Hidden secrets of Achaemenid dam engineering revealed

March 1, 2022 - 18:23

TEHRAN – Archaeologists have discovered treasured data on dam construction engineering and water resources management during the Achaemenid period (c. 550 – 330 BC).

“Seasons of archaeological excavations on Didegan dam uncovered valuable secrets and information concerning dam engineering and water control management which were practiced in Iran during Achaemenid era,” Iranian archaeologist Hamidreza Karami said on Sunday.

“Although much of this appreciated structure has been destroyed by floods and human plunder, we have been able to increase our knowledge of know-how and technology adopted to build dams related architectural structures in that period,” the archaeologist explained.

He made the remarks in the 19th Annual Symposium on the Iranian Archaeology which was held online from February 26 to 28. Co-organized by the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research (ICAR); Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Ministry; and the National Museum of Iran, the annual event turned the spotlight on countrywide excavations held during the past couple of months.

“Moreover, we carefully determined the location and specs of our archaeological trenches in order to gain the most information possible.”

Referring to the characteristics and architecture of the dam, he noted “The style of architecture and stone carving reflects the architectural traditions of the early Achaemenid period, especially the period of the Achaemenid King Darius [the Great].”

According to the archaeologist, the embankment dam is still a source of inspiration for modern architects and engineers.

“Achaemenid-era embankment dams were built with such knowledge, extent, and durability that after 25 centuries, [modern] earthen dams are still built per the Achaemenid engineering model.”

Karami has previously described the Bostan Khani Dam in southern Iran, as a “masterpiece” of architecture and water management in Achaemenid-era Iran. “So far [valuable evidence of the] architectural structure has been obtained to recognize and realize the structure of the dam and its construction method.

The expert considered Bostan Khani Dam as the largest of its kind in the Achaemenid period that has been identified so far, saying it measures a crown height of 21 meters, a length of 170 meters, and a width of 70 meters.

Karami explained that waterways and water transmission networks are another part of their water management engineering, which is designed to bring water to the farthest possible areas of the region.

“Excavations and surveys on Bostan Khani Dam can increase our knowledge and understanding of the methods and techniques of dam construction and architectural structure that is currently being practiced.”

Late in January, a cultural heritage protection team discovered a stone-arched tunnel near an Achaemenid embankment dam in Marvdasht plain of Fars province.

The Achaemenid [Persian] Empire was the largest and most durable empire of its time. The empire stretched from Ethiopia, through Egypt, to Greece, to Anatolia (modern Turkey), Central Asia, and to India.

Building activity was extensive during the height of the empire, and of the several Achaemenian capitals, the ruins at Pasargadae and Persepolis are probably the most outstanding. Achaemenian sculptured reliefs and a great number of smaller art objects present a remarkably unified style for the period. Metalwork, especially in gold, was highly developed, and a variety of carefully executed examples survive.

The embankment dam has been registered in the National Heritage list.


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