The complex irrigation system from the Sassanid era known as Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is one of the most magnificent gems of civil engineering history. Added to the long list of UNESCO heritage sites of Iran, Shushtar Historical Water System is located in Khuzestan Province in Southern Iran. Here are the top reasons why you should visit this historical wonder of Persia.
Historical Background of Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
Many people have no clue about how ancient civilizations came to ideas about ways to irrigate their fields. Shushtar Hydraulic System which dates back to the 3rd century CE is an evidence of the engineering advancement of that time. Although, it has been probably build on bases from the 5th century BCE.
One of the things that makes this hydraulic system a valuable historical structure is that it has been made in a very large scale. Its uniformity along its several functions as an urban water supply, mills, river transport and even a defensive system against invasions have given an exceptional value to this hydraulic system.
Some historians believe that Shushtar Historic Hydraulic System was built after the famous Petra dam and tunnel which is one of the most celebrated heritages of Roman civilization. Interestingly, Madam Jane Dieulafoy (1851 – 1916), a famous French archaeologist, has referred to Shushtar Hydraulic System as the greatest industrial complex before the Industrial Revolution.
Elements of Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
It consists of watermills, dams and carefully designed tunnels and canals. Band-e-Mizan dam, the Pergola Tower (Borj-e-Kolah-Farangi), Pol Band Gargar, Salasal Castle, Darion Canal, Band-e-Khak and Pol-e-Band Lashkar are some of the most famous elements of this huge structural system. The way that all these elements worked in a harmony for specific purposes is just stunning.
It’s noteworthy that the Shadrovan Grand Weir is one of the important elements of this hydraulic system that has been universally admired alongside the Gar Gar Canal which is an artificial watercourse that played a vital role in constructing a new town. Not to mention that constructing the Gar Gar Canal was a genius way to irrigate a half desert plain in the area.
It’s wonderful how a diverse range of technologies have been used for making this complete and advanced complex. The approaches that have been used for the construction of the Canals of Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System were inspired by the techniques earlier invented by the civilizations of Elamites, Mesopotamians, Nabatis and the methods used for building the structures were inspired by Romans’ techniques.
Band-e-Mizan: A Sassanid Masterpiece
As explained earlier, Band-e-Mizan is one of the most important elements of the Hydraulic System of Shushtar. It contributed in irrigating 40000 Hectares of Mian-Ab Plain in Shushtar and divided the water of Karoon River between Shatit River and GarGar River.
Borj-e-Kolah Farangi: The Pergola Tower
Located near the Karoon River while overlooking Band-e-Mizan, the Pergola Tower is a 4 meter high structure with a rather ambiguous function. Some believe that it was a watchtower used by the Caesar of Rome or the Sassanid Shapour to observe the workers who were constructing the Band-e-Mizan. But others believe that this tower was a place to observe the quantity and the water flow of the river.
Darion and Dastkand GarGar River
The largest branch of Karoon River which was made by hands, GarGar and Darion River make for the two largest man-made rivers in the world. Interestingly, the name of Darion River is derived from the name of Darius the Great.
Salasal Castle: A Majestic Fortress
Salasal Castle was once a strong fortress to protect the city of Shushtar from the invasions of the enemies. This castle helped in controlling the flow of the Darion River and was the domicile of the ruler of Khouzestan. It’s not exactly known if the castle was constructed during the Achaemenid area or during the reign of the Sassanid dynasty. But it has been obviously restored several times.
Band-e-Gheysar: The Oldest Bridge in the Whole World
Band-e-Gheysar, also known as Shadravan Bridge, is the oldest bridge in the world. Undoubtedly it’s one of the historical attractions that must not be missed when visiting the magnificent Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System.
It’s a bridge with a length of 500 meters with 44 large openings and 43 small ones. Although only 9 openings on the north side and 28 openings on the south side have been remained throughout centuries, Shadravan is still a gorgeous bridge that is worth a visit.
It’s interesting to know that this bridge was constructed by Roman engineers and Ferdowsi – the Great poet of the most celebrated Persian Epic “Shahnameh” – has mentioned the construction of this bridge by Romans in his poems.
Interested in Persian Poetry? Click here.
Band-e-Lashgar Bridge was built over the Raghat River next to one of the historical gates of Shushtar. It dates back to the Sassanid era and was made with stones, sands and cement. It is 124 meters long and 8.5 meters high. If you have enough time while visiting the Shushtar Hydraulic system complex, pay a visit to this historical bridge.
How does it work?
Let’s have a look at the way this historical engineering masterpiece uses techniques to have several functions. This irrigation system diverts the river which flows down mountains by the help of its many canals. In fact, the canals make it possible for the water to flow across southern plains and be used for farms and gardens. This irrigation system in Shushtar provided the main water supply of the area for over thousands of years.
In fact, Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is a testimony to the prominent role of hydraulic technology in forming ancient towns in arid areas. Diverting the track of rivers, using large civil engineering structures and canals made life possible in some of the most arid areas of Iran as a vast country.
Interested in visiting Shushtar?
If you are interested in visiting Shushtar and its remarkable irrigation system, we suggest you to opt for a tour that also includes visiting the astonishing Tchogha Zanbil. Another Iranian heritage added to the list of UNESCO, Tchogha Zanbil is located in a place very close to Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System. For more information about our tours and itineraries, contact us at Land of Turquoise Domes.