Spatial and hydrological analysis of the water supply system in as-Sila'/Sela (Tafila, Jordan) based on a 3D model




archaeology, digital aerial photography, hydraulic infrastructures, hydrology, photogrammetry, 3D model


The research described below proposes a spatial analysis of the hydraulic infrastructure, and settlement remains, as well as a topographic analysis of the site of as-Sila'/Sela on the southern Transjordan plateau. The authors designed Sela's first photogrammetric model from aerial photographs provided by the "Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME)" project. This modelling has enabled the research team to locate new hydraulic structures, settlement remains, marks on vertical facing, and elevated or levelling platforms hitherto unidentified by a pedestrian survey; it was also possible to obtain more detailed direct and indirect relationships between these features. The 3D model has provided a reference for locating the various elements and correlating their surface with the topographic coordinates recorded by the total station during fieldwork. Additionally, a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) was derived from the 3D model to depict the flow direction of run-off. Through our analysis, we identified spaces for accessing, managing, and utilising available water resources, including settlement density and flooding zones. The hydrological analysis revealed potential run-off and flood-prone areas, guiding the location of hydraulic structures to prevent water contamination. This study highlights the importance of Sela's water supply systems and the technical expertise of ancient communities in their construction and management. The applicability and feasibility of the applied methodology emphasise its use as a powerful and indispensable tool to obtain a complete overview of the site. The results yield a comprehensive site mapping with a broader scope than previous research and provide a basis for further research, as well as for understanding the site's water supply and settlement patterns. Thus, this study enhances the hydro-technological investigation of Sela's water management and culture and contributes to its holistic analysis. Future studies can use the data to propose effective water management strategies and shed light on the social structures involved in water supply practices.


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Author Biographies

Roser Marsal, University of Barcelona

She is a postdoctoral researcher with a Ph.D. in Archaeology and an MA in Ancient Egyptian Language and Civilization, affiliated with the Water Research Institute at the Universitat de Barcelona. Her research focuses on water culture archaeology, especially in (semi)arid regions. Employing comprehensive water management studies, including virtual archaeology methodologies, she explores water management practises in ancient times, collaborating on research projects in Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus and Spain.

Jesús García-Carpallo, Independent researcher

He is a building Engineer with a master's degree in Architecture and Historical Heritage. His research focuses on the field of Archaeology of Architecture, and he is currently working on several projects of different periods. As a specialist in virtual archaeology, his main activity concentrates on the graphic documentation and virtual reconstruction of archaeological sites and ancient architecture, collaborating with different teams and professionals in research and dissemination projects.


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How to Cite

Marsal, R., & García-Carpallo, J. (2023). Spatial and hydrological analysis of the water supply system in as-Sila’/Sela (Tafila, Jordan) based on a 3D model. Virtual Archaeology Review, 15(30), 1–20.