Ancient Technologies in Sustainable Development

How Ancient Technologies Can Help

Amatek Institute Clay Pots

Up to 90% 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

Affordable and safe housing

About the Amatek Institute

The demand for innovative solutions to ecological and societal challenges is on a constant rise. Cultural heritage provides extensive, yet underutilized and often unrecognized opportunities to help solve such problems.

The United Nations “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” defines 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a guideline for action by all countries. In development projects around the world cultural heritage is rehabilitated in contexts of these goals: to combat poverty, hunger, water scarcity and desertification, to provide affordable and safe housing, to re-instate biodiversity, and to tackle climate change in arid and semi-arid regions.

The Amatek Institute conducts research and consulting in all areas of cultural heritage as efficient and affordable solutions in contexts of sustainable development. Our goal is to disseminate knowledge of the potential of cultural heritage in sustainable development and to help create a more peaceful, prosperous and enjoyable world.

Amatek is the abbreviation of Ancient Materials, Technologies and Knowledge.

Amatek Institut Logo


Ancient Technologies in Development Aid and Green Architecture


“Farming for Biodiversity” in the Andes

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Tank Cascade System

Reviving an ancient irrigation system

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Rehabilitating Ancient Farming

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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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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, 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 and in mountainous landscapes where they function reliably.

In Sustainable Agriculture, ancient technologies work without agrochemicals, support soil regeneration, save water and promote the preservation of local biodiversity. The products of agricultural land cultivated with ancient technologies are bio-certifiable.

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

Amatek Technologies Square

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

Services for Museums

Exhibitions: Development & Design

Benefit in multiple ways from including ancient materials, technologies and knowledge in modern contexts into your exhibition and programme:

  • Show your visitors the positive impact of archaeology and cultural heritage on today’s major ecological and societal challenges.
  • Attract new customers and supporters by addressing popular and relatable topics such as climate change, water and food scarcity, drought or environmental pollution and showing modern solutions based on ancient technologies and knowledge.

  • Get involved in rising awareness for the major contributions of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Educational Webinars

Learn about the diverse contexts in which ancient technologies and knowledge have been implemented in recent years to solve pressing ecological and societal problems, for example:

  • Large scale water supply in Sri Lanka and Irak
  • Agricultural and land protection projects in South America
  • UN funded clay pot irrigation projects in multiple states of Africa
  • Bush fire management in Australia
  • Agroforestry and Green architecture worldwide

Hire a Speaker

Offer a special opportunity to your donors and supporters, online or on site: A professional archaeologist talking about a topic of your choice related to ancient materials, technologies and knowledge in modern contexts and to Functional Cultural Heritage Development.

Services for Development Aid Organisations

We support you in finding sustainable local solutions in challenging environments.



You are looking for sustainable solutions based on local resources and the involvement of local communities? Benefit from our knowledge and let us share our experience with you.

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We provide potential analyses and planning concerning the implementation of ancient and traditional technologies and knowledge into your projects.

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Training Material

For your partners on site and the local communities you work with we develop textual and non-textual training material to ensure that everyone involved can live up to their potential.

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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

About the Founder

I am an archaeologist 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 research more related to and 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 and by their impact – and I was struck by how difficult and time consuming it was to find information about it, despite internet 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 analyse the potential and applications of ancient technologies in modern contexts. There is also no starting point for actors in the fields of sustainable development projects nor for cultural institutions looking for ways to offer their audience the chance to get engaged in popular debates and present-day issues.

This serious lack of research and knowledge transfer gave birth to the idea of the Amatek Institute. My vision is to provide a knowledge hub for archaeology’s contributions to the sustainable development goals and the numerous applications of ancient technologies benefiting contemporary societies.

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.