A History of Water Engineering and Management in Yemen

Material Remains and Textual Foundations


In A History of Water Engineering and Management in Yemen, Ingrid Hehmeyer describes the three-way relationship between water, land, and humans from ancient to medieval and premodern times. As illustrated in case studies from four sites, individual ecosystems necessitated different engineering and management approaches in order to make good use of the scarce water resources for both irrigated agriculture and domestic consumption. Material remains and written sources provide the evidence for a comprehensive examination of continuity and change; technical and managerial struggles, failures, and successes; the question of technology transfer; the impact of the religion of Islam on water use and allocation; and people’s reactions in times of severe crisis.

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Ingrid Hehmeyer, associate professor of history of science and technology at Ryerson University, Toronto (Canada), received her doctorate in agriculture in 1988 and a master of science degree (equivalent) in pharmacy in 1990, both from the University of Bonn (Germany). Amongst her numerous publications on water use and medicine is Herbal Medicine in Yemen: Traditional Knowledge and Practice, and Their Value for Today’s World (ed., with H. Schönig, Leiden, Brill, 2012).
“This dissertation publication illuminates more than just Old South Arabian names of animals, plants, stones and metals. It also is an excellent source for zoological, botanical and ethnographic data [...] It is well-conceived, the product of discipline and years of research.” Paul A. Yule in Wiener Zeitschrift Für Die Kunde Des Morgenlandes 110 (2020)
A Note on Transliteration
List of Figures and Tables
Photo Credits and Permissions for Reproduction


Irrigated Agriculture in Ancient South Arabia: The Oasis of Mārib

Introduction to Part I

Case Study 1: Agricultural Practices in the Controlled Irrigation Network of Ancient Mārib

The City of Zabīd (Founded 820 ce) and its Agricultural Hinterland before the First Ottoman Conquest in 1539

Introduction to Part II

Case Study 2: Sayl Irrigation in the Wādī Zabīd

Case Study 3: The Importance of the Agricultural Hinterland to Pre-Ottoman Zabīd

Case Study 4: Engineered Water Systems in the Wādī Zabīd

Case Study 5: Water and Waste in the City of Zabīd

Water and Settlement on the Coastal Plain of Southern Yemen: The Example of Ghayl Bā Wazīr

Introduction to Part III

Case Study 6: Tapping Underground Water: The Maʿyān System of Ghayl Bā Wazīr

Water-Storage Systems in the Western Highlands of Yemen: The Cisterns of al-Jabīn

Introduction to Part IV

Case Study 7: The Study and Restoration of Birkat ʿĀṭif, a Public Cistern in al-Jabīn

Water and Religious Magic

Introduction to Part V

Case Study 8: Water and Religious Magic

Concluding Remarks

Works Cited
All interested in the history and archaeology of Arabia from ancient to premodern times, history of technology, environmental history, and anyone concerned with water and sustainability in the Middle East.
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