ARCHITECTURE & CONSTRUCTION
We explore the potential of ancient materials, technologies and knowledge as sustainable solutions to current ecological problems.
With our work and programmes we want to make aware of, inspire and support their implementation.
Our focus is on water supply, agriculture, and soil re-cultivation in dry areas next to sustainable architecture and construction.
How Ancient Knowledge Can Help
Up to 70%
less water in
Farming the desert
100% local resources
Affordable, sustainable Housing
Take a look at some selected examples of ancient technologies and knowledge that already help solving current challenges. You can find many more in our Blog.
Ancient irrigation in Spain’s Sierra Nevada
From the ninth century AD onwards, settlers built more than 3,000 km of irrigation channels on the mountain slopes. Many of these channels are still in use today, diverting water from the springs and streams at higher altitudes and delivering it to the lower-lying crops, grasslands, and forests […]READ MORE
Qanats – UNESCO World Heritage
Throughout the arid regions of Iran, agricultural and permanent settlements are supported by the ancient qanat system of tapping alluvial aquifers at the heads of valleys and conducting the water along underground tunnels by gravity, often over many kilometres […]READ MORE
in modern Architecture
Rammed earth is an ancient construction technique used for foundations, floors and walls using natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime, or gravel. It has been revived recently as a sustainable building method […]READ MORE
Ancestral Technologies and Climate Change in the Andes
The „Mountain Institute“ combines modern science with traditional knowledge to restore wetlands, peatlands and grasslands in the Central Andes […]READ MORE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What is being argued here is not a naive romantic “return to the past,” but a plea for the need to investigate and experiment with past agricultural systems as potentially viable alternative models for rural development.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Dr. Kirsten D. Dzwiza
Founder & CEO