UNESCO: Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

The article below “Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System” is written by UNESCO. Kindly note that two of the photos below are not from the UNESCO site regarding the Shushtar hydraulic system.

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Shushtar, Historical Hydraulic System, inscribed as a masterpiece of creative genius, can be traced back to Darius the Great in the 5th century B.C. It involved the creation of two main diversion canals on the river Kârun one of which, Gargar canal, is still in use providing water to the city of Shushtar via a series of tunnels that supply water to mills. It forms a spectacular cliff from which water cascades into a downstream basin. It then enters the plain situated south of the city where it has enabled the planting of orchards and farming over an area of 40,000 ha. known as Mianâb (Paradise). The property has an ensemble of remarkable sites including the Salâsel Castel, the operation center of the entire hydraulic system, the tower where the water level is measured, damns, bridges, basins and mills. It bears witness to the know-how of the Elamites and Mesopotamians as well as more recent Nabatean expertise and Roman building influence.

The historical Hydraulic System of Shushtar (Source: Darafsh in Public Domain); note waterfalls and dams remaining operational despite the passage of centuries.

The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System demonstrates outstanding universal value as in its present form, it dates from the 3rd century CE, probably on older bases from the 5th century BCE. It is complete, with numerous functions, and large-scale, making it exceptional. The Shushtar system is a homogeneous hydraulic system, designed globally and completed in the 3rd century CE. It is as rich in its diversity of civil engineering structures and its constructions as in the diversity of its uses (urban water supply, mills, irrigation, river transport, and defensive system). The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System testifies to the heritage and the synthesis of earlier Elamite and Mesopotamian know-how; it was probably influenced by the Petra dam and tunnel and by Roman civil engineering. The Shushtar hydraulic system, in its ensemble and most particularly the Shâdorvân Grand Weir (bridge-dam), has been considered a Wonder of the World not only by the Persians but also by the Arab-Muslims at the peak of their civilisation. The Gargar canal is a veritable artificial watercourse which made possible the construction of a new town and the irrigation of a vast plain, at the time semi-desert. The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System sits in an urban and rural landscape specific to the expression of its value.

The Shushtar Hydraulic System is testimony to a remarkably accomplished and early overall vision of the possibilities afforded by diversion canals and large weir-dams for land development. It was designed and completed in the 3rd century CE for sustainable operation and is still in use today. It is a unique and exceptional ensemble in terms of its technical diversity and its completeness that testifies to human creative genius.

The UNESCO Map of Shushtar (Source: UNESCO).

The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is a synthesis of diverse techniques brought together to form a remarkably complete and large-scale ensemble. It has benefited from the ancient expertise of the Elamites and Mesopotamians in canal irrigation, and then that of the Nabateans; Roman technicians also influenced its construction. Its many visitors marvelled at it and were in turn inspired. It testifies to the exchange of considerable influences in hydraulic engineering and its application throughout antiquity and the Islamic period under the various Iranian dynasties.

Shushtar is a unique and exceptionally complete example of hydraulic techniques developed during ancient times to aid the occupation of semi-desert lands. By diverting a river flowing down the mountains, using large-scale civil engineering structures and the creation of canals, it made possible multiple uses for the water across a vast territory: urban water supply, agricultural irrigation, fish farming, mills, transport, defense system, etc. It testifies to a technical culture dating back eighteen centuries serving the sustainable development of a human society, in harmony with its natural and urban environment.

Integrity and Authenticity

The integrity of the hydraulic footprint is good, but its functional integrity compared with the original model is only partial and reduced, notably for the dams; it remains good for irrigation and water supply. The authenticity of elements reduced to archaeological remains is certain, but has been affected by 20th century works and materials so far as the civil structures and sites still in use are concerned. Efforts directed to the restoration of attributes that demonstrate authenticity must be pursued.

Archways in the Roman style at at the historical hydraulic system at Shushtar (Source: 4Gress.com).

Management and protection requirements

The components of the management plan are satisfactory, but they need to be improved in terms of the interpretation of the sites and the involvement of the local population.

Evidence may push back history of Tehran by 6,600 years

The article “Evidence may push back history of Tehran by 6,600 years” was originally posted by the Tehran Times on November 17, 2018. The version printed below has been slightly edited.

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Recent archeological studies has shed new light on the history of Tehran that may go down in time some 6,600 years more than previously thought, ISNA reported on Saturday.

The first finding came in 2014 when a mysterious skeleton of a woman was unearthed in Molavi Street, south of the Iranian capital (see report by Kavehfarrokh.com …)

Initial surveys on the skeleton, which dates back to the 5th millennium BC, suggested that Tehran may date back to 7000 years ago but the assumption was later ruled out by saying that she was only a passenger not a resident.

The second finding, according to archaeologist Qadir Afrovand, comes from pieces of pottery which in 2014 were excavated beneath a shop in Tehran grand bazaar. As noted in the report:

“A few days ago, Afrovand stated that the history of residence in Tehran dates back to 7,000 years ago rather than previously thought of 400 years”

7,000-year-old human remains were found in central Tehran in 2014 (Source: Tehran Times).

Majority of native archaeologists were used to associate earliest settlements in Tehran with the time of Safavids who ruled the country from 1501–1736.

In 2015, experts reconstructed the face of the 7,000-year-old remains to reveal Tehran’s oldest known resident for the first time. Researchers scanned specific points on the woman’s skull as well as using data from modern faces to generate the likeness, which one expert believes is 95 percent accurate. According to their reconstruction, she had a strong rounded chin, large lips and black hair.

Pottery fragments were excavated in downtown Tehran in 2014 (Source: Tehran Times).

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the enigmatic evidence of human presence on the Iranian plateau as early as Lower Paleolithic times comes from a surface found in the Bakhtaran valley.

Archaeological activities in the underground sections of Tehran have revealed further evidence that this metropolis is a thousands-year old urban settlement (Source: Tehran Times).

The first well-documented evidence of human habitation is in deposits from several excavated cave and rock-shelter sites, located mainly in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran and dated to Middle Paleolithic or Mousterian times (c. 100,000 BC). There is every reason to assume, however, that future excavations will reveal Lower Paleolithic habitation in Iran.

Shab-e Yalda: A Warm Welcome to Winter, Felicitous Farewell to Fall

The article Shab-e Yalda: A warm welcome to winter, felicitous farewell to fall” was originally posted by the Tehran Times on December 20, 2016. Kindly note that two of the images and accompanying captions do not appear in the original Tehran Times report. In addition, one of the points made by the article is disputed, and this is entered into the text for the benefit of readers.

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Once again, Iranians from all walks of life and all around the globe are arranging to celebrate Shab-e Yalda (Yalda Night), which falls on December 20.

The auspicious yet thousands-year-old occasion, known as the longest and darkest night of the year, marks the last eve of autumn and the beginning of winter.

Shab-e Yalda is also called Shab-e Chelleh that literally meaning the night of the forty. One of the dominant features of the feast is Chelleh Neshini (sitting for Chelleh), a social context during which families and friends usually gather in the cozy ambiance of home of an elder such as grandparents, aunts or uncles to rejoice in warmth of one another’s company.

Some opt for making phone calls to friends and close relatives or send text messages to congratulate them on this night.

Guests are served with fresh fruits and colorful Ajil (a mixture of dry fruits, seeds and nuts) in bowls. To Iranians however, the dry fruits are somehow a reminiscence of the abundance of summer and the fresh fruits are an invocation for food during winter.

A marquetry work by artist Qumars Sayyad depicts a rural Iranian family reunion celebrating the Yalda Night (Source: Tehran Times).

All food items are arranged on a spread known as Sofreh (traditional table cloth available in various materials and patterns), usually by women of the house.

Following a fresh and hot dinner, people recite poetry, narrate stories, chant, play musical instruments or just chat in the coziness of their company until midnight or so.

Of all ancient rituals, there are mostly two festivals that are unanimously celebrated by Iranians today, Yalda Night and the Persian New Year or Nowruz that means the birth of a new day.

From a wider point of view, human beings often mourn some endings and celebrate most beginnings. The Iranian nation has strong social and historical fibers to celebrate when it comes to the death of a season that gives birth to another.

Welcome to winter varies region to region

Yalda Night is celebrated in different parts of the country traditionally as a welcome to winter, though it encompasses regional variations and themes. In what follows some of them have been given:

Natives to the northwestern Azarbaijan region believe that eating watermelon will not let the cold of winter into their bones. Also, on this night, new brides carry gifts to brides-to-be of the family.

In Tabriz, the capital of East Azarbaijan Province, local musicians known as ‘Aashigh’ play traditional instruments and sing songs from ancient Persian legends on Yalda. Aashighs are local artists who play a great role in preserving oral culture and they can recite poetry spontaneously.

In the northwestern Ardabil Province, people ask the Chelleh Bozorg (first forty days of winter) to promise them to be moderate as they wish for a good winter time.

Watermelon and pomegranates as symbols of bounty are the traditional fresh fruits of this night. It is believed that eating watermelon before the arrival of winter can immunize one against cold and illness (Source: Tehran Times).

Families in the southern city of Shiraz, Fars Province, spread a Sofreh (Persian table cloth, mostly spread on the floor) which is not very different from the Persian New Year spread. They normally place a mirror and an artistic depiction of Imam Ali (AS), the first Shia Imam, on the spread. In addition to typical Yalda food items, Halva Shekari (a kind of paste made of sugar, butter and sesame seeds) and Ranginak (Persian date cakes) are also served.

In the northern province of Gilan, however, Yalda is never complete without watermelons. It is assumed that anyone who eats watermelons on this day would not be thirsty in summer and cold in winter. Aoknous is a tempting and indispensable Gilani dish on Yalda Night.

People in the southeastern Kerman Province stay up most part of the night to welcome the arrival of the legendary Gharoun (Croesus) who is believed to bring wood for poor families in the disguise of a woodcutter. The wood logs would then turn into gold and bring prosperity and luck to the house. The ritual is of course a symbolic one.

One of the oldest Yalda rituals in the western Lorestan Province was when a group of small and teenage boys would go to the rooftops of houses and throw down their bags tied to the end of a long scarf from the chimney holes. They would sing songs, wishing prosperity and happiness for the owner who would fill their bag with Yalda treats. The children would state their gratitude accordingly by singing songs of merriment.

An Iranian lady recites poetry with the Book of Hafez during the night of Yalda; note the pomegranate and melon on the table spread (Source: Public Domain).

In the villages of northeastern Khorasan Province the groom’s family sends out gifts with a group of musical instrument players to the bride-to-be’s house. In this province, after dinner and festivities, people read out verses from the Shahnameh, a long epic poem by illustrious Persian poet Ferdowsi.

In one of the villages of Garmsar, north-central Semnan Province, people of one family or clan get together over a meal of khorous polo (cockcrow meat and rice dish), after which they chitchat with jokes, anecdotes and short stories.

It is customary for people in the western province of Kermanshah that they stay up most of the night by eating, singing and telling stories to abide with the mother of the world in giving birth to her daughter, the sun.

Mosaic of Christ as Sol in Mausoleum M in the pre-4th-century necropolis located below the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica (Source: Public Domain). While commonly interpreted as representing Christ, the figure is virtually identical to the pre-Christian representations of Mithra (note fluttering Iranian-style cloak on the mosaic figure).

Good to know

  • Yalda Night is celebrated on the last day of Azar (the last month of autumn) and before the first day of Dey (the first month of winter).
  • Watermelon and pomegranate are amongst the most distinguished features of Yalda Night, though a few days before Yalda, the fruits’ prices may soar.
  • Yalda, though not very common, is a female Persian name.
  • In ancient Iranian calendar, winter is divided into two parts, Chelleh Bozorg (the bigger forty) from 22nd of December to 30th of January and Chelleh Koochak (the smaller forty) from 30th January to 10th of March.
  • The word Yalda, meaning birth, was imported from Syriac into the Persian language by the Syriac Christians. NOTE BY Kaveh Farrokh.com – the claim of Syriac origins can be disputed – the following observation is made with respect to the linguistic roots of the term /Yalda/:

The term /da/ in Yalda is not of the Hamito-Semetic linguistic family, but instead belongs to the wider Indo-European language families. In Avestan, the term /Daēva/ is broadly defined as “divine being” (Herrenschmidt & Kellens, 1993, pp. 599-602) (in Old Iranian: /Daiva/), which is derived from older Indo-Iranian /Daivá/ (God), which in turn is traced to (undifferentiated) Proto Indo-European (PIE) /Deiu̯ó/ (God). According to Pokorny’s Master PIE lexicon the /Da/ or /Daē/ affix in /Daēva/ is defined as: “day, sun, glitter, to shine, deity, god” (Pokorny, 1959-1969 & 1989, pp.183-187). The legacy of Yalda is an essence rooted in the ancient Indo-European mythological tradition.“ [This excerpt has been published in the Fezana journal: Farrokh, K. (2015). Yalda: an enduring legacy from ancient Persia. Fezana Journal (Publication of the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America), Vol. 29, No.3, Fall/September, pp. 30-33.]

  • Narratives say that Yalda Night marks the birth of winter and the triumph of the sun as the days grow longer and colder.
  • Ancient Iranians assumed Naneh Sarma begins to descend on earth by Yalda Night. Literally meaning coldness grandma, Naneh Sarma is a folklore Persian character who brings in the coldness during the wintertime.

Article on the Lur Language, Pahlavi terminology and the Shahname

An article on the relationship between the Lur language, Pahlavi terminology and the Shahname has been published by Dr. Gholamreza Karamian and Dr. Kaveh Farrokh in the special edition academic text book dedicated to prominent Iranologist scholar and literary specialist, Professor Jalal Khaleghi Motlagh:

Karamian, Gh., & Farrokh, K. (1396/2018). Characteristics of various ancient Pahlavi terms in the Lur language and the Shahname of Firdowsi. Studies in Honor of Professor Jalal Khaleghi Motlagh (ed. F. Aslani & M. Pourtaghi), Tehran: Morvarid Publications, pp.451-455.

Professor Jalal Khaleghi-Motlagh was born in 1937 in Tehran. Upon completion of his education in Iran, he enrolled in the University of Cologne in Germany where he obtained a degree in Eastern Studies, Anthropology and History. He then studied Persian language and literature at the University of Hamburg. Professor Khaleghi-Motlagh has conducted extensive research on the epic literature of Iran and the Shahnameh. His research papers have been published in the most prestigious international academic journals. Among his extensive works are his editing of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, which has been published in eight volumes under the late editor and founder of the Encyclopedia Iranica, Ehsan Yarshater. Too numerous to summarize here, professor Khaleghi-Motlagh’s numerous appointments include his teaching posts in Germany, faculty membership in the International Millennium Congress of the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi as well as being a board member of the Trustees of the Ferdowsi Foundation.

Select scholars were invited to write articles for the above textbook dedicated to the exemplary scholarship of Professor Khaleghi-Motlagh. These include prominent Iranologists such as Richard Davis, Dariush Akbarzadeh, Gholamreza Karamian, Kamyar Abedi, Touraj Daryaee and Shaul Shaked.

Gholamreza Karamian is a professor of archaeology and an expert on Parthian and Sassanian Pahlavi. In this endeavor he has written a book that outlines the presence of Parthian-Sassanian terms in Luri, one of three major West-Iranian languages that also includes Kurdish and Persian.

.غلامرضا کرمیان (۱۳۹۳). واژگان اشکانی و ساسانی در زبان لری. تهران: خانه تاریخ و تصویر ابریشمی

Karamian, Gh. (1392/2014). Parthian and Sassanid terms in the Luri language. Tehran: Khaneye Tarikh va Tasvir-e Abrishami.

Dr. Karamian is also an exceptional archaeologist, having excavated for example, an entire Sassanian place at Ramavand – see “Excavations in 2013 of Partho-Sassanian site at Ramavand, Loristan

The “woman” of Ramavand discovered by Dr. Gholamreza Karamian, possibly Anahita? (Photo: Dr. Gholamreza Karamian).

Dr. Karamian has written four seminal archaeology articles with Dr. Kaveh Farrokh and co-authored these with a number of researchers (download the below articles in pdf from Academia.edu):

Dr Karamian has also co-authored with Prof. Katarzyna Maksymiuk, a book on the Sassanian army with Dr. Kaveh Farrokh (this was displayed at the 11th Annual ASMEA Conference in Washington DC on November 1-3, 2018):

New Book on Persian Firearms by Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani

The book Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran” by Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani has been published. Dr. Khorasani endeavors to share with the world the beauty and the sophistication of historical Persian firearms, and the respect accorded for the skill of the craftsmen who constructed these and decorated them. There is particular focus on the ingenuity of the engineers who designed them, and the bravery of the people who used them in battle.

Book cover of “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“;

Orders for this textbook can be taken at: info@mmkhorasani.com

Like his previous book, Arms and Armour from Iran, the aim of Persian Fire and Steel is to provide the reader with a view of these artifacts not only as instruments of war, but also as objects of art and great beauty.

Sample page from the textPersian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“.

This book is the result of several years of research and translation by Dr. Khorasani in several collections and archives in different countries. It is his hope that lovers of art, history, and weaponry all find in it something that speaks to them.

With over four hundred pages and hundreds of high quality photographs and illustrations describing over , Persian Fire and Steel represents one of the most comprehensive insights into the world of historical Persian firearms ever written.

Ranging from small arms to artillery, it covers everything on the subject from their manufacture to their deployment in battle as described in contemporary treatises. Many of these texts are included in this book, where they have been translated to English for the first time.

Short video by Dr. Khorasani’s regarding his text “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“.