Ancient aqueduct identified in western Iran

July 31, 2020 - 20:30

TEHRAN – An ancient hand-dug qanat, an old type of underground water-supply system developed and still used in arid regions, has recently been identified adjacent to an archeological hill in Lorestan province, western Iran.

“Social media have reported the discovery of an underground tunnel near the town of Rumeshkan….. Soon a team of archaeologists and experts was dispatched to inspect [the region] and to conduct scientific and comprehensive research,” provincial tourism chief Seyyed Amin Qasemi said on Wednesday, CHTN reported.

The team provided an all-inclusive report and documented parts of the aqueduct, including its entrance, concluding that it is related to “a series of ancient aqueducts”, the official said.

A qanat taps underground mountain water sources trapped in and beneath the upper reaches of alluvial fans and channels the water downhill through a series of gently sloping tunnels, often several kilometers long, to the places where it is needed for irrigation and domestic use.

“[A newly-discovered] tunnel, which leads to a [attached] series of aqueducts from ancient times that are extended in the east-west direction across the Rumeshkan plain…. In the past, some traces of wells and shafts related to this aqueduct had been appeared and been reported,” he explained.

[The entrance of] this qanat is situated near Chaqabol archaeological hill, Qasemi said.

“Parts of the qanat, which is stretched beneath the Chaqabol archaeological hill is proved to be completely excavated in ancient times…. During initial studies, a pottery vessel dating back to the Bronze Age was found beneath the cultural deposits in the lower layers of the hill.”

The official also noted that the entrance to the aqueduct is temporarily blocked in order to safeguard both the lives of the [curious] locals and the aqueduct itself.

“Unfortunately, some of the locals, despite the existing dangers, entered the aqueduct after the collapse of its shaft, out of curiosity and possibly profit. And they began to post pictures and videos to cyberspace…. So as to prevent profiteers and possible dangers, we blocked the entrance to the aqueduct.”

The development of qanats probably began about 2,500 or 3,000 years ago in Iran, and the technology spread eastward to Afghanistan and westward to Egypt. Although new qanats are seldom built today, many old qanats are still used in Iran and Afghanistan, chiefly for irrigation.

Some 120,000 qanats - ancient subsurface water supply systems – are documented across Iran, and nearly 37,000 of which are still in use in the country, according to data provided by Iran’s cultural heritage body in 2018.

The concept of “Persian Qanat” was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2016, representing eleven aqueducts across Iran. According to the UN cultural body, the qanat provides exceptional testimony to cultural traditions and civilizations in desert areas with an arid climate.

Each qanat normally comprises an almost horizontal tunnel for collecting water from an underground water source, usually an alluvial fan, into which a mother well is sunk to the appropriate level of the aquifer.

AFM/MG

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