CWA 116 Letters

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Faces from Palmyra

After reading ‘Facing the Palmyrenes’ (CWA 111), I reflected back on my time working as a geologist in north-east Syria in 1989. I was living in Al Hasakah, about 400 miles north-east of Damascus, but had the opportunity to visit Palmyra. What struck me, at that time, during my visit to this marvellous ancient metropolis with its standing avenues of columns, arches, theatre, temples, tombs, cisterns, baths, and other structures, was that there were no tourists. We were all alone, and if this had been any other country, a site like this would have been a major tourist stop. It is certainly heart-breaking to not only see the recent destruction of Syria’s cultural resources, but also the pain and suffering of the Syrian people, some of whom gave their lives trying to protect these archaeological treasures.

IMAGE: Bill Di Paolo

Bill Di Paolo
Mancos, Colorado, USA

Waterproof flooring

An inquiring mind wants to know how archaeologists determine that a floor is made of waterproof mortar (‘A crossroads between the seas’, CWA 110). Do the scientists know what the ancients used to make it waterproof?

Joan Brown

Ancient aquifers

IMAGE: © S.H. Rashedi

I enjoyed Chris Catling’s article in CWA 113 about ancient aquifers. These acequias are one more example of the ingenuity of our forebears. We are reminded more and more about the timeless importance of access to a good water supply, especially now with the effects of climate change and overpopulation. The acequias were solutions adapted to their time period.

I’m also reminded of the qanats of Iran. which had a similar purpose but were underground. They were constructed by digging a vertical shaft at the head of a valley until they hit ground water. Then they dug a tunnel horizontally, carefully controlling the pitch. They would dig a series of vertical shafts downhill for construction and maintenance, sometimes for several kilometres. The water was not tapped until it reached its destination.

On the surface, you can see a line of piles of the dirt from their excavations at each of the vertical shafts. It’s my understanding that they originated over 2,500 years ago, and some qanats are in use today.

Bruce Siekmann
Pennsylvania, USA

Ancient and modern

Re the ‘caveman’ cartoon in CWA 114 (‘Before we discovered fire, what did we sit and stare at?’): would it be reasonable to expect this to be replicated in issue #3,114 with the caption modified to replace ‘fire’ with ‘mobile device’?

Graeme Innes-Johnstone
Elland, UK

Please note: letters may be edited; views expressed here are those of our readers, and do not necessarily reflect those of the magazine.