Water management – (Junior Research Group)


Institut für Geographische Wissenschaften

Fachrichtung Physische Geographie

Exc 264 TOPOI, The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations, Area A, Research Group A-3, Project A-3-1


Contact Person:

Dr. Jonas Berking


(+49 30) 838 - 70 439




The research objective of the Junior Research Group is the investigation of ancient or historical water management. Water management turned out to be a very fruitful object in the sense of a “bridge topic” between environmental, archeological and social sciences, which is also high on recent political agendas and in academia. The primary goal of the project is to evaluate “water management” in its different applications and understandings at various time- and spatial scales.

A theoretical background to describe the complex patterns between the natural environmental conditions and societal organization as well as technical knowledge lead to the categorization of water management into three main dimensions, which are:

A / water availability
B / water technology
C / social organization

Moreover “water supply” and “irrigation strategies” turned out to be the original drivers of earliest water management endeavors, especially in drylands and at least since the Bronze Ages. However, not only to improve settlement conditions, also many other functions of water evolved with time and added to the manifold spectrum of water use. These are: fresh water (domestic, drinking, tap and portable water), food production (water for irrigation and animal husbandry), fishery, navigation (transport), cult, energy (hydropower), status (political power), hygiene and for the purpose of entertainment, protection, cooling and recreation.

Invitation to the 2nd workshop of “Water Management in Ancient Civilizations” in 2014

Categorization of water management into three main dimensions and their respective approaches

Beckers, Brian, Jonas Berking, and Brigitta Schütt. 2013. “Ancient Water Harvesting Methods in the Drylands of the Mediterranean and Western Asia.” ETopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies 0 (0). http://journal.topoi.org/index.php/etopoi/article/view/174.

Berking, Jonas. 2016. “The Berlin 2014 Water Management Workshop.” Water History 8 (1):41–42. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12685-016-0156-z.

Berking, Jonas, Brian Beckers, Daniel Knitter, and Brigitta Schütt. 2016. “Problems Concerning Ancient Water Management in the Mediterranean.” ETopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies 6:74–99.