Dam (wall)

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Flood protection dike on the Inn near Bever
A railway embankment in Germany

A dam (or rampart ) is a linear, artificially constructed earth structure made of sloping earth or rock, typologically a very elongated, massive structure with an upwardly tapering cross-section and often a landscape-shaping effect, in particular with a spatially separating or shielding effect (privacy screen, wind protection , Noise protection etc.) or to raise traffic or supply roads.

Dams for flood protection are called dykes .

Dam as a traffic route

The purpose of a dam can vary in nature. On the one hand, there are dams on which traffic routes run. The embankment serves as a substructure for the tracks in rail traffic . The Knüppeldamm is a path made of wooden planks that leads through a bog or marshland . A paved, slightly elevated road is also called a roadway.

Dam to the sewerage of water

On the other hand, dams are used for targeted sewerage of water. Flood protection dikes are often built on both sides of the river bed for rivers in flat stretches of land . These dikes limit the natural river bed and interrupt the water supply to the adjacent floodplains . Some heavily sedimenting streams, such as the Hoangho - naturally form dam-like buffer lines (see dam bank river ). However, if the dike breaks, the risk is greater than with engineering structures because of the lower surrounding area.

Since the 19th century, river straightening and dredging have often been combined with dyke construction. The straightening and the associated increase in runoff speed increases the probability of floods downstream . Since the great floods on the Elbe and March, efforts have been made to partially renaturate the river beds in order to increase the storage volume.

Flood dikes often serve not only to drain water, but also as a traffic route. So-called dam paths can often be found.

Structures to protect against flooding on the coast are called dikes .

Structures for damming or shutting off rivers are called dams .

So-called guide dams are also being built to change the existing current and to protect certain bank areas from erosion .

Dam used to hold water

In addition, dams are being built to block rivers. In contrast to the dam, the so-called dams essentially consist of a pile of earth or rock.


Components of a dam

A dam consists of the following parts:

  • Dam sole - the supporting surface of the dam
  • Dam foot - transition from dam to terrain
  • Dam crest - top of the dam between the embankments
  • Ridge support - subsoil below the embankment bottom
  • Dam shoulder - dam area at the top of the embankment


The phrase not to be on the embankment , which means something like being sick , also comes from the paved road, the driveway . Also help someone back to the dam is due to the fact that you just better move forward on the road.

See also


  • Kurt Schubert: Embankments: dams - heaps - dumps . Leipzig 1972.
  • Ernst Seidel: Lexicon of building types . Stuttgart 2006, p. 115, keyword “Damm”, ISBN 978-3-15-010572-6 .
  • Norman Smith: A history of dams . London 1971, ISBN 0432150900 .

Web links

Commons : dams  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Bahndamm  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Damm  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Dam  Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Typology quoted from Ernst Seidel: Lexicon of Building Types . Stuttgart 2006, p. 115 Stw. "Damm".