The screw pump is commonly attributed to Archimedes, on the occasion of his visit to Egypt. This tradition may reflect only that the apparatus was unknown to the Greeks before Hellenistic times and was introduced in Archimedes's lifetime by unknown engineers. Depictions of Greek and Roman water screws show them being powered by a human treading on the outer casing to turn the entire apparatus as one piece, which would require that the casing be rigidly attached to the screw.
Some researchers have postulated this as being the device used to irrigate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. A cuneiform inscription of Assyrian King Sennacherib (704–681 BC) has been interpreted by Stephanie Dalley to describe casting water screws in bronze some 350 years earlier. This is consistent with classical author Strabo, who describes the Hanging Gardens as irrigated by screws.
German engineer Konrad Kyeser equipped the Archimedes screw with a crank mechanism in his Bellifortis (1405). This mechanism quickly replaced the ancient practice of working the pipe by treading.