The Nabateans lived between the Euphrates and the Red Sea and as far north as the Dead Sea, between 37 and 100 CE and proved to be capable water managers. In part their success was based on their development of a waterproof cement.
They controlled an important area for traders who travelled along a network of oases, bringing news of others’ developments with them. They were nomadic warriors who traded in frankincense, myrrh and spices, they traded bitumen from the Dead Sea with Egyptians.
Petra (aka Raqmu) in today’s Jordan was founded by them as their capital. Petra had a perennial stream supplying it with water. It was however subject to flash floods and there is evidence of the Nabateans using dams, conduits and cisterns to contain their impact.
Elsewhere in their territory Nabateans developed a network of bottle-shaped cisterns that were concealed from others beneath the ground. Their arch-like strips would mean outsiders could cross them unaware.
Nabateans didn’t conventionally collect water for irrigation. Instead they developed a technique that contoured the land around a tree so that it funnelled water down towards it, the ground around it was broken up to absorb the water more thoroughly. The water content of the soil would be sealed in once the rain stopped and held beneath its surface. This and the terracing retained a high percentage of any precipitation.
This cistern close to Humeima shows the slots cut for the roof to be constructed above it:
Nabateans also created aqueducts using brick/tile like channels that could would often have a stone top placed on top of them
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