|VILLAGES WITH DITCHES
Definition characters description and diffusion
Ditches in or near human settlements served various purposes for the community.
General characters description and diffusion
The so-called entrenched villages in the Apulia district of Daunia and on the plateau of the Murgia, in Basilicata, settled from the 7th to the 4th millennium, are the first Neolithic sites in Europe, where human communities achieved massive constructions thanks to a large production surplus. Simple stone tools were used to dig deep ditches in the rocky ground to make enclosures comprising several concentric circles, meanders and crescents. In the Neolithic settlement of Murgia Timone, near the town of Matera, an area of about 2 hectares is enclosed by a large elliptic excavation having in one of its two focuses a smaller inner circle. Its longer diameter stretches from east to west and the two entrances to the village are perfectly oriented at these two extremities. As in Jericho and Beida, these ditches were not used for defensive purposes, as had been supposed at the time of their discovery (Ridola, 1926). As a matter of fact, no remains of arrowheads or other prehistoric weapons have ever been found. Furthermore, groups of humans or wolves could very easily cross them during their attacks. In the Neolithic Age their function was more likely to have been connected with breeding and farming practices. Surveys made of some villages of Daunia, which are characterised by a number of trenches, have proved that they were used as drainage systems (Tiné, 1983; Leuci, 1991) to reclaim the land for use. This region, at the bottom of the Gargano promontory, in Apulia, because of its hydromorphic soils, was suited to Neolithic agricultural practices that needed soft and fertile soils. The large quantity of moisture made it necessary to dig out ditches regulating the surplus water. On the Ethiopian highlands, on the slopes of the Rift Valley's ridges, there are thousands of villages, where unchanging practices and knowledge are handed down. It is like seeing the original landscape of entrenched villages on the Murgia highlands in the south of Italy, reproduced on a very large scale. Each cluster of huts, located on a land rise higher than the surrounding fields or on a slight incline, is surrounded by elliptic ditches, sometimes consisting of concentric circles, one inside the other. These structures are still used. However, their utility will be appreciated only after several seasons or, maybe, years of constant observation aimed at understanding how they are used in different circumstances, either recurring or extraordinary. During the rainy season, the ditches serve as drainage systems that keep the soil dry, thus protecting huts and orchards. Once harvested, water is stored in the lower part of the ditches to be used during drought periods. In this way, they turn into linear-shaped cisterns for water harvesting that can also be very easily used as drinking troughs for cattle in emergency situations. In north-eastern Cambodia, to the traditional practice in use since prehistoric times of digging colossal canals and ditches surrounding human settlements with several concentric rings is due the prosperity of the magnificent Angkor civilisation.
Advantages and sustainability
Multipurpose ditches are to be re-proposed in architectural structures and agricultural systems based on the best integration with environment and the harmonisation of the technical networks with the environmental qualities and landscape.