Ancient peoples developed irrigation systems to water their crops. Their sophisticated methods and structures diverted water from natural sources, such as rivers, to man-made places for agricultural purposes. In this way, irrigation systems kept ancient people alive, just as they do today.
Ancient Egyptians built gated sluices, which they opened during Nile floods to send water to crops growing in basins along the river. In Yemen around 600 B.C., a massive dam held back water, diverting portions of it into a canal system. The people of Mesopotamia also built large dams and canals to halt and re-channel water.
Salt build-up was a concern for ancient peoples, who could not filter salt out of their water supply. Places with large amounts of water, such as Egypt along the Nile River, had constant water flows that flushed out salts, but in Mesopotamia, fields filled with water and salt and were tricky to drain, according to the website MyGeologyPage.
Although ancient civilizations built sophisticated irrigation systems, their canals were not as long as those built in modern times. Instead, the ancients flocked to natural water sources, built irrigation systems and established settlements around them.
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