Reshaping the earth since prehistory

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Earthmoving is a concept as old as that of civilisation. They are, in many ways, fundamentally linked.

Soil has been used as a construction material since prehistoric times.

Humans have been using rough roads since about 10,000 BC, and the the concept of clearing some land for farming is believed to come from even further back than that.

As an invention, the earliest known artificial dam is the Jawa Dam in Jordan, and its structure is dated to 3000 BC.

The Roman Empire’s first aqueduct –  the Aqua Appia which relied on gravity but was still largely buried underground – was constructed in 312 BC.

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In the centuries since then we’ve continued to find many reasons, and ways, to manipulate and reshape the earth around us – be it to influence the passage of water in or out of an area, excavating a building site or just terracing a garden area –  and the invention of tools to help us with those tasks eventually led to people inventing ever-bigger machinery.

The Fresno scraper – which was first drawn by people or horses and influenced the design of subsequent bulldozers and other earthmoving machinery – was invented by James Porteous in 1883. 

The invention of the steam engine, and later the internal combustion engine (first with spark ignition, then with compression ignition), allowed bigger and bigger machines to be developed.

Part of civilisation: We've been finding many reasons, and ways, to manipulate and reshape the earth around us since prehistoric times. Photo: Shutterstock.

Part of civilisation: We've been finding many reasons, and ways, to manipulate and reshape the earth around us since prehistoric times. Photo: Shutterstock.

Now, earthmoving can be achieved by anything as small as a trowel (or a spoon if you’re really desperate to dig) through to massive mining machines like bucket wheel excavators.

In addition to dozers and graders, other equipment you might employ the use of on a domestic development or a farm site include the skid-steer loader, the backhoe, and the dump truck.

You can have anything from a road or driveway made, through to levelling ground for a building site, or have dams and ponds dug for water supply.

You can also have trenches for plumbing, holes for septic, in fact literally anything that can be achieved by digging, scraping and rearranging the surface of the earth.