Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow for Persian Culture at University of British Columbia


The Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, invites applications for a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the field of Persian Literary Culture and /or Iranian cinema.  The Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow will have opportunities to interact with UBC colleagues on teaching and research.  The Department of Asian Studies, which has strengths in a number of areas, including  South Asian history, religion and literary culture.  Information about the Department and faculty research can be found on its website,

A video tribute to the UBC Iranian Studies initiative where experts speak to this project in Persian and English. Kaveh Farrokh has been a lecturer of ancient Persian history at the UBC-Continuing Studies department since 2004.

The Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow will be appointed for one year, beginning July 1, 2013, with the possibility of renewal for an additional year subject to approval from the Department and budgetary availability.  Applicants will normally be within 3 years of being awarded the PhD.  A successful candidate will teach four single-semester undergraduate courses or sections per year.


The application dossier should include: a letter of application, curriculum vitae, a sample chapter or scholarly paper (maximum 30 pages), and three confidential letters of recommendation to be sent separately.  The deadline for the receipt of applications is 25 March, 2013, however the position will remain open until filled.  The start date for the position is July 1, 2013.  Send application package to Chair, Post Doctoral Teaching Fellow Search Committee, Department of Asian Studies, 1871 West Mall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, V6T 1Z2.  Applications may also be submitted electronically to

Professor Harjot S. Oberoi of the UBC Asian Studies program introduces “An Evening with Dr. Kaveh Farrokh – Sassanian Architecture” (Monday March 12, 2011). This talk was given as part of the overall drive to promote support for the University of British Columbia’s Iranian Studies and Persian language initiative.

The University of British Columbia hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment equity and diversity within its community.


The Ice Houses of Iran

The article below appeared originally in the website. This is a thesis summary of Hemming Jorgensen’s ice house research project in Iran.


Only very limited literature and no archaeological material exists about the traditional Persian mud-brick ice houses the origins of which may be connected to that of the qanat, the typical Iranian subterranean water supply system for irrigation. These unique examples of vernacular architecture are facing a sorry fate after they went out use about 50 years ago; with the advent of electricity countrywide they were supplanted by modern refrigeration and most of them left to decay and disappear.


Hemming Jorgensen at an ice house in Iran (Picture originally posted on:

On the basis of a comprehensive field work, which included survey and registration of still identifiable ice house sites, this dissertation endeavors to answer the questions as to where, how and why the ice houses were built, operated and largely forgotten. The survey found, registered and mapped in total 129 ice house sites, of which remnants of ice houses were found on only 104 of them. An Ice House List and the pertaining location map represent the most important documents of the dissertation project.

There did turn out to be both a variation in types and within types of ice houses; the main types were domed (111 examples), walled (6) and underground ice houses (12). They were situated at villages (104), at towns (13), and at caravansaries or forts (12). Of the total of 129 ice houses, 71 had (had) an associated open-air ice-making plant, and 58 were pure storage facilities. The survey triples the number of previously registered examples. This study represents the first study of the traditional Iranian way of making and preserving ice for daily use.


Excellent view of the ice house at Ali-Abad village near Tehran (Picture originally posted on:

Information on the origin and function of the ice houses was difficult to come by, yet some headway was made into these thorny issues. Although it appears reasonable to connect the origin and history of ice houses to that of qanats – which made life and agriculture possible on the perimeter of the large deserts – there is no textual or archaeological evidence for their existence in Iran before the 17th century AD. No ice house exists anymore in its original form and full extent. Unless a concerted effort is made in terms of restoration and preservation, the prognosis is not good for the majority of Iran’s ice houses.


Plate in Robat Karim Museum (Picture originally posted on:

Achaemenid Engineers knew of the value of Pi

The report below was first posted by Payvand News of Iran on December 29, 2004. Kindly note that the image displayed below did not appear in the original Payvand News report.


Achaemenian engineers had been using pi number in geometry 2500 years ago. They used this mathematical concept in building the conical stone structures and columns in Persepolis.


The Achaemenian king Darius the Great (550-486 BCE) founded Persepolis, near Shiraz in Fars province circa 521 BCE. By 486 BCE much of the major structures of Persepolis such as palaces, residences, water canals, etc. had been completed, but in practice continuing work at the site appears to have continued well into the arrival of Alexander in the 330s BCE. 

Pi representing the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is one of the most important discoveries in geometry. Mathematicians today still do not know the exact date when this number was first used. Many people believe that the Egyptians have been the discoverers of this number, and some consider the Greek as its discoverer. But new studies show that the Achaemenians were also familiar with this concept.

Abdol-Azim Shah-Karami, a geophysics expert responsible for studying the engineering of Persepolis structure, told CHN (Cultural Heritage News).

“New research on Persepolis structures and especially its columns and conical shapes show that the Achaemenians 2500 years ago used the assistance of mathematicians who had solved the mystery of pi for building conical shapes…The precision in building the Persepolis circular columns shows that these mathematicians had calculated pi to several decimal places. The Achaemenian engineers could determine the exact conic section of each circular column, and in order to do this, they had to calculate pi to several decimal places. This helped them calculate the height of columns and the pressure on them, and distribute the tension on the conic section of each column”

According to historical records, the first person to be able to exactly calculate pi was the Muslim scientist, Ghiasoddin Mohammad Kashani. He computed pi to several decimal places, and scientists like Pascal followed him with more precise calculations. Referring to conic sections in different parts of Persepolis, Shah-karami said it would have been impossible to measure the area and circumference of these circular and oval structures without knowing pi.


[Click to Enlarge] A reconstruction of the facade of the Apadana. Note cieling of timber (from the cedars of ancient Phoneica or modern Lebanon) (at left). A modern reconstruction of the bull motif atop the Apadana pillars top right – by Persepolis and remains of the bull motif in the Louvre Museum at Paris at present.




Professor S. Roaf: Badgir-Iran’s Ancient Air Conditioning System

This article by Professor S. Roaf first appeared in the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1988


The Badgir (wind-tower), literally “wind catcher,” a traditional structure used for passive air-conditioning of buildings. Wind catchers are found throughout the Middle East, from Pakistan to North Africa (Coles and Jackson, “A Wind-Tower House in Dubai,” pp. 1-25; idem, “Bastakia Wind-Tower Houses,” pp. 51-53) where they have been built since antiquity.


[Click to Enlarge]The Badgir system at Yazd (Above photo appeared in See also Professor Roaf’s reconstruction of the Yazd Badgirs.


[Click to Enlarge] A wind tower in Yazd with projecting timber poles to which scaffolding is attached for maintenance (from Encyclopedia Iranica).

In construction and design they exhibit a great deal of regional variety but they all perform a similar function (Badawy, pp. 122-28): channeling prevailing winds trapped in vents above the roofs of buildings down to cool and ventilate the rooms below.


[Click to Enlarge] Sectional plans of five typical Yazdi wind tower types at vent level. A. Unidirectional. B. Two-directional. C. Four-directional. D. Octagonal with two vents on each side. E. Four-directional with two “false” vents on two opposite sides (from Encyclopedia Iranica).

Wind catchers are built in many regions of Iran, predominantly on houses in areas with a hot arid climate. In Bandar-e ʿAbbās and other ports along the Persian Gulf they are normally square towers built on the roofs with vents on one side open to the sea-breezes.


[Click to Enlarge] Cross section through a wind catcher serving the main summer rooms of a house in Yazd. A. Ṭālār. B. Basement. C. Courtyard with pool (from Encyclopedia Iranica).

Light bamboo screens are often placed across the vents over which water may be thrown on summer afternoons to cool by evaporation the air passing down into the rooms below (Roaf, 1983, pp. 257-68). In Khorasan and Sīstān, rooms have simple unidirectional vaulted vents over them called locally mehna (Tavassoli, p. 49). In the Sīrjān region, houses have distinctive unidirectional barrel-vaulted vents with slatted openings. Ḵūzestān has many fine wind catchers which serve the basements for which towns like Ahvāz are famous. Wind catchers are also built in Shiraz, Isfahan, Tehran, Qom, Semnān, and Dāmḡān but they are most widely used in the cities, towns, and villages to the south of the central desert in the Kāšān, Nāʾīn, Yazd, Kermān, and Ṭabas regions. Yazd is known as “šahr-e bādgīrhā” (the city of wind catchers) and is renowned for the number and variety of its wind catchers, some of which date from the Timurid period (Figure 7) (O’Kane, p. 85).


[Click to Enlarge]The world’s sole 6-Badgir water reservoir in the world at the ancient Iranian city of Yazd -تنها آب انبار شش بادگیری جهان-. (Above photo appeared in Note also the below summary of the 6-Badgir at Yazd in Persian by the website:

ب انبار شش بادگیر یزد به دلیل دارا بودن شش بادگیر به این نام معروف شده و تنها آب انبار شش بادگیر جهان است. سه بادگیر آن از ابتدا ساخته شده بود و سه بادگیر دیگر بعدها به آن اضافه شده است، با کمی دقت در شکل بادگیرها تفاوت سه بادگیر قدیمی با دیگر بادگیرهای آن را می توان مشاهده کرد. شش بادگیر آب انبار با توجه به شرایط اقلیمی و جهت باد در این منطقه به شکل هشت وجهی هستند. شهر یزد همچنین دارای تنها آب انبار هفت بادگیری جهان با دو مخزن است که در روستای عصر آباد قرار دارد.

English Translation:

The 6-Badgir water reservoir at Yazd is named as such due to its possesion of 6 Badgirs, the only such water reservoir in the world. The reservoir was first built with three Badgirs with the three other Badgirs constructed later (it is possible to see the differences between the older and newer Badgirs). Note that the Badgirs have been built in an octagon fashion due to considerations of wind patterns and geographical factors. Yazd also has the world’s only seven-Badgir water reservoir (contains two reservoirs) which is located in the village of Asr-Abad.

Wind catchers here are brick towers which generally rise from between 30 cm to 5 m above the roof although the tallest bādgīr in the world, built at Bāḡ-e Dawlatābād in Yazd, rises 33.35 m above the roof of the garden pavilion it serves. Wind catchers have vents at the top in one, two, or up to 8 sides (Figure eight) and these vents were decorated in brick, mud plaster or ornately carved lime plaster.

The most common use of wind catchers is to cool and ventilate summer living rooms on the ground and basement floors of houses (Roaf, 1982, pp. 57-70); air trapped in the vents of the tower is cooled as it descends and in turn cools the occupants of the rooms below by convection and evaporation (Figure 9).

When there is little or no wind, air rises up the tower, the walls of which are heated by the sun, so drawing cool humid air from the courtyard and basement through the summer rooms (Bahadori, pp. 144-54). Ventilation by wind catchers is particularly important in basements which are slept in on summer afternoons and nights. Wind catchers are also built onto the living quarters of caravanserais, over prayer halls of mosques, and on water cisterns where they efficiently chill stored water by evaporative cooling.


A. Badawy, “Architectural Provision against Heat in the Orient,” JNES 17, 1958, pp. 122-28.

M. N. Bahadori, “Passive Cooling Systems in Iranian Architecture,” Scientific American 239, 2, February, 1978, pp. 144-54.

A. Coles and P. Jackson, “A Wind-Tower House in Dubai,” Art and Architectural Research Papers, 1975, pp. 1-25.

Idem, “Bastakia Wind-Tower Houses,” The Architectural Review, July, 1975, pp. 51-53.

B. O’Kane, “The Madrasa al-Ghiyās²iyya at Khargird,” Iran 14, 1976, p. 85.

S. Roaf, “Windcatchers,” in Living with the Desert, ed. E. Beazley and M. Harverson, Aris and Phillips, 1982, pp. 57-70.

Idem, “Windcatchers in the Middle East,” Islamic Architecture and Urbanism, selected papers from a symposium organized by the College of Architecture and Planning, King Faisal University, Dammam, 1983, pp. 257-68.

M. Tavassoli, Architecture in the Hot Arid Zone, Tehran, 1975, p. 49.