Tunnels and Canals

Klaus Grewe

in The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199734856
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Tunnels and Canals

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  • Classical Studies
  • Greek and Roman Archaeology
  • Historical Archaeology


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This article describes tunnel and canal construction. The application of the qanat technique and counter-excavation in tunnel construction is first discussed. Tunnel construction was an accomplishment in engineering that was very well suited for demonstrating both the benevolence and the sheer power of a ruler. The surviving portion of the inscription provides technical details about the construction of the tunnel at Saldae, and the background to the project. Nonius Datus explains the main problems involved with tunnel construction in terms of counter-excavation, as well as his solution. He used the construction of the Saldae aqueduct and its problem-plagued tunnel to present himself on his tombstone as an engineer to whom an outstanding building project had been entrusted. All the great states and empires in the ancient Mediterranean world managed to create tunnels and navigational canals.

Keywords: tunnel; canal; qanat technique; counter-excavation; Nonius Datus; Saldae aqueduct; inscription

Article.  7190 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Greek and Roman Archaeology ; Historical Archaeology

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