The first earthworks

Published on 7 February 2008

The first earthworks go back to prehistory.
Initially these were mounds of earth and stones

1/ The first earthworks go back to prehistory.

Initially these were mounds of earth and some standing stones

* To honour the gods: - In 3000 BC, in Ireland, a pile of rocks measuring 22,000 m3 was erected on Mount Knocknarea near Sligo as a funeral monument to the goddess of Connaught.
- the Tumulus of Maeve in Ireland.

* To bury the dead:
- In 2500 BC in Egypt, the pyramid constructed by the pharaoh Cheops as a sepulchre for himself, with 2,600,000 m3 of stone blocks of which some came from quarries situated 1000 km upstream up the Nile.

Pyramid (all rights reserved)
The Pharaoh SEREK carrying out earthworks (all rights reserved)

2/ Earthworks turned out to be indispensable in dealing with river flooding (dykes and dams) and in irrigating the planes (canals).

- In 3200 BC in Egypt, during the reign of the Pharaoh Serek, the peasants of the Nile built the first dams and canals to irrigate the fertile plains.
- Around 2500 BC, the oldest dam was constructed below Heouan in Egypt with rockfill protection measuring 12 metres high, 120 metres in length and 90 metres wide.

- Dykes, canals, dams and reservoirs were built in the Memphis region around Lake Moeris.

- In 1670 BC, at Risjamand in India, a dyke of 14 metres in height and 5.4 km long was built to hold water and irrigate the land.

- In the mid 3rd century BC, at Tel Helaf in Mesopotamia, the peasants built terraces to protect their crops against the floodwaters of the Euphrates.