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Four Amazing Hydraulic Systems In Ancient History

by Pamela Hill

Hydraulic systems are fluid-driven mechanisms that use the transfer of force through an incompressible liquid to do work.

If you're familiar with hydraulic systems, then you know that they permeate our modern-day lives. They can be seen everywhere, on things such bulldozers, backhoes, and heavy machinery on construction sites. They can also be seen in industrial settings on things such as forklifts and hydraulic presses. Even the brakes on your car operate on a hydraulic system!

Since hydraulic systems are such a huge part of industrialized life, you may assume that people began using fluid-driven mechanisms to do work around the same time we started building factories, but this is not true. Hydraulic systems are not a new idea. Read on to learn about four amazing hydraulic systems in ancient history.

The Hydraulic Wheel of Perachora

The very first water-pumping system in the world was developed by the ancient Greeks in 3rd century BC Perachora.

The Greek "Perachora wheel" was essentially a water wheel. The wheel was positioned vertically, and held multiple containers around its perimeter. As the wheel turned, the containers were filled with water when they reached the bottom of the cycle and were dipped into the water supply. They were subsequently emptied into a water channel when they reached the top again. The Greeks used work animals to turn the wheel.

Ancient Chinese Iron Casting

The ancient Chinese were also big proponents of the water wheel. One of the things they used the water wheel for was iron casting. Rushing water provided by the water wheel was used to power the billows that stoked the flames high enough to reach the intense temperatures necessary for heating iron.  

Roman Hydraulic Mining

The Roman Empire was the first to use water power for mining purposes.

Roman hydraulic mining consisted of a technique known as "ground sluicing," which involved collecting water in a large reservoir above ground that contained precious metals such as gold, then releasing it all at once so that it carried away the excess ground, revealing veins of precious metals.

Roman Aqueducts

The famous aqueducts of Rome enabled the Romans to have easily the most sophisticated plumbing system in ancient history.

The aqueducts themselves spanned many miles and were conducted of stone, brick, and concrete. They carried water long distances, all the way to Roman cities, moving the water through gravity alone. This required a complicated series of gradations throughout the construction to keep the supply flowing.

The Romans were able to promote conditions in their cities that were incredibly sanitary by the standards of the time because of their ingenious hydraulics system.

And there you have it, four ancient hydraulic systems that paved the way to modernization. For more on hydraulic systems, navigate to this site.