Category Archives: Anciet Technology

Ancient Sri Lankan Irigation systems

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Sri Lanka’s tanks

Sri Lanka is covered with a network of thousands of manmade lakes and ponds, known locally as ‘tanks’ (after ‘tanque’, the Portuguese word for ‘reservoir’). Some are truly massive; many are thousands of years old: and almost all show a high degree of sophistication in their construction and design. Indeed, Sir James Emmerson Tennent, the 19th century historian, is fulsome in his admiration for those who built them.

In particular he marvels at the numerous channels which were dug underneath the bed of each lake in order to ensure that the flow of water was “constant and equal as long as any water remained in the tank”. Frequently, he notes, those channels had to be cut through solid granite with the most rudimentary of tools:

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