Ancient Technologies in Modern Contexts

How Ancient Technologies Can Help

Amatek Institute Clay Pots

Up to 70% less water in agriculture

Amatek Institute Zai

Farming the desert

Amatek Institute Three Sisters

Preserving and restoring soil health

Amatek Institute Qanat

Water Harvesting in dry areas

Amatek Institute Local Resources

100% local resources

Amatek Institute Rammed Earth

Cradle to cradle materials cycle

About Amatek Institute

The demand for innovative solutions to pressing ecological and social problems is on a constant rise. Ancient technologies provide extensive, yet underutilized opportunities to help solve such problems.

At the Amatek Institute we explore these opportunities and the potential of ancient technologies and knowledge as sustainable solutions in modern contexts. Our focus is on water supply, agriculture, and architecture in arid and semi-arid regions.

The institute offers research and consulting in contexts of development aid, sustainable agriculture, green architecture and climate change adaptations.

Amatek stands for Ancient Materials, Technologies and Knowledge.

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Ancient Technologies in Development Aid and Green Architecture. Find more examples in our Blog.

The Persian Qanat Aerial View Jupar Bagh e Shahzadeh Mahan Copyright S.H. Rashedi

Qanats – UNESCO World Heritage

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Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos British Columbia Canada_Copyright Architect21c CC-BY-SA

Rammed Earth
in Modern Architecture

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“Farming for Biodiversity” in the Andes

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Yakhchal: Ancient Refrigerators

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Rehabilitating Ancient Farming

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Traditional Agroforestry Today

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Amatek Technologies Square


We offer research and consulting services. Our main focuses are:

  • Ecologically, socially and economically sustainable solutions in the fields of water supply, agriculture & soil regeneration, architecture & construction, with a focus on arid regions worldwide.
  • Simple, cost-effective, reliable, resource-saving, low-maintenance solutions, which are feasible, usable and manageable in dry lands, without power and Internet access, without large machines and without IT.
  • Solutions that avoid the use of plastic and fossil fuels.
  • Solutions based on the use of local resources.

Benefits of Ancient Technologies

Ancient technologies are durable, environmentally friendly and sustainable. They are easy to use, operate and maintain, make use of local resources and save transport routes and CO2.

They do not require electricity, fossile fuels, costly and maintenance-intensive IT or the Internet, they can be applied in remote regions, in areas with extreme weather conditions, in mountainous landscapes and in crisis areas, where they function reliably.

In Green Architecture, the use of ancient technologies and materials makes it possible to avoid the use of hazardous and harmful substances. The materials used are also part of a cradle to cradle cycle, which helps avoiding waste.

In Sustainable Agriculture, ancient technologies dispense with agrochemicals, support soil regeneration, save the valuable resource water and promote the preservation of local biodiversity. The products of agricultural land cultivated with ancient technologies are bio-certifiable.

Sustainable Development Goals Poster

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Ancient Technologies in Modern Contexts
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Clay Pot Irrigation
To the Knowledge Hub
Handbook of Buried Clay Pot Irrigation
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Quotes from Professionals

Archaeology can play a significant role in development projects, especially those focusing on improving agricultural production. (…) Because many systems, such as raised fields, have been completely abandoned, archaeology may be the only way to understand these technologies. Archaeological excavation of prehistoric agricultural features can provide the model for the rehabilitation of these abandoned field systems.

Clark Erickson, (1998), 34

Although the majority of the World´s dry lands are still farmed by small scale, subsistence farmers, low cost simple irrigation methods for dry land agriculture have largely been ignored by international development programs. Efficient traditional methods of irrigation that could be of great use on small and medium sized farms and gardens have not been well studied and publicized.

David A. Bainbridge (2001), 79

For this purpose, the study of ancient water harvesting technologies can not only give valuable information to engineers, planners, and local initiatives on technical aspects of those systems. It can also give indications of possible short- and long-term effects a reimplementation might have on the environment and the people involved.

Beckers, Berking, Schütt (2013), 146

Hence, due to the impressive capabilities of some old technologies, the question arises: is it necessary to frequently reinvent the wheel or is there a way to purposeful identify and use old technologies and solution concepts? (…) These ancient technologies are often as good as modern technologies or even better.

Gürtler et alii (2015), 66

Thus, applied archaeology is not just about accessing a lost idea or technology but rather about its ability to fundamentally redefine the perspective from which a problem is addressed.

Cooper, Duncan (2016), 3

Understanding the impacts that land use and climate change had on a watershed at a particular archeological site can provide local inhabitants with the knowledge they need to manage their water resources.

French, Duffy (2014), 310

It is also seen that the use of indigenous earthquake-resistant construction technologies provides an excellent opportunity for large-scale construction of earthquake-resistant housing in developing countries at relatively low cost.

Ravi Sinha, Svetlana Brzev (2004), 6

The controlled water delivery from buried clay pot irrigation helps ensure seed germination even in hot dry environments and provides young seedlings with a steady water supply even during periods with very high temperatures, low humidity, and desiccating winds. This controlled water delivery is also of great value in coarse sand or gravel soils that drain quickly.

David A. Bainbridge (2001), 81-82

The karez is a unique and fascinating irrigation system with a long history in the Turpan oasis. It provided water for domestic consumption and agriculture and maintained a unique ecosystem in the desert. However, nowadays the karezes are increasingly abandoned and are not being maintained. This is partly due to the fact that the value of the karez is not well understood. Thus, the government and local communities should join efforts to preserve and restore this ancient irrigation system.

Sun et alii (2009), 13-14

Using placebased case studies with locally contingent and motivated solutions is important, but it is accessing knowledge from the past that has been lost to the passage of time, presenting it in interesting ways, encouraging people to engage with it, and creating the necessary knowledge and social dynamics to focus on education that are vital. Because in the end it is education and human capacity built on informed positions that provide the best hope of solutions to the impacts of global environmental change.

Cooper, Duncan (2016), 9

Archäologie beschäftigt sich nicht nur mit unserer Vergangenheit, sondern trägt auch zur Lösung aktueller Probleme bei. In den kommenden drei Jahren wird deshalb das Landesamt für Archäologie Sachsen gemeinsam mit dem Staatsbetrieb Sachsenforst sowie dem Institut für Botanik und Landschaftsökologie der Universität Greifswald das Datenpotential archäologischer Hölzer als Klima- und Vegetationsarchiv erforschen. Die Ergebnisse sollen dabei helfen, die heutigen Wälder besser an den Klimawandel anzupassen.

Externer Link: Landesamt für Archäologie Sachsen

The revival of interest in water harvesting is attributed to huge problems that have accrued due to long periods of drought since the 1970s, as well as to the current acute water shortage in the region [West Asia-North Africa] and to an increasing demand for food and fiber as the result of a population explosion. Also, the use of modem technologies for water abstraction and diversion, particularly from groundwater aquifers, is damaging in its over-exploitation of limited natural resources. These practices severely endanger the sustainability of such development. Indigenous techniques of water control and utilization are, by their nature, environmentally friendly and thus sustainable.

Oweis, Hachum, Bruggema (2004), 6

About the Founder

In a nutshell: Archaeologist and Ancient Historian, wanted to make archaeology beneficial for the present, found so-called rehabilitation projects in the literature and online, left university and founded the Amatek Institute with the objective to transfer knowledge and technology into practice.

I am an archaeologist and ancient historian with about 10 years of research experience, most recently six years at the University of Heidelberg. In 2017 I started to look for ways to make my archaeological research beneficial for the present. I came across a number of globally scattered, independent projects in which ancient technologies were „rehabilitated“ due to their efficiency, simplicity and sustainability: Agriculture in Bolivia, land use in Peru, water supply in Iran, the American Southwest and India, irrigation systems in Sri Lanka, cultivation of desert areas in Israel and Africa, cheap small houses in earthquake-prone areas. Often these projects were carried out with the involvement of state institutions and public funding.

I was impressed by the extent to which ancient technologies had been successfully applied for years, in some cases decades, and by their impact – and I was struck by how difficult and time consuming it was to find information about it, despite internet, electronic publications and the general interest in sustainable solutions concerning water and food shortages, climate change and urbanisation. So far, there is no independent field of research that would enable scientists and students to systematically examine the potential and possible applications of ancient technologies, and the actors who have carried out rehabilitation projects are hardly connected to each other. In short, there is a lack of networks and knowledge transfer. Anyone who has not heard of it before and is not seriously prepared to invest a great deal of time in research will never know about the remarkable solutions at our hands.

So I started to gather reports on the use of ancient technologies and the rehabilitation of ancient structures in contexts of development aid, green architecture and adaptation to climate change, and to publish them in a blog. At the same time I created a database for specialized literature and one for rehabilitation projects. Both quickly reached three digit data sets.

This was the solution I was looking for. Moreover, one that, due to its practicability and sustainability, has been used in many projects around the world over the last decades and with growing demand. Now the question was how to best transfer the knowledge and the technology into practice. Both are only possible to a very limited extent at a university, but research plays a central role when it comes to achieving the best results in the long term.

In 2019, I put together a small team to edit the first journal for this new area of research together: Current Research in Transfer Archaeology. Step by step, we are working to establish research into the potential and possibilities of ancient technologies in modern contexts as an independent field of research. This is good for science, but the practical implementation is clearly falling short.

In 2020, I therefore founded the Amatek Institute with the vision of diseminating the existing knowledge about the use and potential of ancient technologies in development aid and green architecture and to support its transfer into practice.

Dr. Kirsten D. Dzwiza, Amatek Institute

The Institute’s logo displays a schematic, north-oriented illustration of the trench surrounding the famous Stonehenge Ring Wall.

Amateks Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals
SDG Goal 1 Zero Poverty
SDG Goal 2 Zero Hunger
SDG Goal 6 Clean Water and Sanitation
SDG Goal 13 Climate Action
SDG Goal 15 Life on Land
SDG Goal 17 Partnerships for the Goals