Introduction to Qanat
Water has played a vital role in human life, so substantial measures have been taken to achieve such an essential element throughout history, one of which has been digging aqueducts. Qanat or Kariz means canal and water passage. Qanats are underground passages that are used to direct and collect water to the ground. Aqueducts consisting of several vertical wells are dug on a sloping surface, connected in the basement by a corridor with a gentler slope than the ground surface, attaching the underground channel or furnace to the ground at regular intervals. The beginning of the Qanat is its opening, which is called the manifestation of the aqueduct. Water comes out of the aqueduct’s heart and is used for irrigation and other purposes. The first well of the aqueduct, the farthest well from the manifestation, is called the mother well.
Persians in the past were indebted to nature for their lives, they planted trees and did not pollute clean water. After the heart of the earth, they extracted clean water by creating amazing aqueduct architecture. They spent their time drinking and cultivating dry-lands. The civilization and permanence of many central regions and the outskirts of Persia desert throughout history are due to aqueducts. Aqueduct construction technology expanded in the arid and desert regions of Persia in hundreds of years, allowing farmers in these areas to farm in long periods of drought where surface water was not available.
In hot and dry areas, other parts of the world, such as Australia, are devoid of life, but in Persia there are not only many cities and villages, but also agricultural products in hot and dry areas, including fruits, vegetables, and oilseeds. These aqueducts gradually became popular in other parts of the world, which many aqueducts are scattered from China to Morocco and even in the Americas.
History of Qanat
Many scholars attribute the history of aqueduct excavation to the Achaemenid period. They believe that the exploitation of the aqueduct was first done in Persia, it was later transferred to many countries and was used by other people in the world. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a French-British tourist named Jean Chardin wrote: “The Persians were not only able to find the exact location of water, but also to transfer water from a distance of 60 km. Or sometimes more.
Qanats have a history of thousands of years in Persia. The ancient technology of the Persian aqueduct has prospered the lives of the people of the Persian plateau and created worldly paradises on the outskirts of the arid central deserts. Excavations in 2014 uncovered traces of aqueducts near the Seymareh Dam in Ilam Province, dating back to the thousands of years B.C. In present-day Oman, an aqueduct from the heart of history, was discovered, and Sargon II named an aqueduct in his attack on Lake Urmia in the early seventh century BC, and even in 2003 a subterranean aqueduct was discovered after the Bam earthquake.
It is more than 2,000 years old and was excavated in the late Achaemenid period. Gonabad Qasbeh aqueduct, which is still active, was built during the Achaemenid period, and from the Achaemenid period onwards, the use of aqueducts became very common. Herodotus also mentions their agricultural activities during the rise of the Achaemenids.
Caries Influence in Persian Life and Architecture
The aqueduct, also known as the Caries, is an underground canal that delivers water from the depths of the earth or the head of a water source called the “Mother of the Well” by various waterways to bring agriculture and drinking water to the surface. Many famous Persian gardens have been created due to aqueducts, and many cities and villages in the country have been formed around the axis of aqueducts. Persian aqueducts are cleaned every year, which is why aqueducts can have thousands of years of discharge, and there are aqueducts in Persia that are more than 2,000 years old, while the famous Roman drainage systems are all ancient artifacts.
Scientists in the field of the water industry have considered Persia as the main source of aqueducts and have announced that other countries in Africa and other parts of the world have gradually learned from the Persians. There are about 40,000 aqueducts in Persia that are of great historical value, and so far 11 of them have been inscribed on UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
Function of Qanat
Among cities, desert areas and cities on the edge of the desert have been given priority for the construction of aqueducts. Yazd aqueducts are the most notable aqueducts in Persia. In cities, aqueduct water is also used to cool buildings. In houses, windbreaks were built on the aqueducts. Windbreaks circulate the air, and the air that passes through the Qanat water cools the room. The combination of windcatcher and running water of the Qanat can be seen in most traditional houses in the desert cities of Persia. In desert cities, the aqueduct passes through a height of about a few meters underground, and in the city alleys, stairs were built from the ground to the reservoir to allow water access to all inhabitants.
These underground accesses provide a chill space for people in the area to escape the scorching heat of summer. Yazd is a historic city in the heart of Iran with a warm and desert climate. The location in the middle of the desert plain has made the city a superb example of unique desert architecture with elements such as aqueducts, windbreaks, glaciers, water reservoirs, introverted houses, mosques, and special Tekiehs.
Name of the Persian Qanat
The original word of Qanat is considered to be the Avestan word Ka-Yeone, which means the place where the springs flow. The origin of the word aqueduct is considered to be two Avestan words, namely “kana-tiya” or “kana-tiya”; these two words mean a hidden reservoir or hidden spring. The meaning of the other name of the aqueduct, namely Kariz, is a small spring, which does not mean that the name of the aqueduct is hidden. In Persian literature, these aqueducts have been mentioned many times.
Comments of Foreigners For Persia Aqueducts
In the second century BC, the Greek Polybius mentioned an aqueduct in one of the deserts of Persia, where the Persians mysteriously brought water to the surface. In his book, Vitruvius technically explains the construction of Persian aqueducts. At the request of Abdullah bin Tahir Khorasani, a group of writers wrote the book Qoni in the eighth lunar century, in which they explained the construction of the aqueduct. In 1010 AD, Hassan ibn Haseb described the method of making and maintaining aqueducts in a book on the extraction of hidden waters.
Qanat of Yazd
Yazd aqueducts are one of the most significant Qanats in the country, which has brought life to the heart of the central desert of Iran. Life was not possible without Qanats in many cities of the region, but with such an ancient innovation, Persians in these areas even export agricultural products to other places.
Located 30 km southwest of Yazd, the aqueduct consists of six series of aqueducts named Rais al-Dini, Mirzaei, Vaqfabad, Khajeh Ghiasi, Roshanabad, and Nahrkheli that are in valleys with a width of approximately 1.5 meters. These aqueducts water reaches the city of Yazd and the settlements of Ahrestan, Eyshabad, and Kheyr Abad. Also, these Qanats meet near the Islamieh village and are directed to Taft in the joint underground canal called Shahjuy. After passing Taft, they go to Yazd and enter a divider in the Khan garden. The mother well’s depth of these aqueducts is between 28 and 68 meters. The aqueduct used to run 17 water mills (a machine used to chop wheat and other grains and to make flour, using the technique of water velocity or water pressure) along its route. Also, these six aqueducts are still active.
Ardestan Moon Aqueduct
Moon 800-year-old Qanat, the only two-story aqueduct in the world, is one of the unique architectural structures in ancient Persia. There is an independent water flow on each floor; the water in the upper aqueduct and the lower aqueduct water move on top of each other without penetrating each other. The water of the upper aqueduct is sweeter and lighter, usually used for drinking. The water of the below aqueduct has heavier water, warmer, and with more salts. The mother well of the aqueduct (Qanat) is a twin well and is 31 meters deep. The primary rods were dug in the Mahal neighborhood located in the south of Ardestan city, extending to the northwest.
Dolat Abad Aqueduct
Like the Dolat Abad Garden, the Qanat is one of the relics of Mohammad Taghi Khan Yazdi in the 11th century, which included nine strings with a total length of 70 km in the distant past. The mother well of the Dolat Abad Qanat or Aqueduct with a depth of 30 meters is in the Madvar neighborhood of Mehriz, Yazd. The unique feature of the mother well is that water flows through its rocks. The nourishment source for the aqueduct is these boiling stones known as the boiling pool. You can reach the bottom of the mother well through a staircase.
Hassan Abad Qanat
Yazd’s Hassan Abad aqueduct is located in the Pahlavan pour Garden in Mehriz, Yazd, and dates back to the Middle-Ages, the eighth century. It is annually in Shirkuh, which reaches 200 liters per second in spring and rainy years, and this aqueduct on its way has led to the prosperity of agriculture for 6,000 farmers in some villages of Yazd. Also near Hassan Abad Qanat, Mirza Nasra water mill. It is said to be a world record holder and has created a good tourist attraction.
Zarch Aqueduct in Yazd is one of the oldest known aqueducts in the world, also known as the longest aqueduct. This aqueduct is about 100 km long; According to studies, it is more than 3,000 years old and dates back to before Islam. The aqueduct starts from Fahraj village, passes through Khavidak, Dehno, and Akramieh villages, and after passing through various neighborhoods of Yazd such as Amirchakhmaq Square and Yazd Grand Mosque, it leaves the city, continuing its route to Zarch. Some of the aqueduct bars have been found in the Yazd Grand Mosque; The Grand Mosque was built in the aqueduct’s area after the arrival of Islam in Persia.
Worshipers can also use the Payabs (Payab was a part of the structure giving easy water access of aqueducts to residents) to perform ablution. The Payab is still available to use. Other features of the aqueduct include the square cross-section of its wells. Other Qanats have an elliptical or circular cross-section; This feature shows that the aqueduct dates back to pre-Islamic times. Another unique point about the Zarch Qanat in Yazd is more than 2115 wells among it, which is unparalleled not only in Iran but also in the world.
Zarch Qanat Outflow
Until half a century ago, the outflow of the Zarch aqueduct (Qanat) was more than 150 liters per second, but due to the improper digging of deep and semi-deep wells in the aqueduct’s water area, its release has drastically decreased. The manifestation of the aqueduct is located in the city of Zarch and has three separate branches or underground tunnels called Shirin (Sweet), Shoor (saline), and Ebrahim Khavidaki branches.
The saline branch of the Zarch aqueduct passes through the tributary of the Yazd Grand Mosque. The tributary consists of 60 steps that extend to the aqueduct. The reason for the salinity of this branch’s water is that the mother well is located in the saltwater region, and its water has a lower quality than the other two branches; in the local phrase, it is Lab Shoor (Saline edge). Of course, the two branches of Shirin and Ebrahim Khavidaki are the dried branches of the Zarch aqueduct, and now only the Shoor branch with a length of 72 km has water.
Zarch Qanat Owner
The current owners of the Zarch aqueduct are ten people; they use the water for agriculture. Unfortunately, with the development of Yazd Province, activities such as construction in the Qanat area, falling roofs, walls, and wells’ bars of the Qanat caused the quality and quantity of water to decrease. Efforts are being made today to prevent contamination, drying, and erosion. The Zarch aqueduct was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016, along with several others.
Ebrahim Abad Arak Qanat
Ebrahim Abad Arak Qanat, which is one of the oldest Qanats in the country, was built in the sixth and seventh years of AH, and the existence of a hill during the Parthian period and the history of the villages around this Qanat indicate the high antiquity of Ebrahim Abad Qanat. The mother well of this Qanat , which is more than 2 meters long and for this reason, has caused it to be among the most complex Qanats in Persia and is located in the heights of the “Seventy Peaks” mountain.
The Ebrahim Abad Qanat, which is about 350 feet long, consists of a main string consisting of about three rings and two sub-strings, the sub-strings of which are located in the area with the letters Rona and Qoshd. Also, this conical Qanat has played an important role in supplying the management of water resources needed for agriculture and drinking in the village of Ebrahim Abad, and the system’s direct impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods, has made it a valuable and living element. This is the only UNESCO World Heritage in Markazi Province.
Gonabad Qasbeh Aqueduct
Gonabad Qasbeh Qanat or Gonabad canal, which is also called Kariz Kaykhosro by some, is a mysterious Qanat that is known as the largest and oldest Qanat in the world. This Qanat is located in Gonabad city in Khorasan Razavi province and is 2500 to 2700 years old. Gonabad Qanat has 2 main branches and 6 sub-branches and its length is 33 km and the depth of the main well is about 300 km. However, many stories are told about the formation of this Qanat throughout history, which is due to the inability to justify how water system and Qanat architecture.
Some insiders believe that in ancient times, a person named Taher Abshnashen ordered demons to dig a well and flow water from the top to the bottom. The canal is still standing and supplies water to Gonabad, and even major earthquakes have so far not harmed it. Gonabad Qasbeh Qanat has a very spectacular museum which is one of the tourist attractions of Gonabad city and this unique complex attracts many tourists every year.
Jupar Johar Qanat in Kerman
There are 22 Qanats in the Jupar region, of which the Gohariz Qanat is one of the oldest and most active. The length of this Qanat is 3,500 meters, which has 6 main strings and irrigates about 330 hectares of agricultural land around it. Gohariz, one of the oldest and longest Qanats in Persia, which provides the water needed for drinking and agriculture of the people of Jupar and the surrounding areas, and this Qanat is of great religious value among the residents and is highly respected.
Mazd Abad Meimeh Qanat
Another Persian masterpiece Qanat is Mazd Abad Qanat. This Qanat is really in the city of Meimeh in Isfahan province. Mazd Abad Qanat is the only two-story Qanat in Persia and the world that has a length of 18 km in which cold and hot water flows simultaneously. The excavation of the Mazd Abad Qanat took place in ancient times, in which an underground dam was also built. A dam that acts as an underground reservoir in low rainfall seasons to allow large amounts of water to be removed. There are three aqueducts in Isfahan province, the longest of which is one of the oldest aqueducts in the UNESCO Eleven List.
Qasem Abad and Akbar Abad twin Qanat in Bam
The twin Qanat of Qasem Abad and Akbar Abad are among the most water-filled aqueducts in Persia. The fact that they are twins and full of water led them to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Qasem Abad and Akbar Abad Qanats are located in Bam city in Kerman province. Qasem Abad Qanat is 2300 meters long and the Akbar Abad Qanat is 1100 meters long. These two Qanat have a great role in the agricultural development of this region and irrigation of palm orchards so that Qasem Abad Qanat irrigates 100 hectares of land and Akbar Abad Qanat irrigates 16 hectares of land. It is recommended to visit these intended aqueducts next to visiting the charming citadel of Bam.
Qasem Abad Fasa Qanat
Qasem Abad Fasa Qanat in Fars province is also one of the other important aqueducts in Persia that was registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The aqueduct, which is one of the country’s most abundant aqueducts, irrigates 250 hectares of agricultural land. The length of the aqueduct is one kilometer and the depth of its motherland is 20 meters. Understand the natural and historical values of the Qasem Abad aqueduct.
“Vazvan” Qanat is located in the city of Vazvan, Isfahan province, and the history of digging this aqueduct dates back to 3,000 years ago and is 35 km long. It is considered that groundwater was stored in winter and the aqueduct acts as an underground dam to control groundwater and water management and retains a large amount of groundwater, which is the result of this architecture. Having underground dams made its way to the UNESCO list.
The Persian Qanat, As a UNESCO World Heritage
Persian aqueduct is a life-giving and at the same time environmentally friendly technology that was registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016 at the UNESCO International Conference in Istanbul, as the twentieth work of Persia. It is from 200 to 2500 years.
UNESCO World Heritage Criteria of the Persian Qanat
Criterion (iii): The Persian aqueduct system is a unique indication of the traditional method of water supply in arid and desert areas. The technology of creating aqueducts has influenced the formation of many civilizations. The greater importance of the Persian aqueduct is reflected in the wider desert areas of the central plateau of Persia, and such civilizations are called the aqueduct civilization. The distribution of early cities in alluvial areas within the Persian desert plateau is clearly commensurate with the distribution of aqueducts in the region. The Persian aqueduct system also shows how social water management is in desert areas.
Criterion (iv): The Persian aqueduct system is an example of technological advances in the stages of human adaptation to living in arid and semi-arid regions. The discovery and transfer of water from remote areas has been based on complex calculations and unique architecture, in which the earth’s gravity has been the most important factor, and the transmission system has reached its fullest state over the centuries. The subterranean aqueduct system not only made living and farming in arid areas possible, but also provided a special desert architecture. This desert architecture has various elements that include aqueducts, structures such as water reservoirs, mills, water supply systems, and gardens.