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No. 19: Jan-Feb 1982

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A PREHISTORIC TVA?

The Hohokam Indians lived along the Salt River Valley, in Arizona, about 300 BC to 1450 AD. They constructed a network of irrigation canals that is certainly one of the wonders of the Ancient New World. Early investigators recorded more than 500 kilometers of major canals and 1,600 kilometers of smaller ones. (Less than 10 kilometers of these remain intact today.) One of the main canals was 3 meters deep, 11 meters wide at ground level, and 14 kilometers long. Old and recent aerial photos show traces of an incredibly complex irrigation network. W.B. Masse, the author of this article, is very impressed by the earth-moving task but even more so by the degree of social coordination and control that must have been exerted all along the Salt River Valley in building and regulating the use of this remarkable canal system.

(Masse, W. Bruce; "Prehistoric Irrigation Systems in the Salt River Valley, Arizona," Science, 214:408, 1981.)

Reference. Many other ancient canal projects are described in our Handbook: Ancient Man. Ordering information here.

Composite map of canals near Tempe Composite map of canals near Tempe constructed from aerial photographs.

From Science Frontiers #19, JAN-FEB 1982. 1982-2000 William R. Corliss