|Ruins of Ancient Palmyra|
Well, according to this piece at Archaeology News Network, (Hat Tip: Diana Buja) Norwegian researchers led by Jørgen Christian Meyer think they have discovered some of the answers as to how the ancient Palmyrenes stored water and supported a major city deep in the desert.
Read the story, but here are some of the key points:
Professor Meyer and his colleagues came to realise that what they were studying was not a desert, but rather an arid steppe, with underground grass roots that keep rain from sinking into the soil. Rainwater collects in intermittent creeks and rivers called wadi by the Arabs.To return to the contemporary scene, Tadmur, the modern town adjacent to the ancient ruins, has reportedly suffered considerably during the current Syrian troubles. It is not only surrounded by desert but also by Syrian military bases.
The archaeologists gathered evidence that residents of ancient Palmyra and the nearby villages collected the rainwater using dams and cisterns. This gave the surrounding villages water for crops and enabled them to provide the city with food; the collection system ensured a stable supply of agricultural products and averted catastrophe during droughts.
Local farmers also cooperated with Bedouin tribes, who drove their flocks of sheep and goats into the area to graze during the hot season, fertilising the farmers’ fields in the process.