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Terrace Farming, Irrigation Featured in Ancient Petra
January 3, 2013

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Residents of ancient Petra employed terrace farming and irrigation to great effect, according to new archaeological evidence.

Researchers at the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project reported finding evidence of terraced areas for growing olives and grapes in and around the ancient city, which would have suffered from a dearth of water at times. To combat this, the residents of ancient Petra used primitive yet effective methods of water collection and transportation including damming riverbeds and running pipes from the resulting reservoirs to the terraced farmland north of the city and to the underground cisterns for long-term storage. Moreover, the water systems were differentiated, so that drinking water was clearly not near water intended for agriculture use.

The residents of ancient Petra grew olives and grapes and turned them into olive oil and wine, for exporting throughout the Mediterranean area. The terraced farmland, supported by the water collection strategies, would have made some of the crops fertile enough to support long-term farming, the researchers said.

All of this would have taken place about 2,000 years ago, before the Romans took control of the city. And even after being absorbed by Rome, the olive and grape crops would have supplied Rome's growing appetite for both olive oil and wine.

The findings, the result of three years of ongoing field work, will be presented at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

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