Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient and complex irrigation system at the base of the Tian Shan Mountains in China, along what was once a central corridor of the Silk Road. This discovery is an extremely important one as it finally explains how herding communities in the area were able to successfully crow crops in a region that is known to be one of the harshest and driest on the planet.
As Newsweek reports, the surprising discovery of the irrigation system was first noticed by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis after they were looking over data that was taken from satellite imagery and drones and spied what they have called the "unmistakable outlines" of dams, cisterns, and canals.
This irrigation system on the Silk Road in China is believed to date back to between the 3rd and 4th centuries CE and eventually fell out of use and disappeared, seemingly forever, until they were just spotted by archaeologists again.
Archaeologists have surmised that the kind of knowledge that would have been needed to build such a successful irrigation system as the one that was found in the foothills of the Tian Shan Mountains may have come through travelers who frequently traversed the Silk Road corridor in the Xinjiang province.
Yuqi Li, a graduate student from Washington University, explained that there are already quite a few studies that have been published which have detailed the many different crops that were once grown along the Silk Road.
"There are numerous studies on the crops that probably spread through the Silk Road and the prehistoric Silk Road. Wheat and millets (foxtail and broomcorn) were probably the most important crops to understand trade and exchange along the prehistoric Silk Road. All of them are staple crops, so they had a large impact on people diet."