Modern Uses of Ancient Water Technology in Anatolian Turkey
Sunday, February 21, 2016 - 2:00pm

University of Denver Sturm Hall Room 453
2000 East Asbury Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

A lecture by Dennis Murphy.

The ancient Greek and Roman builders employed a great deal of engineering skill in constructing water systems utilizing aqueducts, pipelines, cisterns and various flow control devices.  This study provides an excellent opportunity to look at how ancient water systems can still be utilized in a modern context and see how many of the technical problems faced by the ancient Romans are also experienced by today’s modern engineers.

Anatolian Turkey provides excellent examples of how ancient water technology and existing structures can still be used into the modern era. Modern hydraulic engineers face the same problems of gradient and velocity that the ancient builders experienced.  The Elaiussa Sebaste aqueduct brought water down the Lamas River Valley to the coastal plain.  Ancient builders experienced engineering problems maintaining the aqueduct in several places either due to centrifugal forces or steep gradients experienced while the channel followed the contour of the valley.  Interesting examples of water leaks occurred in the aqueduct in the same challenging areas of the valley as experienced by today’s modern water systems.

In testament to the skill of the ancient engineers, farmers retrace the ancient route of the aqueduct in many places utilizing new concrete conduits or simply repairing the ancient channels and using them for both domestic and agricultural use.

The hinterland included many small settlements and farmsteads which relied upon numerous cisterns to support agricultural activities and daily life.   These same structures are still used today for the same purposes as well as being repurposed for new uses such as tourist attractions and special event venues.

In testament to the skill of the ancient engineers, farmers retrace the ancient route of the aqueduct in many places utilizing new concrete conduits or simple cut channels in the ground to irrigate fields and orchards.  This aqueduct is a prime example of bringing the old and new together.This paper will look at the construction techniques employed in building these water systems, aqueduct bridges, arch construction, water off take devices and cistern design within the context of their continued use into the modern era.


Dennis Murphy is a long time member of the AIA and an avid “avocational archeologist”.  He is focused on the study of ancient water systems, primarily in Southern Turkey, and has presented the results of his work at AIA annual meetings and international conferences.  He holds a Liberal Arts Degree from the University of Calif. At Long Beach and is an active member of several European Archeological Societies (Frontinus Gesellshaft & Deutsche Wasserhistorische Gesellschaft) through which he publishes the results of his studies.  When not researching ancient water systems he is engaged in the aerospace industry and is currently a consultant on the NASA Orion Mars Exploration Spacecraft program.

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