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In Old Babylonia: Irrigation and Agriculture Flourished Under the Code of Hammurabi (2000-1600 BC)

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After two centuries after the fall of the last Sumerian dynasty of Ur in 2003BC, the first kingdom of Babylon did appear. The Amorites who were Semitic people who had lived in the west of middle Mesopotamia brought the collapse of Ur itself. They appeared as nomadic clans ruled by fierce tribal chiefs, who forced themselves into lands where they needed to graze their herds. There was no Amorite invasion of southern Mesopotamia as such, but the Amorites ascended smoothly to power in many places, especially during the reign of the last kings of the Ur III dynasty, and so the following Amorite dynasty took over the rule of long-extant city-states such as Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna, and Kish and also established new ones. After a brief periods of an Elamites and old Assyrian empire dominations that took place for only 46 years the Amorite kingdom was firmly established in 2004 BC in Babylon and continued until 1595 BC, known in Mesopotamia's history as the "Amorite Period". Babylon became the major power in the ancient world during the reign of Hammurabi. It was from then that all parts of southern Mesopotamia came to be known as Babylonia. It was during the reign Babylonia witnessed the great care he had devoted to maintain and expand irrigation networks and keep the prosperity of the empire and even so successfully constructing new canals and dams. When Hammurabi established control over the whole region of Mesopotamia by 1760, and especially the city-states of Sumeria, he restored the irrigation canals there to their best conditions and brought water back to areas of the south that were previously deprived of it. His unification of the entire south and the lands north of Babylon allowed him to dig long canals to the various cities of these lands. The canal he called "Hammurabi-is-the-abundance-of-the-people", for example, ran by Nippur, Isin, Uruk, Larsa, Ur, and Eridu, and covered a stretch of land extending for a distance of some 160 kilometers. These works brought economic development and increased the wealth of the population to unprecedented levels. Hammurabi's
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Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering, Vol.10, No.3, 2020, 41-57
ISSN: 1792-9040 (print version), 1792-9660 (online)
Scientific Press International Limited
In Old Babylonia:
Irrigation and Agriculture Flourished
Under the Code of Hammurabi (2000-1600 BC)
Nasrat Adamo
1
and Nadhir Al-Ansari
2
Abstract
After two centuries after the fall of the last Sumerian dynasty of Ur in 2003BC, the
first kingdom of Babylon did appear. The Amorites who were Semitic people who
had lived in the west of middle Mesopotamia brought the collapse of Ur itself. They
appeared as nomadic clans ruled by fierce tribal chiefs, who forced themselves into
lands where they needed to graze their herds. There was no Amorite invasion of
southern Mesopotamia as such, but the Amorites ascended smoothly to power in
many places, especially during the reign of the last kings of the Ur III dynasty, and
so the following Amorite dynasty took over the rule of long-extant city-states such
as Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna, and Kish and also established new ones. After a brief
periods of an Elamites and old Assyrian empire dominations that took place for only
46 years the Amorite kingdom was firmly established in 2004 BC in Babylon and
continued until 1595 BC, known in Mesopotamia’s history as the "Amorite Period".
Babylon became the major power in the ancient world during the reign of
Hammurabi. It was from then that all parts of southern Mesopotamia came to be
known as Babylonia. It was during the reign Babylonia witnessed the great care he
had devoted to maintain and expand irrigation networks and keep the prosperity of
the empire and even so successfully constructing new canals and dams. When
Hammurabi established control over the whole region of Mesopotamia by 1760,
and especially the city-states of Sumeria, he restored the irrigation canals there to
their best conditions and brought water back to areas of the south that were
previously deprived of it. His unification of the entire south and the lands north of
Babylon allowed him to dig long canals to the various cities of these lands. The
canal he called “Hammurabi-is-the-abundance-of-the-people”, for example, ran by
Nippur, Isin, Uruk, Larsa, Ur, and Eridu, and covered a stretch of land extending
for a distance of some 160 kilometers. These works brought economic development
and increased the wealth of the population to unprecedented levels. Hammurabi’s
1
Consultant Engineer, Norrköping, Sweden.
2
Lulea University of Technology, Lulea.
Article Info: Received: February 10, 2020. Revised: February 15, 2020.
Published online: March 30, 2020.
42 Nasrat Adamo and Nadhir Al-Ansari
achievement as a lawmaker is specifically highlighted; as he was famous for his
“Legal Code” which he had promulgated.
Keywords: Old Babylonia, Irrigation and Agriculture, Hammurabi, Legal Code,
Iraq.
1. Old Babylonia, Irrigation and Agriculture
Two centuries already had passed since the fall of the last Sumerian dynasty of Ur
in 2003BC until the first kingdom of Babylon did appear. The collapse of Ur itself
was brought about at the hands of the Amorites, which triggered major and
important turning point in the history of Mesopotamia. On this account, a brief
presentation of the Amorites looks very much justified. The Amorites were Semitic
people who had lived in the west of middle Mesopotamia, which included the land
of Canaan. They appeared as uncivilized and nomadic clans ruled by fierce tribal
chiefs, who forced themselves into lands where they needed to graze their herds.
From the early Mesopotamian writings of Sumer, Akkad, and Assyria, it was clear
that the Amorites were especially connected with the mountainous region now
called Jebel Bishri in northern Syria which is named the "Mountain of the
Amorites”. From the 21st century BC, and possibly triggered by a long major
drought starting about 2200 BC, a large-scale migration of Amorite tribes infiltrated
southern Mesopotamia. Some of the Akkadian literature of this era spoke
disparagingly of the Amorites which were called (MAR. TU), and implied that they
were nomadic and primitive, and even looked to their way of life with disgust and
contempt:
The MAR.TU who knows no grain.... The MAR.TU that knows no house nor
a town, the boors of the mountains.... The MAR.TU that digs up truffles... who does
not bend his knees (to cultivate the land), who eat raw meat, who has no house
during his lifetime, who is not buried after death”
And add:
"They have prepared wheat and gú-nunuz (grain) as a confection, but an
Amorite will eat it without even recognizing what it contains”.
By the time of the last days of the third dynasty of Ur, the immigrating Amorites
had become such a force that obliged the Sumerians to construct a 270-kilometre
(170 mi) wall from the Tigris to the Euphrates to hold them off. However, this
proved to be a futile effort, and they became one of the instruments of the downfall
of the third dynasty of Ur. Many Amorite chieftains in southern Mesopotamia
aggressively took advantage of the failing kingdom to seize power. There was not
an Amorite invasion of southern Mesopotamia as such, but the Amorites ascended
to power in many places, especially during the reign of the last kings of the Ur III
dynasty. The following Amorite dynasties took over the rule of long-extant city-
states such as Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna, and Kish and established new ones.
After a brief period of an Elamites and old Assyrian empire domination that took
place within (2050-2004BC) the Amorite kingdom was firmly established (2004-
In Old Babylonia: Irrigation and Agriculture Flourished Under the
43
1595 BC) which is sometimes known as the "Amorite Period" in Mesopotamian
history [1]. The small town of Babylon, unimportant both politically and militarily,
was raised to the status of a minor independent city-state, under Sumu-abum in 1894
BC and this led the way to the rise of the powerful King Hammurabi (1810 BC-
1750 BC) who united all the city- states and established the Babylonian Empire,
see Figure 19.
Figure 19: Babylonia at the time of Hammurabi.
The heartland of Babylonia was downstream of the present-day Baghdad or better,
from the point where the two rivers, Euphrates and Tigris, approach each other so
closely that they leave a stretch of only about twenty miles between them. It was
not situated in the alluvium plain between the two rivers, but rather on the banks
along several courses of the Euphrates that fanned out in a number of channels
during the history of the river. At times, Babylonia reached beyond the Tigris, into
the flat lands and foothills of the Zagros range; generally along the eastern
tributaries of the Tigris. Its political and cultural influence extended upstream, along
both rivers, on the Euphrates as far as Mari and beyond, on the Tigris as far as
Assur. The two rivers in Babylonia’s high time, as they were in the Sumerian era
were also the two arteries which had supported the flourishing agriculture then and
there, and it was along their two courses and by the natural or the dug canals, all the
city states of the Sumerians and the Babylonian cities were established. However,
the two rivers emptied directly into the Persian Gulf, not as the case now, as they
both join to form Shatt Al- Arab which did not exist at that time.
44 Nasrat Adamo and Nadhir Al-Ansari
Babylon became the major power in the ancient world during the reign of
Hammurabi, and it was from then that southern Mesopotamia came to be known as
Babylonia. The rise of the Amorite kingdoms in Mesopotamia brought about deep
and lasting repercussions in its political, social and economic structure, especially
in southern Mesopotamia. The religious, ethical, technological, scientific and
artistic directions in which Mesopotamia had been developing since the 4th
millennium BC were not greatly affected by the Amorites' hegemony. They
continued to worship the Sumero-Akkadian gods, and the older Sumerian myths and
epic tales were piously copied, translated, or adapted, generally with only minor
alterations. In Babylonia, agriculture thrived and the Sumerian ways and means
were developed further. The reign of Hammurabi witnessed the great care he
devoted to maintain and expand irrigation networks, who even developed articles
in his famous code to protect them.
The new empire which had its capitol established in Babylon had already received
from the Sumerians very advanced agricultural base in the form of huge irrigation
canal networks, dams and agricultural knowledge, so they did not have to add much
on that. But due to the changing and shifting of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers,
they had to dig new feeder canals and build new dams each time these two rivers
changed their courses; which happened often due to their violent and frequent
floods. One historical example of such a flood is the one which had occurred
between 1865 BC and 1850 BC whereby; the Euphrates changed its course in
easterly direction and followed the course of the then “Babel River” branch,
believed to be the present days Shatt- Al Hillah” branch. This change resulted in
cutting off all the canals off- taking from the old course, and required digging of
new canals [2]. This behavior of the Euphrates is characteristic of fluvial rivers, and
it is a well-known fact that it had changed its course many times in history. The
last of such events was at the end of the nineteen century due to silting up of Shatt
Al Hillahbranch head reach and concentrating the flow in the second branch “Al
Hindiya”. This was the reason behind the construction of Al Hindiya Barrage in
(1911) to divide the flow equitably between the two branches.
King Hammurabi was not only a worrier that united the whole Mesopotamia under
his rule, but he was also a keen builder as he undertook a series of public works,
including heightening the city walls for defensive purposes and enlarging it, and
expanding the temples. It is known that he had built a great bridge across the
Euphrates connecting both banks of Babylon city itself [3]. Babylon flourished
during his reign, and it extended over a large area on both banks of the Euphrates
as seen from the map in Figure 20 [4].
Hammurabi was convinced, and so his people were, that the good ruler was the one
who would provide agricultural wealth for his people. In southern Mesopotamia
where very little rain fell, this meant digging and maintaining irrigation canals to
water the field. Boasting of such work one would not be surprised to see such an
inscription left by Hammourabi commemorating his works which says:
“I dug the canal Hammurabi-is-the-abundance-of-the-people which brings a
profusion of water to the land of Sumer and Akkad”.
In Old Babylonia: Irrigation and Agriculture Flourished Under the
45
As fields in lower Mesopotamia could only be cultivated when irrigated, the digging
of a canal was an obvious blessing for all. Again, references to such acts by rulers
of this time are numerous, and Hammurabi did not fail in this respect. Therefore,
when late in his life he boasted of his accomplishments in the prologue of his code;
he wrote speaking of himself as:
“The one who extended the cultivated lands of the city of Dilbat and who filled
the granaries for the powerful god Urash.”
Figure 20: Map of Babylon at the Hellenistic age but basically developed in
Hammurabi reign showing the bridge on the Euphrates, the nine gates in the
city walls, and the Temples [4].
“Hammurabi” completed many irrigation canals. One of these were the great canal
which he dug and called Nar Hammurabi” or the Hammurabi-is-the-abundance-
of-the-people”, to carry water from the new course of the Euphrates, after the river
had changed its course, down to the city of “Kish” in the direction of “Umma” and
then to the city of “Larsa” to empty afterwards in the Gulf.
Hammurabi, as usual, boasts of his work on canals and many of his preserved
inscriptions recorded this. During the many wars between the states of the south in
46 Nasrat Adamo and Nadhir Al-Ansari
the early decades of his reign and even before that, some city- states regularly denied
water to their neighbors by diverting it through new channels they had dug, which
bypassed their enemies’ cities causing distress and barren lands. When Hammurabi
established control over the whole region by 1760 BC, he restored the damage and
brought water back to areas of the south that were previously deprived of it. His
unification of the entire south of Mesopotamia and the lands north of Babylon, a
territory stretching some 400 kilometers from north to south along the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, allowed him to dig long canals to the various cities of this domain.
The Hammurabi-is-the-abundance-of-the-people” canal, for example, ran by
Nippur, Isin, Uruk, Larsa, Ur, and Eridu, and covered a stretch of land extending
for a distance of some 160 kilometers. Pacification brought thus economic
development, and increased the wealth of the population [5].
Hammourabi also directed his attention to the maintenance of canals freeing them
from silt and maintaining their discharge, so we see him directing his official
representatives in the cities under his rule just to do this. In a letter to Sin- Adenam
governor of Larsa, he ordered him to gather all land tenants and users of the
Damanom canal to dredge it of the accumulated silt, and instructing that this
should be completed at the end of the month. In another letter he ordered the same
official to complete the dredging of the canal to Uruk within three days as the work
was in delay [4].
Hammurabi was also famous for his “Legal Code” or the Hammurabi Code”,
which we came to know about from an obelisk uncovered in an archeological site
in Sousa in Iran in (1909 AD) and is kept now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Figure 21 shows Hammurabi himself in front of the God Marduk presenting him
with the tablets of the laws inferring the divine power behind them.
The code, although had predecessors from Sumerian times such as Ornimo, Labith
Ishtar, Eshnunna codes, it was more comprehensive and contained specific
punishments and penalties for specific crimes and violations. The code contained
282 articles, and many of these articles were concerned with agriculture and
irrigation, which showed the importance of them to the prosperity of Babylon, in
addition to Hammurabi’s keen interest in realizing justice. Articles covering
agriculture dealt with, among other things, either leasing and cultivating the land,
or taking loans for investing in agriculture, and their repayment. These can be seen
from articles 42 to article 48, which had prescribed penalties of various magnitudes
in case of failure or neglect. Loans were to be paid back by quantities of crop, which
should correspond to the loan plus its interests. In case of default, however, it may
be repaid in terms of free labour depending on the kind of failure. In the normal case
of borrowing a loan by a farmer then payment back the loan to the creditor should
cover the amount of the loan and its interests in terms of the planted crop. On the
other hand if the crop was lost due to inundation of the land or because of irrigation
water shortage, then in that year, he shall not make any return of grain.
Other articles covered the misuse of water as in articles 53, and 55 to 56:
“If a man neglects to strengthen his dyke and does not strengthen it, and a
break be made in his dyke, and the water carried away the farm-land, the man in
In Old Babylonia: Irrigation and Agriculture Flourished Under the
47
whose dyke the break has been made shall restore the grain which he has
damaged”.
If a man opens his canal for irrigation and neglects it and the water damages
adjacent fields; he shall pay out grain on the basis of the area of adjacent fields”.
“If a man opens up the water, and the water carries away the improvements
of an adjacent field; he shall measure out ten Gur of grain per Gur lost”.
Figure 21: Hammurabi presenting his code to the God Marduk.
Moreover, special attention was given to such matters as being careful and avoiding
causing damage to the fields by grazing sheep, so articles 57-58 stipulate:
“If a shepherd has not come to agreement with the owner of a field to pasture
his sheep on the grass; and if he pastures his sheep on the field without the consent
of the owner, the owner of the field shall harvest his field, and the shepherd who
has pastured his sheep on the field without the consent of the owner of the field,
48 Nasrat Adamo and Nadhir Al-Ansari
shall give over and above twenty GUR of grain per ten GAN to the owner of the
field.”
“And if, after the sheep have gone up from the meadow and have crowded
their way out (?) of the gate into the public common, the shepherd turns the sheep
into the field, and pasture the sheep on the field; the shepherd shall oversee the field
on which he pastures and at the time of harvest he shall measure out sixty GUR of
grain per ten GAN to the owner of the field”.
Caring for orchards and trees was also covered as seen from articles 59-65, which
had stipulated the following:
“If a man cut down a tree in a man's orchard, without the consent of the
owner of the orchard, he shall pay one-half mana of silver”.
“If a man gives a field to a gardener to plant as an orchard and the gardener
plants the orchard and care for the orchard four years, in the fifth year, the owner
of the orchard and the gardener shall share equally; the owner of the orchard shall
mark off his portion and take it”.
“If the gardener does not plant the whole field, but leave a space waste, they
shall assign the waste space to his portion”.
“If he do not plant as an orchard the field which was given to him, if corn be
the produce of the field, for the years during which it has been neglected, the
gardener shall measure out to the owner of the field (such produce) on the basis of
the adjacent fields, and he shall perform the required work on the field, and he shall
restore it to the owner of the field”.
“If the field be unreclaimed, he shall perform the required work on the field,
and he shall restore it to the owner of the field and he shall measure out ten GUR
of grain per ten GAN for each year”.
“If a man gives his orchard to a gardener to manage, the gardener shall give
to the owner of the orchard two-thirds of the produce of the orchard, as long as he
is in possession of the orchard; he himself shall take one-third”.
“If the gardener does not properly manage the orchard; and he diminishes
the produce, the gardener shall measure out the produce of the orchard on the basis
of the adjacent orchards [6], [7].
According to best estimates, the Gur was equivalent to approximately 0.3 liters
while one GAN was about 0.6 square meter [8].
Hammurabi was interested in land reclamation and in organizing the agrarian
relations and this was manifested clearly in his code, which stated in one article that
waste land which was left to be reclaimed by tenants were to be granted rent-free
tenancy for three years. Tenants were to pay a stipulated rent in the fourth year. If
the tenant neglected to reclaim the land, the code enacted that he must hand it over
in good tilth and fixed a statutory rent. Gardens or plantations were let in the same
way and under the same conditions; but for date-groves four years' free tenure was
allowed. Similarly, tenancy was organized according to the métayer system was in
vogues, especially on temple lands. As for the landlords it was their duty to provide
the land, oxen for ploughing and the watering-machines, carting, threshing or other
implements, seed corn, and rations for the workmen and fodder for the cattle.The
In Old Babylonia: Irrigation and Agriculture Flourished Under the
49
tenant, or steward, usually had another land of his own. If he stole the seed, rations
or fodder, the Code enacted that his fingers should be cut off. If he appropriated or
sold the implements, impoverished or sublet the cattle, he was heavily fined, and in
default of payment might be condemned to be torn to pieces by the cattle on the
field; the rent was as contracted[9].
Following this golden epoch, and as normal with all empires, the old Babylonian
Empire started to decline, but it was still looked at with envy by other nomadic
Peoples at the edges of the empire due to its richness and prosperity. Finally,
Babylon itself was attacked and sacked by the Hittites in 1595 BC when
Hammurabi’s dynasty was falling apart during the reign of its eleventh king
(Shamso-Detanana).
The Hittites led by their King Musili came down from Anatolia, but then retreated
to their original homeland shortly afterwards and were replaced after a short period
by other people known as the Kassites [10].
The extent of the Babylonian empire at the time of the Kassites invasion is shown
in Figure 22 [10]. The Kassites themselves controlled Babylonia for 386 years from
1531 BC until 1155 BC, and established a dynasty based first in Babylon and later
in Dur-Kurigalzu near the confluence of the Tigris and Diyala rivers, about 30
kilometres (19 mi) west of the center of present day Baghdad. It was founded by the
Kassites king of Babylon, Kurigalzu, I in the late 15th or early 14th century BC.
The original homeland of the Kassites is not well known. It appears to have been
located in the Zagros Mountains, in what is now the Lorestan province of Iran. The
circumstances of their rise to power before entering Babylon are unknown due to a
lack of documentation during this so-called "Dark Age" period (1595-1531BC),
which was due to widespread dislocation. No inscription or document in the
Kassites language has been preserved, an absence that cannot be purely accidental,
suggesting a severe regression of literacy in official circles.
The success of the Kassites was built upon the relative political stability that the
Kassites monarchs achieved. They ruled Babylonia practically without interruption
for almost four hundred years, which is the longest rule by any dynasty in
Babylonian history. Those kings were members of a small military aristocracy but
were efficient rulers and not locally unpopular, and their 400-year reign laid
essential groundwork for the development of subsequent Babylonian culture[11].
50 Nasrat Adamo and Nadhir Al-Ansari
Figure 22: Babylonia, at the time of the Kassites [10].
The location of old Babylon and Dur- Kurigalzu are shown in the map of Figure 23.
This map shows also the old Sumerian cities with their present names as
archeological sites given between parentheses. This map even shows the modern
cities of Basra, Karbala, Baghdad, and Samara for good reference [12]. In the maps
of Figure 22 and Figure 23 it is worth to note the old courses of the rivers` Tigris,
Euphrates; and Karkha which had also poured out directly into the Persian Gulf at
that period.
In Old Babylonia: Irrigation and Agriculture Flourished Under the
51
Figure 23: Map showing locations of Babylon (20), Dur-Kurigalzu (28) and
other old cites of Sumeria with their present archeological sites in parenthesis;
in addition to some modern Iraqi cities [12]. Note: The unit of measurement on
the scale shown on this map has been corrected from (m.) in the original map
to (km.) by the writer, and the notation on the arrow has been also changed
showing north from (MIN) to (N).
52 Nasrat Adamo and Nadhir Al-Ansari
To the reader of this history, it is of great interest to observe how this part of the
world had in so many times attracted outside invaders, who in most cases were
ravening barbarians looking for the wealth and rich resources of the Mesopotamian
civilizations. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Kassites themselves were thrown
out by a new invading wave of people; this time the Elamites (1168 BC-1162B C)
who were the new Babylonians.
The Kassites however, should be credited for the fact that during their four hundred
years, or so, they had acquired the Babylonian knowledge and utilized it for their
own benefit. In engineering they maintained and kept the irrigation works in good
and functional conditions. So, they passed this knowledge again to the new
Babylonian dynasty which conquered them and drove them out of Babylonia. These
new Babylonians of the Elamites remained in power for the next 131 years and had
eleven of their kings on the throne of the Babylonian Empire until this empire gave
in under the increasing pressures of the newly rising empire of Assyria in 931 BC.
During the flourishing period of the Babylonian supremacy, major engineering
water works were accomplished, either as newly constructed ones or by extending
and improving others inherited from earlier periods. While we have not received
much written information on who were the kings responsible for these works,
archeological findings show that these major works took a long time to be
completed; which indicates probably that many successive kings worked on each of
them. Such of these large projects were; the Great Nimrud Dam and the Nahrawn
Grand Canal. The dam that was called Nimrod Dam on the Tigris was an earthfill
dam built around 2000 BC., north of Baghdad and was used to prevent erosion and
reduce the threat of flooding. The intention was to divert the flow of the river and
help irrigate the crops [13]. Historical evidence reveals that the Tigris River in its
course south of the city of Samarra had two branches at a point located at the entry
of the river into what may be considered as the beginning of the alluvial plains of
Mesopotamia.
The bulk of flow used to flow in the western branch in a southwesterly direction,
while the remaining flow went into the eastern smaller channel, and after some 100
kilometers it turned to the east to meet with this eastern branch at a point north of
the modern city of Al Kadhimiah. However, later on, and as normal for rives in
fluvial deltas changing their courses and taking new channels for many reasons; the
Tigris abandoned its main course to flow through the eastern smaller branch; which
became the main stream. This event resulted in depriving the other branch from its
share and cutting off water supply of the extensive irrigation network depending on
it.
Here, there are two different opinions on the reason for this change, the first was
held by Sousa [14], in which he claimed that it was brought about by a very high
flood which caused the diversion into the eastern channel which was generally
lower than the other one. Sir William Willcocks, the British engineer who had
studied the conditions of irrigation in Iraq in the late years of the nineteenth century
In Old Babylonia: Irrigation and Agriculture Flourished Under the
53
for the Ottoman Government, advocated, however, a second opinion. Willcocks
believed that; as it was normal for such rivers, both branches were eroding and
cutting deeper into their beds due to the general change of the ground grade. In
addition, while this process had continued along the eastern branch unhindered, it
was stopped at some level in the western branch due to the presence of one bed of
very hard rocks, which are most probably conglomerates. This had caused the rising
of water level at the head reach above that in the eastern channel and resulted in
overflowing of the river into this channel[15]. The ancient engineers had to think of
a way to solve the problem of water shortage along the western bank, and the
solution was to build the “Grand Nimrud Dam”.
Things could not have stopped at just building the dam because those same
engineers had also to organize the irrigation of the lands along this branch and
extending irrigation to all the domains up to the foot hills in the east, and carry this
down to the south as much as possible. A new Grand Canal was then dug taking
water from the Tigris River to replace all the feeder canals that were taking their
supplies from the eastern branch; this was the Grand Nahrawn Canal. Our
knowledge of this work comes from an inscription on a cylindrical seal which was
uncovered in the ruins of (Khafaji) east of Diyala River between Baquba and
Baghdad, which belonged to the time of King Shamsu Elona the son of Hammurabi
[16].
The Grand Nahrawn Canal had then two intakes connected to two head reach canals
not only one. As usual, practice for all ancient engineers of Mesopotamia, even at
the Sumerian era, as they used multiple intakes to supply the same canal, whereby
the upstream intake had a relatively low bed level and drew the water supply when
the water levels were low throughout the summer season, the downstream intake
with its higher bed level took care of water supply during winter season. In this way,
permanent gravity irrigation was maintained during the four seasons. According to
this practice, the Nahrawn Canal had its upper intake at about 11 kilometers south
of Sammara. This canal head reach is still known by the name “Al Qaim as for the
other lower intake it was feeding what is called the “Nahr Al Sanam” canal, which
later on merged with “Al Qaim” to form the main Al Nahrawn Canal, Figure 24 [17].
54 Nasrat Adamo and Nadhir Al-Ansari
Figure 24: Schematic diagram, (A) The arrangement of the upstream and
downstream intakes, (B) Sketch showing the Al Qaim and Al Sanam head
reach canals [16]. Note: This sketch was edited and translated from the
original Arabic by the writer.
The construction of the Grand Nimrud Dam involved colossal magnitude of work
and great deal of planning. In considering the size of the “Grand Nimrud Dam’, we
should remember that this dam had to be of such volume and workmanship as to
resist the enormous Tigris floods, which from our hydrological calculation can
reach up to 12000 m3/second. The dam continued to function for about three
thousand years, and its destruction and progressive abandonment lasted from the
mid-10th century onwards mirroring the Abbasid Caliphate's decline.
Similarly, the volume of excavation, the construction of the many weirs and other
structures plus the precise surveying works, all gave evidence to the greatness of
the Grand Nahrwan canal. Maintaining the canal for thousands of years and
keeping it functional all this time indicates the value that was attached to it. The
enormous crop yields and revenues to the empires that dominated the land showed
the reward paid back. This was the case for over thousands of years until it fell into
disuse with the collapse of the Grand Nimrud Dam. Although some later authors
attribute the construction of both the dam and the canal to the later Sassanids [18],
archeological findings prove without the slightest doubt that they were two of the
great achievements of Babylon.
However, in going back to the Babylonian period, this era was very important in the
history of Mesopotamia, as it marked the time when the first Mesopotamian Empire
In Old Babylonia: Irrigation and Agriculture Flourished Under the
55
was established. In Babylonia, all the accumulated knowledge and expertise
acquired by the previous dynasties were made use of and developed even further.
The main actors during written history before Babylonia were the Sumerians and
Akkadians, who had so much intermingled with the new comers, the Amorites, and
later on the Kassites through marriage and blending together, that they all had
become one nation.
This one nation has adopted the Semitic-Akkadian language and used it for
economic transactions during the Kassites period, and used Sumerian language for
monumental inscriptions. Traces of the Kassites language itself however, are very
few. Old Babylonia reached its golden stage at the hands of the Amorite King
Hammourabi and continued to flourish at the hands of the Kassites.
During the Babylonian era, which extended well of about 1000 years, one does not
fail to observe that the land of Mesopotamia had thrived in spite of the many wars
and dark periods that it had to go through. Many Peoples of the ancient world made
this land their home. Sumerians, Akkadians, Amorites and Kassites; Semitics and
Aryans, melted together to be Babylonians, and they worked hard to maintain their
prosperity. Such prosperity could only be attained by agriculture and the surpluses
it brought with it. Agriculture depended on irrigation and the Babylonian, not only,
had to maintain the water flowing in the canal networks they inherited from the
Sumerians, but also excelled in extending them. The sources of the water were the
Tigris and the Euphrates, two wild rivers, when compared to the mild Nile.
The men of Mesopotamia had to be of such strength, vigor and patience to be able
to control them. They did not waste time building flood protection dykes; or when
such dykes breached, they did not lose hope and did their best and started all over
again. The two rivers changed their courses many times during the Sumerian and
the Babylonian periods; again, this meant building new canals and shifting their
cities every time such an event occurred.
When now, after such long time had passed, and even with other civilizations taking
over this heritage and building over it, good things always end. Finally, luck turned
against the people of Mesopotamia, being due to wars or weather changes and
droughts. This great work turned into waste, and the landscape became dotted with
numerous mounds and old embankments that speak of the glorious past, but only in
a language known to a small group of great men who took it up to themselves as
dedicated archeologists to dig and decipher their secrets. If we are so lucky to write
on this now, it is only because of the hard work and toils of these men.
56 Nasrat Adamo and Nadhir Al-Ansari
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9.pdf
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
This is the first biography in English of King Hammurabi, who ruled Babylon from 1792 to 1750 BC and presents a rounded view of his accomplishments. Describes how Hammurabi dealt with powerful rivals and extended his kingdom. Draws on the King's own writings and on diplomatic correspondence that has only recently become available. Explores the administration of the kingdom and the legacies of his rule, especially his legal code. Demonstrates how Hammurabi's conquests irrevocably changed the political organization of the Near East, so that he was long remembered as one of the great kings of the past. Written to be accessible to a general audience.
Downloaded from the Central Library of New Delhi books)
  • J G Macqueen
Macqueen, J.G. (1964). Babylon. Published by R. Hale, London. (Downloaded from the Central Library of New Delhi books).
Mesopotamia; the Babylonian and Assyrian civilization
  • L Delaporte
Delaporte, L. (1925). Mesopotamia; the Babylonian and Assyrian civilization. Translated by Gordon Childe London.
Articles on Ancient History: Babylonian Empire
  • J Lendering
Lendering, J. (2017). Articles on Ancient History: Babylonian Empire. Livius Org., 26 July 2017. http://www.livius.org/pictures/a/maps/map-of-babylon
The laws of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi
  • A S Cook
Cook, A. S. (1903). The laws of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi. Adam and Charles Black, London. https://archive.org/details/lawsofmosescodeo00cookrich
Babylonian Weights and Measures. On line Academic Course
  • D Friedman
Friedman, D. (2018). Babylonian Weights and Measures. On line Academic Course, accessed on 2018-03-17.
The Kassites in Babylonia
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia Britannica (2012).The Kassites in Babylonia. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
History of Mesopotamian Civilization: in the light of irrigation agricultural projects, recent archeological discoveries and historical sources
  • A Sousa
Sousa, A. (1986). History of Mesopotamian Civilization: in the light of irrigation agricultural projects, recent archeological discoveries and historical sources. In Arabic, Chapter 6, pp. 70-76. Published by the Iraqi Ministry of Irrigation, Al-Huriya printing house, Baghdad. https://ia601405.us.archive.org/32/items/nasrat_20190521/%D8%AA%D8%