Archaeologist underlines safeguarding ‘masterpiece’ of water management in southern Iran

May 10, 2022 - 21:15

TEHRAN – Iranian archaeologist Hamidreza Karami has emphasized the need for the proper protection of what he called a “masterpiece” of water management in southern Iran.

Currently, a team of experts led by archaeologist Karami conducts excavations across the dam remnants and surroundings hoping to unravel the enigma of Achaemenid dams and water management strategies.

Situated near the two UNESCO sites of Persepolis and Pasargadae, the embankment dam, locally named “Band-e Bostan Khani” or “Sad-e [the dam of] Didegan”, is said to still be a source of inspiration for modern architects and engineers. The dam dates from the Achaemenid era (c.550-330 CE).

The embankment dam, which is an “ancient masterpiece” of water management, is planned to undergo restoration with the help of the World Heritage site of Pasargadae, CHTN quoted Karami as saying on Tuesday.

“Considering the extent of damage to this historical embankment dam, the assistance and participation of the Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tourism, and the Ministry of Energy is vital for its restoration,” the archaeologist said.

According to Karami, his archaeological team seeks to find out more about the secrets, methods, and techniques of dam construction in the times of Achaemenians.

“Considering pivotal needs of the Achaemenid government in supplying water to various sectors of agriculture, horticulture, public and residential uses, as well as water supply in Pasargadae gardens, several dams, and water supply canals were created to supply water, which according to the results of [our] excavations, the most water supply projects were implemented in Pasargadae and its surroundings.”

A team of archaeologists hopes to unravel the enigma of Achaemenid dams and their water management strategies.Last year, the archaeologists discovered treasured data on dam construction engineering and water resources management relevant to the Achaemenid era. “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 the Achaemenid era,” Karami said last December.

“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 at 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.”

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 embankment dam has been registered on the National Heritage list.

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), to Central Asia, and 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 plains of Pasargadae, Morqab, Khorrambid, and Kamin embrace the greatest number of water structures being constructed during the Achaemenid era, the archaeologist said.

“Tapping into the water capacities of the Polvar River, controlling seasonal floods, preventing river floods, and storing water for consumption in hot and dry months [of the year], were among goals being pursued at that time.”

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, adding “This way, a very large volume of satellite hills have been harvested… different parts of the rocks have been cut in the mountainous paths and excavated in the flatlands to a large extent so that the result of this great work is what the designers and implementers of this system thought, that is, all areas related to the Achaemenid capital of Pasargadae being benefited from water.”

Located on a branch of the Polvar River, the dam was built during the reign of Cyrus the Great. According to sources, archaeologists believe that this unique work was designed to contain floods and store large amounts of water for public use as well as use in agriculture and horticulture.

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), to Central Asia, and India.

The royal city of Persepolis ranks among the archaeological sites which have no equivalent, considering its unique architecture, urban planning, construction technology, and art. Persepolis, also known as Takht-e Jamshid, whose magnificent ruins rest at the foot of Kuh-e Rahmat (Mountain of Mercy) is situated 60 kilometers northeast of the city of Shiraz in Fars province.

The city was burnt by Alexander the Great in 330 BC apparently as revenge on the Persians because it seems the Persian King Xerxes had burnt the Greek City of Athens around 150 years earlier. The city’s immense terrace was begun about 518 BC by Darius the Great, the Achaemenid Empire’s king. On this terrace, successive kings erected a series of architecturally stunning palatial buildings, among them the massive Apadana palace and the Throne Hall (“Hundred-Column Hall”).

This 13-ha ensemble of majestic approaches, monumental stairways, throne rooms (Apadana), reception rooms, and dependencies is classified among the world’s greatest archaeological sites. Persepolis was the seat of the government of the Achaemenid Empire, though it was designed primarily to be a showplace and spectacular center for the receptions and festivals of the kings and their empire.

AFM

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