There’s new research about some very old water pipes built in China.

How old? Like four thousand years old.

A team from University College London studied has been studying a drainage system in a walled settlement from four millennia ago.

The settlement known as Pingliangtai was in an area where huge summer monsoons would drop a foot and a half of rain each month.

The people built a very complex system that diverted all that water away from their houses into the moat that surrounded the community.

You’d have to have a pretty thorough knowledge of how water moves and how to redirect it to engineer a system like that.

Now, there’s lots of evidence all over the world that ancient people came up with some ingenious ways to deal with the world around them.

And while this is one of those ingenious ways, it wouldn’t necessarily stand out too much, except for one other discovery the researchers made.

Typically when you see a big engineering project on a site from several thousand years ago, there’s also evidence of central planning, meaning somebody in a position of power directs the work.

And typically where you see a position of power, you see status symbols, like a palace or at least someone who had it better than most of the people in the communities.

But on this site, all the houses are more or less the same.

There aren’t any obvious signs that there was a privileged class and an underclass.

The researchers say that without an obvious social hierarchy, you don’t usually see systems that are this complex and well made.

And yet, here’s one that was apparently made through consensus and cooperation and community effort.

I guess when you’re trying to fend off all that rain, everybody just puts their head down and gets the job done?

Later this week in the eastern Illinois community of Hoopeston, it’s the start of the National Sweetcorn Festival.

Hoopeston calls itself the Sweetcorn Capital of the World, and so they celebrate by using an antique steam engine to cook up like 50 tons of hot buttered sweetcorn during the five days of the fest.

China’s oldest water pipes were a communal effort (University College London)

The National Sweetcorn Festival

Join us on Patreon and we’ll team up to make more episodes of this show

Photo by Gary Todd via Flickr/Creative Commons