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.

Professor H. E. Wulff The Aqueducts of Iran

The article below is by professor H. E. Wulff. This originally appeared in the CAIS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies) venue. The CAIS site is hosted by Shapour Suren-Pahlav. Note that the article originally appeared in the April 1968 issue of the Scientific American (pages 94 – 105).

This topic of Qanats or ancient Iranian aqueducts has been presented in Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and were also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006.  


A traveler flying over Iran can see plainly that the country has an arid climate. The Iranian plateau is largely desert. Most of Iran (excepting areas in the northwestern provinces and along the southern shores of the Caspian Sea) receives only six to 10 inches of rainfall a year. Other regions of the world with so little rainfall (for example the dry heart of Australia) are barren of attempts at agriculture. Yet Iran is a farming country that not only grows its own food but also manages to produce crops for export, such as cotton, dried fruits, oilseeds and so on. It has achieved this remarkable accomplishment by developing an ingenious system for tapping underground water. The system, called qanat (from a Semitic word meaning “to dig”), was invented in Iran thousands of years ago, and it is so simple and effective that it was adopted in many other and regions of the Middle East and around the Mediterranean.


Figure 1: UNDERGROUND AQUEDUCT conveys water gently downhill from the highlands to distribution canals in the and plain below. The water source is the head well (right), which reaches down to the water table. The other shafts provide ventilation and give access for cleaning and repair of the conduit tunnel below. Called qanats after the Semitic word meaning “to dig,” the irrigation systems were invented in Persia during the first millennium B.c. The horizontal tunnel of the qanat is commonly from six to 10 miles long (Picture from CAIS).

The qanat system consists of underground channels that convey water from aquifers in highlands to the surface at lower levels by gravity. The qanat works of Iran were built on a scale that rivaled the great aqueducts of the Roman Empire. Whereas the Roman aqueducts now are only a historical curiosity, the Iranian system is still in use after 3,000 years and has continually been expanded. There are some 22,000 qanat units in Iran, comprising more than 170,000 miles of underground channels. The system supplies 75 percent of all the water used in that country, providing water not only for irrigation but also for house-hold consumption.


Figure 2: EXCAVATION OF A QANAT begins at the downhill end after a trial well (right) has successfully tapped the uphill water table. Where the gradually sloping tunnel passes through zones of loose earth (left) hoops of tile support the walls, but a tunnel generally lacks masonry except at the discharge point. Ventilation shafts are dug at intervals of 50 yards or so; earth and rock excavated from the tunnel face are winched to the surface through the shafts. Sightings over a pair of oil lamps help to keep the tunnel diggers’ progress on a straight line. A lamp flame that burns badly also gives warning of bad air. Before the tunnelers break through to the head well, men at the surface hail it dry (Picture from CAIS).

Until recently (before the building of the Karaj Dam) the million inhabitants of the city of Tehran depended on a qanat system tapping the foothills of the Elburz Mountains for their entire water supply.

Discoveries of underground conduits in a number of ancient Roman sites led some modern archaeologists to suppose the Romans had invented the qanat system. Written records and recent excavations leave no doubt, however, that ancient Iran (Persia) was its actual birthplace. As early as the seventh century B.C. the Assyrian king Sargon II reported that during a campaign in Persia he had found an underground system for tapping water in operation near Lake Urmia. His son, King Sennacherib, applied the “secret” of using underground conduits in building an irrigation system around Nineveh, and he constructed a qanat on the Persian model to supply water for the city of Arbela. Egyptian inscriptions disclose that the Persians donated the idea to Egypt after Darius I conquered that country in 518 B.C. Scylax, a captain in Darius’ navy, built a qanat that brought water to the oasis of Karg, apparently from the underground water table of the Nile River 100 miles away. Remnants of the qanat are still in operation. This contribution may well have been partly responsible for the Egyptians’ friendliness to their conqueror and their bestowal of the title of Pharaoh on Darius.


Figure 3: TUNNEL CROSS SECTIONS indicate some of the variations possible in qanat conduits. The tunnel walls may be strengthened with tile hoops (a) or where the tunnel passes through clay or well-compacted soil the walls may be left unlined (b). If the head well should go dry and therefore need to he dug deeper, the conduit would also need to be deepened (c) (Picture from CAIS).

References to qanat systems, known by various names, are fairly common in the literature of ancient and medieval times. The Greek historian Polybius in the second century B.C. described a qanat that had been built in an Iranian desert “during the Persian ascendancy.” It had been constructed underground, he remarked, “at infinite toil and expense … through a large tract of country” and brought water to the desert from sources that were mysterious to “the people who use the water now.”

Qanats have been found throughout the regions that came within the cultural sphere of ancient Persia: in Pakistan, in Chinese oasis settlements of Turkistan, in southern areas of the U.S.S.R., in Iraq, Syria, Arabia and Yemen. During the periods of Roman and then Arabian domination the system spread westward to North Africa, Spain and Sicily. In the Sahara region a number of oasis settlements are irrigated by the qanat method, and some of the peoples still call the underground conduits “Persian works.” In the Middle East several particularly interesting qanats constructed by Arab rulers of early medieval times have been excavated. In A.D. 728 the caliph of Damascus built a small qanat to supply water for a palace in the country. A century later the caliph Mutawakkil in Iraq likewise constructed a qanat system, presumably with the aid of Persian engineers, that brought water to his residence at Samarra from the upper Tigris River 300 miles away.


Figure 4: REMAINS OF PERSEPOLIS, the ancient capital of Persia built by Darius in 520 B.C., are am the center of the aerial photograph on the opposite page. The rows of small holes resembling pockmarks reveal the presence of several qanat systems below the surface: each hole is the top of a ventilation shaft. Most of the qanats around the ruins of Persepolis were built only a few decades ago (Picture from CAIS).

Thanks to detailed descriptions by several early writers, we have a good idea of the techniques used by the original qanat builders. Vitruvius, the first systematic historian of technology, gave an account of the qanat system in technical detail in his historic work De Architectura (about 80 B.C.). In the ninth century A.D., at the request of a Persian provincial governor, Abdullah ibn-Tahir, a group of writers compiled a treatise on the subject titled Kitab-e Quniy. And about A.D. 1000 Hasan al-Hasib, an Arabian authority on engineering, wrote a technical work that fortunately is still available and gives surprisingly good details of the construction and maintenance of the ancient qanats.

The methods used in Iran today are not greatly different from the system devised thousands of years ago, and I shall describe the system as it can now be observed. The project begins with a careful survey of the terrain by an expert engaged by the prospective builders. A qanat system is usually dug in the slope of a mountain or hillside where material washed down the slope has been deposited in alluvial fans. The surveyor examines these fans closely, generally during the fall, looking for traces of seepage to the surface or slight variations in the vegetation that may suggest the presence of water sources buried in the hillside. On locating a promising spot, lie arranges for the digging of a trial well.

Two diggers, called muqanni, take up this task. They set up a windlass at the surface to haul up the excavated material in leather buckets and proceed to dig a vertical shaft about three feet in diameter, one man working with a mattock and the other with a short-handled spade. As they load the spoil in the buckets, two workers at the surface pull it up with the windlass and pile it around the mouth of the shaft. If luck is with them, the diggers may strike an aquifer at a depth of 50 feet or less. Sometimes, however, they dig down 200 to 300 feet to reach water, and this necessitates installing a relay of windlasses at stages 100 feet apart on the way down.

When they arrive at a moist stratum – a potential aquifer – the diggers scoop out a cavity to its impermeable clay bottom, and for the next few days the leather buckets are dipped into the hole periodically to measure the rate of accumulation of water in it. If more than a trickle of water is flowing into the hole, the surveyor can conclude that he has tapped a genuine aquifer. He may then decide to sink more shafts into the stratum in the immediate area to determine the extent of the aquifer and its yield.



Figure.5: WINDLASS CREW, sheltered from the sun by an improvised tent, raises a load of accumulated silt in the process of cleaning a qanat conduit tunnel. Standing beside the tent is a child who is needed on this job because the ventilation shafts are smaller than usual (Picture from CAIS).

The surveyor next proceeds to chart the prospective course of an underground conduit through which the water can flow from this head well or group of wells to the ground surface at some point farther down the slope. For the downward pitch of the conduit he selects a gradient somewhere between one foot in 500 and one in 1,500; the gradient must be slight so that the water will flow slowly and not wash material from the bottom of the conduit or otherwise damage it. For his measurements the surveyor uses simple instruments: a long rope and a level. (The ninth-century treatise Kilab-e Quniy described a tubular water level and a large triangular leveling device with a plumb that was then employed in this task.) The surveyor lets the rope down to the water level in the well and marks the rope at the surface to show the depth. This will be his guide for placing the mouth of the conduit; obviously the mouth must be at some point a little below the water level indicated by the rope. A series of vertical shafts for ventilation will have to be sunk from the surface to the conduit at certain measured intervals (perhaps 50 yards) along its path. Consequently the surveyor must determine the depth from the surface for each of these shafts. He uses a level to find the drop in the ground slope from each shaft site to the next and marks the length of this drop on the rope. This tells him how far down from the surface each shaft would have to be dug if the conduit ran a perfectly level course. He then calculates the additional depth to which each should be dug (in view of the prospective pitch of the conduit) by dividing the total drop of the conduit from the well’s water level to the mouth by the number of proposed ventilation shafts.

As the muqanni proceed to dig the conduit itself, guide shafts are sunk to the indicated depths at intervals of about 300 yards to provide information regarding the route and pitch of the conduit for the diggers. They start the excavation of the conduit from the mouth end, digging into the alluvial fan. To protect the mouth from storm-water damage they often line the first 10 to 15 feet of the tunnel with reinforcing stone. The conduit is about three feet wide and five feet high. As the diggers advance they make sure they are following a straight course by sighting along a pair of burning oil lamps. They deposit the excavated material in buckets at the foot of the nearest ventilation shaft, and it is hauled up by their teammates above. The tunnel needs no reinforcement where it is dug through hard clay or a coarse conglomerate that is well packed. When the muqanni come to a boulder or other impassable obstacle, they turn around it and then must recover their bearing toward the next ventilation shaft. They show a good deal of skill in this, relying partly on their sense of direction and partly on listening for the sounds of the diggers working on the vertical shaft ahead. The greatest danger encountered by the muqanni is sandy, soft, friable or otherwise unstable soil, which may cause the roof of the tunnel to collapse on them. In such passages the diggers generally line the excavation with oval hoops of baked clay as they cut away the face of the work. Gases and air low in oxygen also are hazards; the diggers carefully watch their oil lamps for warning of the possibility of a suffocating atmosphere. As the rnuqanni approach the aquifer they must be alert to another danger: the possible flooding of the tunnel by a sudden inrush of water. This hazard is particularly great at the moment of breakthrough into the head well; the well must be emptied or tapped very cautiously if the men are not to be washed down the conduit by a deluge. Because of these hazards muqanni call the qanat “the murderer.” A muqanni always says a prayer before entering a qanat, and he will not go to work co a day he considers unlucky.

Depending on the depth of the aquifer and the slope of the ground, qanats vary greatly in length; in some the conduit from the head well to the mouth is only a mile or two long, and at the other extreme one in southern Iran is more than 18 miles long. Commonly the length is between six and 10 miles. The water discharge obtainable from individual qanats also varies widely. For example, of some 200 qanats in the Varamin plain southeast of Tehran the largest yields 72 gallons per second and the smallest only a quarter of a gallon per second.


Figure 6:  TILE HOOPS are piled up near one of the vertical shafts that lead to the conduit tunnel of a qanat under construction in rural Iran. Their presence indicates that the construction crew has encountered a zone of loose earth and must shore up the tunnel walls (Picture from CAIS).

Not until the qanat has been completed and has operated for some time is it possible to determine whether it will be a continuous “runner” or a seasonal source that provides water only in the spring or after heavy rains. Because the initial investment in construction of a qanat is considerable, the owner and builders often resort to probing and laborious devices to enlarge its yield. For example, they may extend branches from the main conduit to reach additional aquifers or excavate the floor of the existing conduit in order to lower it and tap water at a deeper level [see illustration at right on page 97]. A great deal of care is also given to the maintenance of the qanat. The ventilation shafts are shielded at the top with crater-like walls of spoil and sometimes with hoods to prevent the inflow of damaging storm waters. Muqanni are continually kept employed cleaning out silt that is washed into the conduit from the aquifer, clearing up roof cave-ins and making other repairs.

As is to be expected of a system that has existed for thousands of years and is so important to the life of the nation, the building of qanats and the distribution of the water are ruled by laws and common understandings that are hallowed by tradition. The builders of a qanat must obtain the consent of the owners of the land it will cross, but permission cannot be refused arbitrarily. It must be granted if the new qanat will not interfere with the yield from an existing qanat, which usually means that the distance between the two must be several hundred yards, depending on the geological formations involved. When the par ties cannot agree, the matter is decided by the courts, which normally appoint an independent expert to resolve the technical questions at issue.


Figure 7: ROW OF CRATERS, each one marking the mouth of a qanat ventilation shaft, runs across an and plain in western Iran. The walls of the craters protect the shafts and the tunnel below from erosional damage from the inflow of water during a heavy desert rainstorm (Picture from CAIS).

Similarly, there are traditional systems for the fair allocation of water from a qanat to-the users. If the qanat is owned by a landowner who has tenant farmers, he usually appoints a water bailiff who supervises the allotment of water to each tenant in accordance with the size of the tenant’s farm and the nature of the crop he is growing. When the peasants themselves own the qanat, as is increasingly the case under the new land reforms in Iran, they elect a trustworthy water bailiff who sees that each farmer receives his just share of the water at the proper time – and who receives a free share himself for his service. The bailiff is guided by an allocation system that has been fixed for hundred of years. For instance, three hamlets in the region of Selideh in western Iran still receive the shares that were allotted to them in the 17th century by the civil engineer in the reign of Shah Abbas the Great. The hamlets of Dastgerd and Parvar are entitled to eight shares apiece and Karton nine shares, and these allocations are built into the outlets from the qanat distribution basin: the outlets at Dastgerd en and Parvar are eight spans wide and the one at Karton is nine spans wide.

The agricultural production made possible by the qanats amply repays the investment in construction and maintenance. My own recent inquiries showed that the return on these investments in value of crops and sale of water ranges from 10 to 25 percent, depending on the size of the qanat, the yield of water and the kind of crop for which it is used. A qanat about six miles long between $13,500 and $34,000 to build, the cost varying with the nature of the terrain. For a qanat 10 to 15 miles long the cost runs to about $90,000.


Figure 8: MASONRY MOUTH of an Iranian qanat is equipped with a pair of sluice gates that allow diversion of the water into separate canal systems. The amount of qanat water that may be allotted to village or individual is sometimes determined by decisions made centuries ago (Picture from CAIS).

Construction costs have risen in recent years as the standard of living in Iran improved and labor costs have increased. Moreover, the division of large landholdings into smaller ones under the new land-distribution policy, as well as the introduction of expensive modern machinery has made it difficult for the individual landowners to afford the expense of constructing new qanats or maintaining old ones. Many of these farmers are now drilling wells and using diesel pumps, rather building underground conduits, to bring the water to the surface. Consequently the construction of new qanats may cease, unless the peasants’ newly formed village-cooperatives find it profitable and can raise the necessary capital to built them.

Whatever the future of Iran’s qanat system may be, it stands out today as an impressive example of a determined and hardworking people’s achievement. The 22,000 qanats in Iran, with their 170,000 miles of underground conduits all built by manual labor, deliver a total of 19,500 cubic feet of water per second – an amount equivalent to 75 percent of discharge of the Euphrates River into the Mesopotamian plain. This volume of water production would be sufficient to irrigate three million acres of arid land for cultivation if it were used entirely for agriculture. It has made a garden of what would otherwise have an uninhabitable desert. There are indications that in early times the country had a flourishing vegetation that gradually dried up, partly because of deforestation and the loss of fertile soil by erosion. The Persian people responded to potential disaster with an and farsighted solution that is a classic tribute to human resourcefulness.


Figure 9: STREAM OF QANAT WATER flows past a wall-enclosed garden in an Iranian villages. The stream first flows through the town and then is diverted into farm irrigation channels (Picture from CAIS).

Eva Bosch: World’s First Invention of Animation in Iran

Below is a video by Eva Bosch narrated in Catalan with writing in English that describes the invention of the world’s first example of animation in Iran thousands of years ago. The material for the video was drawn from information posted on

Eva Bosch has achieved a number of important citations including an award to study at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam and the winning of the Pollock Krasner Award in 1995.

Eva Bosch in Senegal, 2007. Eva is a Catalan painter born in Barcelona. At present Eva lives and works in London with regular sojourns in her atelier in Montmany-Figueró (Barcelona), combining her studio work with lecturing in the History of Art. 

World’s Oldest Example of Pictorial Animation

Shahr-e Sookhteh (lit. Burnt City) is one of Iran’s most important archaeological sites dating to the  Bronze Age. Located near Zahedan, Seistan-Baluchistan in southeast Iran, Shahr-e Sookhteh was first excavated in 1915.

Shahr-e Sookhteh is an urban settlement which can be traced to four eras of civilization on the Iranian plateau.The settlemtn has yielded its own unique brands of architecture, arts and technologies, and provide much insight into the antiquity of Iranian civilization.

Remains of the Shahr-e Sookhteh (lit. Burnt City). Recognized as the largest Bronze Age site in the Middle East, the entire environs of the site measure at 150 hectares. Shahr-e Sookhteh was founded around 5000 years ago (circa 3200 BC) and was first destroyed in 2100 BC. During the course of its approximately 1100-year existence, Shahr-e-Sookhteh has given rise to four distinct civilizations. 

Iranian archaeologist  Dr. Mansour Seyed Sajjadi (who has researched Shahr -e Sookhteh for years) noted in an interview with the Tehran Times on March 1, 2012 that:

With every step that we took the soil under our feet moved aside, revealing more fragments of clay works. We were told that after each rain the earth is washed away causing more fragments come to the surface, where they can be easily found by the excavation team. The moment we touched the clay fragments that were buried under the soil we got a strange feeling that reminded us of our Oriental background and this feeling made us search for our lost identity within the Burnt City

One of the most interesting discoveries at the site has been a 5000 year old goblet which bears the world’s first animation sequence. The animation depicts a goat jumping towards a tree to eat its leaves.

Goblet with painting depicting a jumping goat (Source: Tehran Times). The Farmes can then seen in a “film fashion” when placed on a rotating turntable.  This concpet was developed over 5000 years ago in the Shahr e Sokhteh, long before the advent of cinematography by the early 20th century.

The goblet is the first evidence of the human conception of  image frames being connected together to produce an animation sequence. It is possible that a manual turntable was used to rotate the goblet to “animate” the frames.

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]Animation sequence of the jumping goat as seen in a flattened panel (Source: Tehran Times). See the actual animation sequence in the video below.  

Animation sequence of the 5000 year old Goblet of Shahr e Sookhteh.

There have been numeous finds at Shahr e Sookhteh such as the discovery of the world’s first artificial eye (see below):

(RIGHT) Iranian researcher examining the artifical eye found at Shahr e Sookhteh – further tests are being conducted in Iran to determine the exact chemical composition of the prosthetic (LEFT) A curious feature of the “eye” are parallel lines that have been drawn around the pupil to form a diamond shape …READ MORE

Other discoveries include the excavation of the most ancient known version the backgammon game  (see below)

Ancient dice discovered at the Burnt-City. At present, experts are (a) attempting to determine why the game was played with sixty pieces and (b) working to decode the rules of the game. Iranians call Backgammon “Takht-e Nard”…READ MORE…see also more pictures by clicking here

A Forgotten Iranian Legacy: The Parthian Battery


A common misconception about the Parthians is that they lacked interest in the development of learning, science and technology. This belief is derived from the paucity of the available evidence, the lack of archaeological studies as well as subjective bias.

Technology certainly continued to evolve during Parthian rule. A dramatic discovery of a tomb by German Archaeologist Wilhelm Konig at Khujut Rabu (near modern Baghdad in Iraq) in 1936 found two near intact jars dated to the Parthian dynasty (approx. 250 BC-224 AD) which are possibly the world’s oldest batteries.

A Parthian battery. Note the clay jar which featured an iron cylinder surrounded by a cylinder of copper.

There have been a number of reconstructions of this ancient device in western laboratories and universities.

A schematic representation of the ancient Parthian battery. 

Nevertheless, not all historians accept Konig’s 1940 report that the items were “batteries”. What is generally agreed upon is that the “batteries” were used to electroplate items by mainly putting one layer of metal upon another (e.g. gold upon silver). This technique is still in evidence in many traditional metalworking shops of Iran today (i.e. Isfahan, Tabriz).

 Tests by Western scientists have revealed that when the jar of the battery was filled with vinegar (or other electrolytes), it was capable of generating between 1.5-2.0 volts.

If the jars were indeed “batteries” in the modern sense, then Count Alassandro Volta’s invention of the modern battery may have been predated by 1,600 years or more.  

Count Alessandro Volta (1745 – 1827), is often credited with the invetion of the modern battery. His legacy in the domain of physical sciences is seen in the term “Volt” derived from his last name “Volta”. In practice the very concept of the battery may have been invented in ancient Parthian Persia at least 1600 years past.