A short history of Moats

There is evidence that the Ancient Egyptians were the first people to use moats to protect castles. The most famous example is in Buhen, which is now submerged in Lake Nubia, Sudan. Around 4,000 years ago it was a thriving copper producing city on The Nile’s West Bank. A fortress was built in Buhen during the rule of Senusret the Third, who many biblical scholars believe elevated Joseph to be his vizier (Joseph, you may recall had a coat of many colours). This fortress included a water-filled moat three meters deep. The structure had drawbridges, ramparts and battlements which were all built with the intention of fortifying the small town within its walls.

These ancient Egyptians built a moat with the intention of warding off invaders. Later in Medieval Europe, deep and broad ditches were built around castles and towns to provide defence against attacking armies. Moats made access to the walls of the castle difficult for siege weapons such as battering rams and catapults. Those moats which were the widest offered the best defence.

Later, the development of firearms led to new principles of design for protection, but moats were often still used to provide effective barriers to entry. Here in Australia, the Queensland government built Fort Lytton in the late 19thCentury on advice from the British who feared a French or Russian naval invasion. It is the only moat fort ever built in Australia. And it must have worked, because the French or Russians never did invade!

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