Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering

The Neo-Assyrians: Warriors and Canal Builders under Sennacherib (911-609BC)

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  • Abstract 

    The Assyrians established their empire in upper Mesopotamia after crushing Babylonia. In this narration, we describe among other things the achievements of their great kings in building new cities and constructing waterworks for water supply of these cities and for irrigating the lands in their surroundings. The introduction of Sargon II for the Kariz irrigation system, which he had used to supply his new capital Dur-Sharrukin, is detailed. This was followed by describing the great works of his son Sinnecharib, who after building his new capitol Nineveh brought water to it from the upstream reach of the Khosr river by excavating a large canal called Kisiri Canal  and creating a reservoir. He even arranged to release the floodwater into a nearby depression, which he turned to a reserve for wild animals. Finding out that the canal discharge was not enough for all his cultivations and parks he tapped springs in the surrounding hills and mountains and collected their water in eighteen canals to supplement the reservoir. In this scheme he constructed also all the required engineering structure such as weirs and dams. However, his biggest achievement in this work was in drawing water from the Khazir- Gomel River from a point northeast of Nineveh and bringing it to the same reservoir by excavating a very large 50 kilometers canal. The canal is named as the Bavian canal in reference to the name of the location of its intake. Full description of the site, the diversion weir needed, and the intake structure are presented and illustrated by photographs and maps. One of the major structures of this canal, the Jarwan aqueduct, which was employed to pass the stream over a very wide wadi, is described in details as it gives insight of the ingenuity of the people of that time and shows how they had dealt with such cases. Sinnecharib was also responsible for constructing more large hydraulic works; of these the Kariz system of Bastoura- Erbil is fully described and his improvement on the water supply scheme of the city of Kalhu (Nimrud) and its irrigation project originally built by king Ashurnasirpal II (883- 859BC) are also presented. Moreover, a general idea is given in this paper on agriculture and the types of crops and vegetable and fruits grown to indicate the prosperity of this empire. However, as always in similar cases, this empire was distained to fall after internal conflicts over the throne and external attacks from outside envious enemies. Some authors even add another reason, which is the drought which had hit the heartland of Assyria in later stage. So the story of the Assyrian Empire ended in the year 612 BC when Nineveh fell to the combined forces of the Babylonians and Medes and the defeat of its last king Ashur-Uballit who was defeated in his last stronghold in Haran which took place taken in 610 BC.

    Keywords: Assyrians, Warriors, Canal Builders, Sennacherib, Iraq