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The word dam can be traced back to Middle English, and before that, from Middle Dutch, as seen in the names of many old cities. Most early dam building took place in Mesopotamia and the Middle East. Dams were used to control the water level, for Mesopotamia’s weather affected the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and could be quite unpredictable. The earliest known dam is situated in Jawa, Jordan, 100 km northeast of the capital Amman. This gravity dam featured a 9 m high and 1 m wide stone wall, supported by a 50 m wide earth rampart. The structure is dated to 3000 BC. The Ancient Egyptian Sadd Al-Kafara at Wadi Al-Garawi, located about 25 kilometers south of Cairo, was 102 m long at its base and 87 m wide. The structure was built around 2800 or 2600 B.C. as a diversion dam for flood control, but was destroyed by heavy rain during construction or shortly afterwards. Roman dam construction was characterized by “the Romans’ ability to plan and organize engineering construction on a grand scale”. Roman planners introduced the then novel concept of large reservoir dams which could secure a permanent water supply for urban settlements also over the dry season. Their pioneering use of water-proof hydraulic mortar and particularly Roman concrete allowed for much larger dam structures than previously built, such as the Lake Homs Dam, possibly the largest water barrier to date, and the Harbaqa Dam, both in Roman Syria. The highest Roman dam was the Subiaco Dam near Rome; its record height of 50 m remained unsurpassed until its accidental destruction in 1305. Roman engineers made routinely use of ancient standard designs like embankment dams and masonry gravity dams. Apart from that, they displayed a high degree of inventiveness, introducing most of the other basic dam designs which had been unknown until then. These include arch-gravity dams, arch dams, buttress dams and multiple arch buttress dams, all of which were known and employed by the 2nd century AD (see List of Roman dams). Eflatun Pınar is a Hittite dam and spring temple near Konya, Turkey. It’s thought to the time of the Hittite empire between the 15th and 13 century BC. The Kallanai is a massive dam of unhewn stone, over 300 meters long, 4.5 meters high and 20 meters (60 ft) wide, across the main stream of the Kaveri river in India. The basic structure dates to the 2nd century AD. The purpose of the dam was to divert the waters of the Kaveri across the fertile Delta region for irrigation via canals. Du Jiang Yan is the oldest surviving irrigation system in China that included a dam that directed waterflow. It was finished in 251 B.C. A large earthen dam, made by the Prime Minister of Chu (state), Sunshu Ao, flooded a valley in modern-day northern Anhui province that created an enormous irrigation reservoir (62 miles in circumference), a reservoir that is still present today.
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