Engineering has become the paradigm or model for almost all technology in the West, hence terms such as “genetic engineering”, or “systems engineering”. Applied to the non‐Western world, this use of language can be grossly distorting, preventing recognition of other paradigms. Thus the word “engineering” is best limited to construction works and related mechanical devices. Moreover, the smallest of such works, as carried out by individual house builders or farmers practicing irrigation, may often be better considered in other contexts, such as “building” or “agriculture”.
Three kinds of construction works need to be considered, namely those related to fortifications, monuments, and water management. Methods of construction were nearly always labor‐intensive, so various ways of organizing a labor force are important for understanding what was involved. In Southeast Asia, for example, irrigation systems for rice culture were often built by groups of farmers working cooperatively. Thus on...
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