sometimes nowadays and it’s not as appreciated now as it was back then. Our current population is also growing at a rapid pace, so it is ultimately possible for history to repeat itself when populations kept growing and irrigation couldn’t move as fast. Our whole world needs to really look to the past and make sure that it doesn’t repeat. In conclusion, it can be seen how important water was to the development of the early societies. Water influenced many aspects of the early societies and brought along a great number of changes. Water also had prominence politically, socially, and economically. It carries a great importance to this day, but is not as highly regarded than it was back then. Overall, water is one of the most valuable resources of our world and that is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.


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