Top 10 Most Impressive Ancient Aqueducts

The word aqueduct derives from the Latin words aqua meaning water and ducere meaning to lead. An aqueduct is therefore best described as an artificially structure such as a channel, tunnel, or ditch, that is used to transport water from a remote location to another.

The very first aqueducts were constructed by ancient civilizations such as those in Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt. These primitive aqueducts were built simply as open canals dug out between a river and city. The most famous engineers of aqueducts amongst all ancient civilizations were the Romans however. Over a period of 500 years the Romans constructed about 11 ancient aqueducts that fueled their capital’s water supply and built many more throughout their empire.

10. Tambomachay

Nicknamed the “The Bath of the Inca”, Tambomachay is an archaeological site near Cusco, Peru. It consists of a series of ancient aqueducts, canals and waterfalls originating from thermal springs nearby that run through the terraced rocks. Water and washing seemed to be an important part of Incan life, and many of the Inca sites in the Sacred Valley have baths and aqueducts as prominent features. In Tambomachay bathing seems to have been such a large part of life that it’s now thought it must have been a spa.

9. Aqueduct Park

Over a period of 500 years (from 312 BC to 226 AD) 11 Roman aqueducts were built to bring water to Rome from as far away as 92 kilometers (57 miles). The aqueduct system totaled over 415 km (258 miles) although only about 48 km (30 miles) was made of stone arches while the rest consisted of underground tunnels. The Aqueduct Park hosts the remains of 7 ancient aqueducts: Marcio, Anio Novus, Tepula, Mariana, Claudio, Iulia and Felice. Of these, the Aqua Claudio is the most impressive. It was built around 52 AD and reached a height of 28 meters (92 feet).

8. Caesarea Aqueduct

Caesarea was an important port city built by King Herod the Great between 23-13 BC. The aqueduct brought running water to the city from springs 10 km (6 miles) away. Herod build the first aqueduct when the city was founded. The Romans expanded the ancient aqueduct in the 2nd century AD. This section tapped into the older aqueduct, and doubled its capacity. The aqueduct continued to supply water for 1200 years. During the ages it was repaired several times.

7. Nazca Aqueducts

The Nazca Aqueducts were built in the 3rd to 6th century AD by the Nazca people to survive the arid desert climate. Water running in aquifers was channeled to where it was needed using man-made underground channels. Concentrical paths leading down to these underground channels provided for direct access to the water and the underground channel for maintenance. Still in use today by the inhabitants of the valley, these tunnels, wells and trenches are known collectively as puquios. Some of the best preserved puquios are those located in Cantalloc.

6. Hampi Aqueducts

Hampi was the capital of the 14th century the Vijayanagar empire in present-day India. Around Hampi are the remains of ancient aqueducts and canals that were used to bring water from the Tungabhadra river and feed the tanks and baths. Water inside the temples was usual supplied by aqueducts underground. One of the main branches of the aqueduct supplied water to the Stepped Tank, a 7 meter (23 feet) deep water reservoir. In fact the very discovery of the Stepped Tank was because this branch of the aqueduct appeared to lead nowhere. Archeologists dug the ground at its end point and the tank emerged.

5. Aqueduct of The Miracles

The Aqueduct of The Miracles (Acueducto de los Milagros) is one of three ancient Roman aqueducts built at Mérida in modern-day Spain. It originally brought water to the city from an artificial lake, supplied by the river Aberregas around 5 km (3 miles) to the north-west of Mérida. The aqueduct is thought to have been constructed during the 1st century AD. In later centuries, the inhabitants of Mérida dubbed it the “Aqueduct of The Miracles” for the awe that it evoked.

4. Les Ferreres Aqueduct

Les Ferreres Aqueduct (also known as Pont del Diable meaning Devil’s Bridge) was built to take water from the Francoli water 15 kilometers (9 miles) south to the city of Tarragona in present-day Spain. It probably dates from the time of Augustus, the first ruler of the Roman Empire. The Roman aqueduct has a maximum height of 27 meter and a length of 249 meter. It was composed by 25 upper arches and 11 lower arches.

3. Valens Aqueduct

The Valens Aqueduct was completed in the year 368 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Valens, whose name it bears. It was merely one of the terminal points of a system of ancient aqueducts and canals of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey). The water system eventually reached over 250 kilometers (155 miles) in total length, the longest such system of Antiquity. The Valens Aqueduct was restored by several Ottoman Sultans and was still the major water-providing system of medieval Constantinople. The surviving section is 921 meters (3021 feet) long, about 50 meters less than the original length. The Atatürk boulevard passes under its arches.

2. Aqueduct of Segovia
Probably built around 50 AD, the Aqueduct of Segovia is one of the best-preserved monuments left by the Romans in Spain. The ancient aqueduct carries water 16 km (10 miles) from the Frío River to Segovia and was built of some 24,000 massive granite blocks without the use of mortar. The aboveground portion is 728 meters (2,388 feet) long and consists of 165 arches more than 9 meters (30 feet) high. It is the foremost symbol of Segovia and still provided water to the city in the 20th century.

1. Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard (literally bridge of the Gard ) is an ancient aqueduct in the South of France constructed by the Roman Empire. It was originally part of a 50 km (31 miles) canal supplying fresh water to the Roman city of Nimes. The Roman aqueduct was constructed entirely without the use of mortar. The aqueduct’s stones – some of which weigh up to 6 tons – were precisely cut to fit perfectly together eliminating the need for mortar. From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the ancient aqueduct was used as a conventional bridge to facilitate foot traffic across the river. Today, the Pont du Gard is one of France’s top five tourist attractions, with 1.4 million visitors reported in 2001.


Brick Roads Printer

Block paving (also known as brick paving) is an alternative to an asphalt road. It’s typically used for aesthetic purposes on roads where traffic is relatively slow. Unfortunately, the process of laying these roads is manually intensive and can by quite harsh on one’s back and knees. Dutch-company Vanku BV sought to address this issue with their Tiger Stone brick-laying machine.

The Tiger Stone is not automatic and still requires workers (2-3) to ‘feed’ the bricks, however their position is now upright and the actual laying of bricks is much more efficient, with the company claiming a team can lay about 300 square meters (3,230 sq ft) of brick road a day.

The machine can also lay various interlocking patterns simultaneously up to six meters wide (20 ft). The machine is simple to operate with virtually no mechanical/moving parts. The machine is electric drive reducing noise as well. To really get a sense of this machine in action, check out the video at the bottom of this post and you’ll understand why it appears that the Tiger Stone is literally printing roads!


Seven Summits

As you would imagine, the highest point is found at the peak of the continent’s highest mountain. In mountaineering this is known as the Seven Summits, which was first postulated and achieved on April 30, 1985 by Richard Bass. Below you can see the highest points on every continent compared to the “Eight-Thousanders“, comprising of 14 independent mountains on Earth that are more than 8,000 meters (26,247 ft) high above sea level. All of the eight-thousanders are located in the Himilayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in Asia.

Below you will find a list of the highest points on every continent along with a gallery of each place and pictures of climbers at the summit. Information and factoids on each mountain are provided as well. Enjoy!

North America – Mount McKinley, Alaska

Mount McKinley (or Denali) in Alaska is the highest mountain peak in the United States and in North America, with a summit elevation of 20,320 feet (6,194 m) above sea level. Measured base-to-peak, it is the tallest mountain on land. Measured by topographic prominence, it is the third most prominent peak in the world after Mount Everest and Aconcagua. It is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve.

In topography, prominence, also known as autonomous height, relative height, shoulder drop (in North America), or prime factor (in Europe), categorizes the height of the mountain’s or hill’s summit by the elevation between it and the lowest contour line encircling it and no higher summit. It is a measure of the independence of a summit.

Additional facts:
- Five large glaciers flow off the slopes of the mountain
- The first ascent of the main summit of McKinley came on June 7, 1913, by a party led by Hudson Stuck and Harry Karstens. The first man to reach the summit was Walter Harper, an Alaska Native
- The mountain is regularly climbed today; in 2003, around 58% of climbers reached the top. But by 2003, the mountain had claimed the lives of nearly 100 mountaineers

South America – Aconcagua, Argentina

Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas at 6,959 m (22,841 ft). It is located in the Andes mountain range, in the province of Mendoza, Argentina. The summit is also located about 5 kilometres from San Juan Province and 15 kilometres from the international border with Chile. Aconcagua is the highest peak in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres. It is also one of the Seven Summits.

The mountain and its surroundings are part of the Aconcagua Provincial Park. The mountain also has a number of glaciers. The largest glacier is the Ventisquero Horcones Inferior at about 10 km long, which descends from the south face to about 3600 m altitude near the Confluencia camp. Two other large glacier systems are the Ventisquero de las Vacas Sur and Glaciar Este/Ventisquero Relinchos system at about 5 km long. However, the most well-known is the north-eastern or Polish Glacier, a common route of ascent.

Additional facts:
- In mountaineering terms, Aconcagua is technically an easy mountain if approached from the north, via the normal route. Aconcagua is arguably the highest non-technical mountain in the world, since the northern route does not absolutely require ropes, axes, and pins
- The first recorded ascent was in 1897 on a British expedition led by Edward FitzGerald. The summit was reached by the Swiss guide Matthias Zurbriggen on January 14 and by two other expedition members a few days later
- The youngest person to reach the summit of Aconcagua was Matthew Moniz of Boulder, Colorado. He was 10 years old when he reached the summit on December 16, 2008. The oldest person to climb it was Scott Lewis who reached the summit on November 26, 2007 when he was 87 years old

Europe – Mount Elbrus, Russia

Mount Elbrus is a dormant volcano located in the western Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay–Cherkessia, Russia, near the border of Georgia. Mt. Elbrus’s peak is the highest in the Caucasus, in Russia. While there are differing authorities on how the Caucasus are distributed between Europe and Asia, many sources agree that Elbrus is also the highest mountain in all of Europe, or the highest in western Asia, narrowly exceeding another volcano, Mt. Damavand in the Alborz range in Iran. Mt. Elbrus (west summit) stands at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft); the east summit is slightly lower at 5,621 metres (18,442 ft).

Additional facts:
- Mount Elbrus has a permanent icecap that feeds 22 glaciers, which in turn give rise to the Baksan, Kuban, and Malka Rivers
- Elbrus sits on a moving tectonic area, and has been linked to a fault. A supply of magma lies deep beneath the dormant volcano
- The lower of the two summits was first ascended on 10 July 1829 (Julian calendar) by Khillar Khachirov, a Karachay guide for an Imperial Russian army scientific expedition led by General Emmanuel, and the higher (by about 40 m—130 ft) in 1874 by an English expedition led by F. Crauford Grove
- From 1959 through 1976, a cable car system was built in stages that can take visitors as high as 3,800 metres (12,500 ft)
- The average annual death toll on Elbrus is 15–30, primarily due to “many unorganized and poorly equipped” attempts to summit the mountain
- In 1997, a Land Rover Defender was driven to the summit, breaking into the Guinness Book of Records

Asia – Mount Everest, Nepal/China

Mount Everest is the Earth’s highest mountain, with a peak at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international border between China and Nepal runs across the summit point. Its massif includes neighboring peaks Lhotse, 8,516 m (27,940 ft); Nuptse, 7,855 m (25,771 ft); and Changtse, 7,580 m (24,870 ft).

The highest mountain on the Earth attracts many well-experienced mountaineers as well as capable climbers willing to hire professional guides. While not posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route, Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather and wind.

Additional facts:
- The summit of Everest is the point at which the Earth’s surface reaches the greatest distance above sea level
- In 1953, a ninth British expedition, led by John Hunt, returned to Nepal. Hunt selected two climbing pairs to attempt to reach the summit. The first pair (Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans) came within 100 m (300 feet) of the summit on 26 May 1953, but turned back after running into oxygen problems. As planned, their work in route finding and breaking trail and their caches of extra oxygen were of great aid to the following pair
- Two days later, the expedition made its second and final assault on the summit with its second climbing pair, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali sherpa climber from Darjeeling, India. They reached the summit at 11:30 am local time on 29 May 1953 via the South Col Route
- On 16 May 1975, Junko Tabei of Japan became the first woman to summit Everest. Tabei and her climbing partner, Sherpa Ang Tshering I, were the 38th/39th unique individuals to complete the ascent
- On 20 August 1980, Reinhold Messner became the first person to reach the summit of the mountain solo. In so doing, he was also the first to solo summit without supplementary oxygen or support, traveling the Northwest route. He climbed for three days entirely alone from his base camp at 6,500 metres (21,300 ft)
- During the 1996 season, 16 people died while climbing on Mount Everest, the highest number of fatalities in a single year in the mountain’s history. Eight of them died on 11 May alone. The disaster gained wide publicity and raised questions about the commercialization of climbing Mount Everest
- By the end of the 2010 climbing season, there had been 5,104 ascents to the summit by about 3,142 individuals
- Apa Sherpa holds the record for reaching the summit more times than any other person, 21 times between 10 May 1990 and 11 May 2011. The record for a non-Sherpa is held by American climber and expedition guide Dave Hahn, reaching the summit 14 times between 19 May 1994 and 26 May 2012
- The youngest person to climb Mount Everest was 13-year-old Jordan Romero in May 2010 from the Tibetan side
- The oldest climber to reach Mount Everest’s summit is 76-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan, on 25 May 2008 from the Nepalese side. Sherchan beat the previous record set in 2007 by 71-year-old Katsusuke Yanagisawa

Africa – Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres or 19,341 feet above sea level (the Uhuru Peak/Kibo Peak). Kilimanjaro is a giant stratovolcano that began forming a million years ago, when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. Two of its three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo (the highest peak) is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption has been dated to 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was recorded just 200 years ago.

In 1889 Meyer returned to Kilimanjaro with Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller for a third attempt. Their climbing team included two local headmen, nine porters, a cook, and a guide. The success of this attempt, which started on foot from Mombasa, was based on the establishment of many campsites with food supplies so that multiple attempts at the top could be made without having to descend too far. They reached the highest summit on the southern rim of the crater on Purtscheller’s 40th birthday, October 6, 1889

Australia – Puncak Jaya (Carstenz Pyramid), Paupua Province, Indonesia

Puncak Jaya or Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m) is the highest summit of Mount Carstensz in the Sudirman Range of the western central highlands of Papua province, Indonesia.

At 4,884 metres (16,024 ft) above sea level, Puncak Jaya is the highest mountain in Indonesia, the highest on the island of New Guinea (which comprises the Indonesian West Papua region plus Papua New Guinea), the highest of Oceania (Australian continent), and the 5th highest mountain in political Southeast Asia.

It is also the highest point between the Himalayas and the Andes, and the highest island peak in the world. Some sources claim Mount Wilhelm, 4,509 m (14,793 ft), as the highest mountain peak in Oceania, on account of Indonesia being part of Asia (Southeast Asia).

Additional facts:
- The Carstensz Pyramid summit was not climbed until 1962, by an expedition led by the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer (of Seven Years in Tibet fame, and climber of the Eiger North Face) with three other expedition members – Philip Temple, Russell Kippax and Albertus Huizenga
- When Indonesia took control of the province in 1963, the peak was renamed ‘Puntjak Soekarno’ or Sukarno Peak, after the first President of Indonesia; later this was changed to Puncak Jaya. Puncak means peak or mountain and Jaya means ‘victory’, ‘victorious’ or ‘glorious’
- Access to the peak requires a government permit. The mountain was closed to tourists and climbers between 1995 and 2005. As of 2006, access is possible through various adventure tourism agencies
- Puncak Jaya is one of the more demanding climbs in one version of the Seven Summits peak-bagging list. (It is replaced by Mount Kosciuszko in the other version.) It is held to have the highest technical rating, though not the greatest physical demands of that list’s ascents

Antarctica – Vinson Massif, Ellsworth Mountains

Vinson Massif is the highest mountain of Antarctica, lying in the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains, which stand above the Ronne Ice Shelf near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula. The massif is located about 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) from the South Pole and is about 21 km (13 mi) long and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide.

At 4,892 metres (16,050 ft) the highest point is Mount Vinson, which was named in 2006 after Carl Vinson, long-time member of the U.S. Congress from the state of Georgia. Vinson Massif was first seen in 1958 and first climbed in 1966. An expedition in 2001 was the first to climb via the Eastern route, and also took GPS measurements of the height of the peak. As of February 2010, 1,400 climbers have attempted to reach the top of Mount Vinson.


Cu Chi, Vietnam's Underground Tunnels

During the war in Vietnam, thousands of people in the Vietnamese province of Cu Chi lived in an elaborate network of underground tunnels. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and played a major role in North Vietnam winning the war.

The Cu Chi tunnels were built over a period of 25 years that began sometime in the late 1940s during the war against the French. The excavations were used mostly for communication between villages and to evade French army sweeps of the area. When the National Liberation Front (NLF) insurgency began around 1960, the old tunnels were repaired and new extensions were excavated. Within a few years the tunnel system assumed enormous strategic importance, and most of Cu Chi district and the nearby area came under firm Viet Cong control.

The secret tunnels, which joined village to village and often passes beneath American bases, were not only fortifications for Viet Cong guerillas, but were also the center of community life. Hidden beneath the destroyed villages were underground schools and public spaces where couples were married and private places where lovers met. There were even theaters inside the tunnels where performers entertained with song and dance and traditional stories.

But life in the tunnels was difficult. Air, food and water were scarce and the tunnels were infested with ants, poisonous centipedes, scorpions, spiders and vermin. Most of the time, guerrillas would spend the day in the tunnels working or resting and come out only at night to scavenge for supplies, tend their crops or engage the enemy in battle. Sometimes, during periods of heavy bombing or American troop movement, they would be forced to remain underground for many days at a time. Sickness was rampant among the people living in the tunnels, especially malaria, which was the second largest cause of death next to battle wounds. Almost everyone had intestinal parasites of significance. Only about 6,000 of the 16,000 cadres who fought in the tunnels survived the war.

Throughout the course of the war, the tunnels in Ch Chi proved to be a source of frustration for the U.S. military in Saigon. The US and Australian tried a variety of methods to detect and infiltrate the tunnels but all were met with failure. Large scale ground operations involving tens of thousands of troops were launched. They ravaged rice paddies, bulldozed huge swathes of jungle, and villages were evacuated and razed. The Americans also sprayed chemical defoliants on the area aerially and a few months later ignited the tinder-dry vegetation with gasoline and napalm. By a strange twist of fate, the intense heat of the napalm interacted with the wet tropical air only to create cloudbursts that extinguished the fires. The Viet Cong guerrillas remained safe and sound inside their tunnels.

Unable to win the battle with chemicals, the US army began sending men called ‘tunnel rats’ down into the tunnels. Armed only with a gun, a knife, a flashlight and a piece of string these tunnel rats would enter a tunnel by themselves and travel inch-by-inch cautiously looking ahead for booby traps. The job of a tunnel rat was fraught with immense dangers. The entrance holes in the ground were barely wide enough for the shoulders. After a couple of meters of slipping and wriggling straight down, the narrow tunnel took a U-turn back towards the surface, then twisted again before heading off horizontally further. The light from the battery powered lamp wasn’t enough to pierce the darkness inside the tunnels, and there was no room to turn around and retreat. The tunnel rats, who were often involved in underground fire fights, sustained appallingly high casualty rates.

One of the entrance to the tunnels.

The Americans then began using German shepherd dogs trained to use their keen sense of smell to locate trapdoors and guerrillas. The tunnel people responded by washing themselves with American soap which gave off a scent the canines identified as friendly. Captured US uniforms were put out to confuse the dogs further. Most importantly, the dogs were not able to spot booby traps. So many dogs were killed or maimed that their horrified handlers then refused to send them into the tunnels.

Finally, by the late 1960s, the American began carpet bombing Cu Chi destroying several portions of the tunnels along with everything else around. The gesture was militarily useless by then because the USA was already on its way out of the war. The tunnels had served their purpose.

The 120-km long complex of tunnels at Cu Chi has since been preserved and turned into a war memorial park. The tunnels are a popular tourist attraction, and visitors are invited to crawl around in the safer parts of the tunnel system. Some tunnels have been made larger to accommodate the larger size of Western tourists, while low-power lights have been installed in several of them to make traveling through them easier and booby traps have been clearly marked. Underground conference rooms where campaigns such as the Tet Offensive were planned in 1968 have been restored, and visitors may enjoy a simple meal of food that Viet Cong fighters would have eaten.

Tourists entering tunnel system

Booby trap.

Besprechungsbunker / meeting room.

Making weapons.

Cu Chi Tunnel mode