Traditional water sources of Persian antiquity

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Most rivers in Iran are seasonal and have traditionally not been able to supply the needs of urban settlements. Major rivers like the Arvand, Aras, Zayandeh, Sefid and Atrak were few and far between in the vast lands of Persian antiquity.

With the growth of urban settlements during the ages, locally dug deep wells (up to 100 meters deep) could no longer keep up with the demand, leading to the systematic digging of a specialized network of canals known as Qanat.

Qanat and Kariz[edit]

A Kariz surfacing in Niavaran, Tehran. It is used for watering the grounds of The National Library of Iran.
Main article: Qanat

Persia’s Qanat system dates back many centuries, and thousands of years old.[1] The city Zarch in central Iran has the oldest and longest qanat (over 3000 years and 71 km long) and other 3000 years old qanats have been found in northern Iran.[2] The Qanats mostly came in from higher elevations, and were split into a distributing network of smaller underground canals called kariz when reaching the city. Like Qanats, these smaller canals were below ground (~20 steps), and were built such that they were very difficult to contaminate. These underground aqueducts, built thousands of years ago suffer no evaporation loss and are ideally suited for drinking water since there is no pollution danger.[3]

But with the further growth of the city in Persian lands, even the Qanats could not respond to the needs of residents. That is when some wealthy inhabitants started building private reservoirs called ab anbar (Persian آب انبار).[4]

This Qanat surfacing in Fin is from a spring thought to be several thousand years in running, called The Spring of Solomon ("Cheshmeh-ye Soleiman"). It is thought to have been feeding the Sialk area since antiquity.

In the middle of the twentieth century, it is estimated that approximately 50,000 qanats were in use in Iran, each commissioned and maintained by local users. Of these only 25,000 remain in use as of 1980.

One of the oldest and largest known qanats is in the Iranian city of Gonabad which after 2700 years still provides drinking and agricultural water to nearly 40,000 people. Its main well depth is more than 360 meters and its length is 45 kilometers. Yazd, Khorasan and Kerman are the known zones for their dependence with an extensive system of qanats.

In traditional Persian architecture, a Kariz (کاریز) is a small Qanat, usually within a network inside an urban setting. Kariz is what distributes the Qanat into its final destinations.

Ab anbar[edit]

Main article: Ab anbar

Ab Anbars have a long history in Iran, and there are still some ab anbars remaining today from the 13th century. These reservoirs would be subterranean spaces that were connected to the network of kariz in the city. A typical residential ab anbar would be located in the enclosed garden, have the capacity to hold 50 cubic meters, would be filled once every two weeks, and have its inside surfaces cleaned from sediments once a year (called layeh-rubi).

Soon public ab anbars were constructed throughout cities across Persia such as Qazvin, Yazd, Naeen, Kashan, Zavareh, Ray, Shiraz, Herat, Balkh, and others. At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of public ab anbars in Qazvin, for example, was recorded to be 151.[5] Yet Iran still has 30,000 active Qanat systems today.[6]

Accounts differ, but the water quality generally seemed to be satisfactory. Water temperatures of Kashan’s famous Qanat of Chashmeh-i Soleiman amidst the July heat is typically around 25 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, ab anbars tend to further lower the temperature of the water due to the fascinating heat resistance properties of the construction material used. Near freezing temperatures of the water can readily be observed in the desert central city of Naeen during summer, inside an ab anbar that employs multiple windcatchers. Thus the Qanat/ab anbar system was easily able to supply the needs of many growing cities (such as medieval Qazvin) year round.[7]

Location[edit]

Public ab anbars were often built wherever demand dictated. But factors such as accessibility of ab anbars to karizes, ease of accessibility of the public to the ab anbars, and a homogeneous density of the ab anbars in each area determined the size and location of an ab anbar.

As an example, in terms of network coverage, one could classify the karizes of Qazvin into three groups:

  • Northwest karizes. The major ones were:
    • Kariz of Khomar e Tashi (a famous vizier).
    • Kariz of Akhund
    • Kariz of Shah
  • North Karizes. The major ones being:
    • Kariz of Halal Abad
    • Kariz of Asghar Khani
    • Kariz of Teifuri
    • Kariz of Khiyaban
  • Northeast karizes. The major ones being:
    • Kariz of Hatambeig Khatuni
    • Kariz of Mirza Rasuli
    • Kariz of Agha Jalali
    • Kariz of Sheikh Ahmadi

Each of these karizes covered a specific neighborhood and often further branched into sub-karizes as they went along serving private and public ab anbars.

Yet most ab anbars ended up being located in proximity or adjacent to commercial, religious, or other public places of interest. Many ab anbars would be located at busy intersections. Unfortunately the urban fabric of many cities in early 20th century Iran has changed dramatically over the years. Hence the ab anbars today seem to be situated out of place.

Preservation[edit]

In Qazvin, which was once dubbed as the city of ab anbars,[8] today less than 10 ab anbars remain intact from the destructive forces of hasty modern urban development. Of the other 100 or so ab anbars that used to be scattered throughout Qazvin, only parts (such as the steps, the entrance, or the storage) remain. Most have been destroyed by housing projects and private developers. In Qazvin, none are functional anymore. However ab anbars continue to be used in some areas in rural Yazd and urban Naeen. Qanats are mostly used in rural areas and/or for agriculture.

Fully intact surviving ab anbars of Qazvin in order of capacity
Ab anbar name Dimensions (m) Capacity (m3)
Sardar-e Bozorg 17 x 17 x 17 4900
Jame’ Mosque 37.5 x 10 x 10 3750
Nabi Mosque 36 x 10 x 10 3600
Sardar-e Kuchak 20 x 19 x 5.5 2090
Haj Kazem 26 x 7.5 x 10 1950
Hakim 18 x 18 x 6 1944
Agha 11.5 x 10.25 x 5.5 648
Razavi Caravanserai 14.5 x 6.5 x 5 471
Zobideh Khatun 11.5 x 2.65 x 6.5 198

Explosive migratory trends in Iran in the past 30 years have led to a wave of hasty urbanization inside the old quarters of ancient cities, destroying their original fabric. Some fare better than others though. Thus for example when comparing Qazvin to Yazd, Qazvin has fewer surviving ab anbars despite the fact that Yazd’s ab anbars have been retired for much longer time spans.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Memarian, Gholamhosein. Asar: Memari-ye ab anbar haye shahr e Qazvin. Vol 35. Iran Cultural Heritage Organization publications. Tehran. p.188
  2. ^ p. 4 of Mays, L. (2010-08-30). Ancient Water Technologies. Springer. ISBN 978-90-481-8631-0. 
  3. ^ http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA444101&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf
  4. ^ Nikravesh, Ardakanian and Alemohammad, Institutional Capacity Development of Water Resources Management in Iran: [1]
  5. ^ Siyaghi, Dr. Sayyed Mohammad Dabir. Sair e Tarikhi e banaayi Shahr e Qazvin va Banaha-yi an. Iran Cultural Heritage Organization publications. Qazvin. 2002. ISBN 964-7536-29-1 p.408
  6. ^ Old ways of water management spring up again in arid regions. M.J. Strauss. International Herald Tribune. Aug 20, 2005.
  7. ^ Minudar or Babuljanne. Gulriz, Mohammad Ali. Taha publications. 3rd printing. Qazvin. 1381 (2002). ISBN 964-6228-61-5 p.311
  8. ^ Haji aqa Mohammadi, Abbas. Saimaa-yi ustaan-I Qazvain. Taha Publications. Qazvin. 1378 (1998). ISBN 964-6228-09-7 p.99
  9. ^ Memarian, Gholamhosein. Asar: Memari-ye ab anbar haye shahr e Qazvin. Vol 35. Iran Cultural Heritage Organization publications. Tehran. (p187-197). p.192

Further reading[edit]

  1. Memari e Islami e Iran. M. K. Pirnia. ISBN 964-454-093-X
  2. Minudar or Babuljanne. Gulriz, Mohammad Ali. Taha publications. 3rd printing. Qazvin. 1381 (2002). ISBN 964-6228-61-5
  3. Qazvin: ayinah-yi tarikh va tabi’at-i Iran. Hazrati, Mohammad Ali. Sazeman e Irangardi va Jahangardi publications. Qazvin. 1382 (2003). ISBN 964-7536-35-6
  4. Saimaa-yi ustaan-I Qazvain. Haji aqa Mohammadi, Abbas. Taha Publications. Qazvin. 1378 (1998). ISBN 964-6228-09-7
  5. Memari-ye ab anbar haye shahr e Qazvin. Memarian, Gholamhosein. Asar. Vol 35. Iran Cultural Heritage Organization publications. Tehran. (p187-197).
  6. Sair e Tarikhi e banaayi Shahr e Qazvin va Banaha-yi an. Siyaghi, Dr. Seyd Mohammad Dabir. Iran Cultural Heritage Organization publications. Qazvin. 2002. ISBN 964-7536-29-1
  7. Old ways of water management spring up again in arid regions. M.J. Strauss. International Herald Tribune. Aug 20, 2005.

See also[edit]