Category Archives: IRAN

The Yakhchāl: 2,400-Year-old Persian “refrigerator” that stored food in the desert

The Yakhchāl: 2,400-Year-old Persian “refrigerator” that stored food in the desert

Looking up inside a Yakhchal

The refrigerator is one of the most indispensable appliances of modern life. it’s almost unthinkable that a person can live with one or least have other means to keep their food refrigerated. so, imagine what if life was like during ancient times when electricity was still unheard of.

Ancients were wiser than some today belief. They had no rockets or electronics, no indisputable proof of such inventions was discovered, but they developed the technology that we don’t usually associate with the ancient world.

The yakhchal (meaning ice pit) was a type of ancient refrigerator built in the deserts of Persia (now Iran), which was made without electricity, modern coolants, or most elements of modern refrigerators. It demonstrates the ability of humans to find solutions to problems with any materials or technology they have available.

This approach to making refrigerators was mastered by Persian engineers around 400 B.C., though it is possible that people were making them before that.

Yakhchals are fairly simple to make so that even those who were relatively poor could afford them. Most yakhchals were domed structures with an underground square-shaped containment area.

Yakhchal in Yazd, Iran

After the containment area was dug and the dome was erected, a type of mortar made from clay, sand, ash, goat hair, and lime called sarooj was used to make it waterproof.

The collection area for the water needed to be deep enough to keep cool and the material out of which the yakhchal was made needed to be enough of an insulator to keep out heat.

Water was brought to the yakhchal either by directly transporting ice from nearby mountains or diverting water from an aqueduct into the yakhchal using underground water channels called qanats.

Adjacent to some yakhchals, an east-west oriented wall would be built on the south side of the refrigerator and water would be brought into the yakhchal from the north side of the wall. The reason for this was to keep the water cool during the middle of the day as it entered the yakhchal.

Another device used to keep the yakhchal cool is a badgir, a type of wind-catching mechanism which would catch the breeze and divert it down into the yakhchal.

As the air descended, it would be cooled by the ice as well as the cool air accompanying the water in the qanat. Alternatively, the badgir could be used to cause warm air to rise and cool air to replace it. This mechanism is still used in many desert towns in modern Iran.

A diagram showing how the yakhchal kept the inside refrigerated

Once in the yakhchal, the water would freeze overnight. This process could be expedited through having ice, transported from the mountains, already present in the yakhchal to act as a seed.

Once the water was frozen, it would be cut up into blocks so that the water could be easily transported out of the yakhchal for drinking and other purposes. In addition to storing drinking water, the yakhchal was also used to keep food such as fruit, dairy products, and probably meat cool so that it would last longer.

Many Yakhchals in Iran, Afghanistan, and other parts of west and central Asia are still standing even after thousands of years. They represent the remnants of ancient Persia and are a part of the cultural heritage of Iran.

A yakhchal in the Dasht-e-Kavir desert, Iran

In addition to being historically interesting, yakhchals have also been suggested as an inexpensive and sustainable way for modern Iranians and other central Asian communities to have refrigeration without requiring the use of electricity.

Theoretically, the process used to make yakhchals could also be replicated and used in other regions with climates similar to desert areas in Iran and Central Asia such as the American Southwest or parts of northwestern China. In this way, the revival of ancient technology could help modern people around the world live more sustainably and still have modern conveniences, specifically refrigeration.

Modern westerners tend to assume that conveniences like refrigeration require advanced technologies such as electricity and the ability to produce powerful coolant chemicals, but it turns out that refrigeration can be produced using surprisingly simple methods.

Inside ice house, Meybod Iran
Ancient Persian Air Conditioning

2,000-Year-Old Burials Uncovered in Iran

2,000-Year-Old Burials Uncovered in Iran

At the ancient Tepe Ashraf in Isfahan, a team of Iranian archeologists found what they call the second Parthian era skeleton (247 BC – 224 CE) hoping to offer new insights on the history of the central Iranian city.

Led by senior archeologist Alireza Jafari-Zand, the team uncovered the remains of the first ‘Parthian lady’ last month in a place they believe is likely to be an ancient cemetery.

“At a distance of 10 meters from the body of [the first] Parthian lady, we found the burial [place] of a teenage girl. She is buried in the form of an open arch and on the ground.

Skeleton of another ‘Parthian lady’ discovered in Isfahan

Evidence shows that the body belonged to a teenager of about 12 to 13 years old with a height of about 160, but unfortunately the skeleton is damaged due to high humidity,” Jafari-Zand said on Tuesday.

Talking about the new discovery, he explained “It is clear from the burial that the tomb was designed [based on a special ritual]. Next to this corpse, there was a platform on which the remains of a large broken jar and a part of a horse’s spinal cord were placed.”

However, he proposed a hypothesis that the tombs were probably opened in very distant history, IRNA reported.

“Around the burial of this teenaged Parthian girl, a stone hedge was erected and a platform was set up. Remnants of this type of platform had already been found in the Parthian lady’s grave and a blue-colored jug was placed on it.

The archaeologist believes that due to the confusion of architectural evidence and objects of these two tombs, the tombs were probably opened in very distant history,’ he explained.

Earlier this year, an ancient burial containing the remains of a horse — estimated to be four years old was found near a place where a giant jar-tomb was unearthed weeks ago, which researchers believe could shed new light on ancient human life in Isfahan.

“Tepe Ashraf is the second place after the Tepe Sialk (in Isfahan province) that has yielded the discovery of such jar tombs that offers valuable clues to uncover the obscure history of pre-Islamic Isfahan,” according to the archaeologist.

Excavations at Tepe Ashraf initially began in 2010 when Jafari-Zand announced his team found evidence at the site suggesting that the Sassanid site had also been used during the Buyid dynasty (945–1055).

“We stumbled upon a reconstructed part in the ruins of the castle, which suggests that the structure had been used during the Buyid dynasty.”

The Parthian Empire (247 BC – 224 CE), also known as the Arsacid Empire, was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran.

The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed Persian, Hellenistic, and regional cultures.

At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to eastern Iran.

Ancient 3,000-Year-Old Underground Irrigation Canals Invented By People Of Persia

Ancient 3,000-Year-Old Underground Irrigation Canals Invented By People Of Persia

The well-known Persian irrigation tunnels are considered one of the oldest technological wonders in the world and are part of the Unesco World Heritage List. The Persian Qanats named two years ago to Unesco’s World Heritage List, are one of the oldest engineering wonders worldwide.

These 3,000-year-old ingenious channels still provide a reliable water supply to some of Iran’s most arid regions, consisting of an old system of underground water sources.

Qanats began in the Iron Age when surveyors discovered that a source of water at the head of a river valley could be redirected to create tunnels that would bring the stream to where water was wanted, ultimately opening on ground level into an oasis.

Today, the qanats are known by the holes, created as air shafts to release dust and bring oxygen to workers digging the tunnels by hand, which can still be witnessed above ground.

An integral part of Iran

Iranian filmmaker Komeil Soheili has documented the Persian qanats for National Geographic. He told the publication, he believes they are an “integral part” of the landscape of his Iranian native province.

“The diversity of landscapes and cultures [in Iran] is something that’s not well understood by the world. One of the oldest civilizations in the world came from this amazing creation,” he said.

The eleven Persian qanats that constitute this impressive elaborate and orderly system also include rest areas, water reservoirs, and watermills. Building this network, however, was no easy feat.

Each qanat construction requires great precision as the angles of the tunnels’ slopes need to be at just the right degree to ensure water flows freely but not forcefully enough to aggravate erosion and collapse the tunnel. To this day, the somewhat fragile system still requires yearly maintenance and can easily fall into disrepair.

In the 1960s and 1970s, an administrative tangle saw damage come to many qanats as a result of the breakdown of their traditionally imposed communal management system. Soheili said this breach was partially due to the disappearance of communities’ reliance on the tunnels.

“People don’t depend on qanats anymore, as it was before,” he explained. Today, the underground channels are more of a “hobby” since working in the system no longer provides financial sustenance.

Vibrant lavish civilizations

Their historical and cultural impact, however, can not be denied. The irrigation tunnels were responsible for allowing civilizations and agriculture to bloom in a harsh and arid desert hostile to both.

Perhaps their most substantial effect can be witnessed in the history of the city of Persepolis located in the Fars province of south-west Iran.

The metropolis built by the Achaemenid Persians in a dry desolate and unforgiving area became one of the most vibrant cultured cities in the world still revered today for its unique palaces equipped with lavish gardens that bloomed with unparalleled beauty. 

The qanat technology also spread as far as Morocco and Spain proving its ubiquitous usefulness and appeal.

This is partially due to the fact that the system also helps lower indoor temperatures which meant it was often used as an ancient method of air conditioning and refrigeration. Talk about innovation!

Sandstorm in Iran unearthed an ancient city

Sandstorm in Iran unearthed an ancient city

A new sandstorm in Iran has uncovered a number of ruins that have been thought to be in the old city or necropolis. Initial analyses suggest it dates back to the early Islamic Middle Ages (661-1508 AD), but it could also be much older or even more recent. Iranian authorities are taking no chances as armed military guards are keeping the site safe from looters.

The Mohammad Vafaei of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and the Tourism Organization said in the Tehran Times, “A team of archaeologists was sent to Fahrraj to determine whether the site was a necropolis or an inhabitance.”

The CHHTO archaeologists will examine the site’s artifacts and survey the ruins of the structures to get a better idea of the age of the complex. It measures about 5,000 square meters (53,820 square feet).

Archaeologists are examining a possible historic site in an arid area of Iran that was exposed by sandstorms in late March. The team is doing surveys, excavating structures, and examining earthenware vessels.

After initial examination members of the team have refused to speculate about how old the site may be, says the Financial Tribune of Iran.

The sandstorm struck in late March, exposing ancient ruins and broken earthenware and adobe, according to the governor of Fahraj in Kerman Province, Nejad Khaleqi.

Mr. Vafaei demurred, saying, “One cannot claim that an area is historical as soon as several objects appear from under the ground after storms and floods since they might have been carried from other regions by water or storm.”

Tentative conclusions are being drawn, however, as Hamid Rouhi, the deputy chief of the provincial CHHTO estimated that the site dates from the Islamic Middle Ages of 661 to 1508 AD.

“It is the first time that such ruins have emerged so there is no precise data on their age and history,” Mr. Rouhi told the Financial Tribune. He said officials will release more information as soon as it is available.

The site does not appear to be rich in artifacts, but so far researchers have found earthenware and broken adobe along with some structures.

The CHHTO has called in the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism. They hope the site can be added to the National Heritage List after studies confirm its age, the Financial Times says.

It would not be unprecedented to find old sites in the Kerman area, as both Fahraj and Rigan have multiple ancient sites. New ones that were discovered with floods in the past few months are being excavated in Rigan and Negin Kavir.

Big, sprawling Kerman Province is something of a cultural melting pot, blending various regional cultures over the course of time. It is also home to rich tourist spots and historical sites including bazaars, mosques, caravanserais, and ruins of ancient urban areas.

The Islamic Middle Ages were termed the Islamic Golden Age because of Muslim scholars’ study, preserving and expanding knowledge in the areas of engineering, technology, geography, law, sciences, and medicine.

The scholars also explored the arts, poetry and literature, philosophy, economics, navigation, and sociology, says the site IslamicHistory.org.

From the mid-7th century through the mid-13th century, the Islamic World was the center of world learning and scientific development.

The Islamic Golden Age gave rise to countless inventions and innovations, while Islamic scholars were key to preserving the knowledge of the Greeks and other ancient civilizations.

The Abbasid Caliphate was heavily Persian-influenced and some of its greatest scholars were indeed Persians.

Archaeologists uncover a 5,000-year-old water system in Iran

Archaeologists uncover a 5,000-year-old water system in Iran

A 5000-year-old water system has been unearthed during the second season of a rescue excavation project at the Farash ancient historical site at the Seimareh Dam reservoir area in western Iran.

The pipeline of a 5000-year-old water system is seen in a trench dug by an archaeological team during a rescue excavation project on the beach of the Seimareh Dam

An archaeological team led by Leili Niakan has been carrying out a second season of rescue excavation since March after the Seimareh Dam came on stream, the Persian service of CHN reported on Monday.

The team plans to save ancients artifacts and gather information about the ancient sites, which are being submerged by the dam that became operational in early March.

This system, which comprises a small pool and an earthenware pipeline, was discovered on the eastern beach of the dam on the border between Ilam Province and Lorestan Province, Niakan said.

The archaeological team is now working hard to unearth the rest of the pipeline, which may lead archaeologists to its source. The aim is to recover as much as possible before it all goes underwater when the filling of the dam is complete.

Part of the water system has been submerged as the water level has risen. However, the team covered that part of the system beforehand to save it for more archaeological excavations while the dam is out of commission.

Each earthenware conduit measures about one meter in length and it is likely that they were made and baked in this region, Niakan stated.

The team is still working on the site to unearth the rest of the pipeline, which may lead the archaeologists to the source of the pipeline, she added.

An aerial photo of the Seimareh Dam region

Over 100 sites dating back to the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Copper Age, Stone Age, Parthian, Sassanid, and early Islamic periods were identified at the dam’s reservoir in 2007.

Afterwards, 40 archaeological teams from the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research (ICAR) were assigned to carry out Iran’s largest rescue excavation operation on the 40 ancient sites at the reservoirs of the dam in the first season.

Signs of the Mesopotamians’ influence in the region were also identified by studies carried out on the ancient strata at the reservoir.

Most of the sites have been flooded by the dam and the rest will go underwater after the filling of the dam is completed.

Horse Burial Discovered in Central Iran

Ancient horse remains discovered in central Iran

Archeologists found an ancient burial with the bones of a horse-estimated to be four years old-in Tepe Ashraf, the sole archaeological hill in Isfahan, central Iran.

The skeleton of the horse was discovered next to the place where a giant jar-tomb was unearthed last month, which researchers believe could shed new light on ancient human life in Isfahan.

“The burial of this horse with its head turned towards the animal’s body, shows an official burial which was practiced during the early years of the Parthian era (247 BC – 224 CE).

Ancient horse remains discovered in central Iran

In this type of burial, the animal’s body was buried next to its owner, who had died,” IRNA quoted senior archaeologist Alireza Jafari-Zand as saying on Tuesday.

Jafari-Zand, who heads the archaeological excavation at the hill, explained: “Evidence came to light from some Parthian cemeteries, being excavated in northern Iran, shows that the deceased’s horse was buried next to him, and this fully shows that we have the same burial [tradition] in Isfahan, the discovery of this type of burial in Ashraf hill is of high importance for the history of Isfahan because no such phenomenon has been reported in central Iran so far.”

“Tepe Ashraf is the second place after the Tepe Sialk (in Isfahan province) that has yielded the discovery of such jar tombs that offers valuable clues to uncover the obscure history of pre-Islamic Isfahan,” Jafari-Zand said.

Excavations at Tepe Ashraf initially began in 2010 when Jafari-Zand announced his team found evidence at the site suggesting that the Sassanid site had also been used during the Buyid dynasty (945–1055).

“We stumbled upon a reconstructed part in the ruins of the castle, which suggests that the structure had been used during the Buyid dynasty

“Isfahan is a city, which has never died over the history… and the old Isfahan is beneath the modern city. Thus, normally, archaeological excavation is impossible in the city,” according to Jafari-Zand who believes that the mount keeps a part of the history of Isfahan and Iran in its heart.

The mound has seriously been damaged on the northern side by the construction of a street. Besides, unscientific excavations carried out by several archaeology interns in 1987 disturbed the historical strata in a part of the site.

Soaked in a rich history, Isfahan was once a crossroads of international trade and diplomacy in Iran during the 16th and 17th centuries, and now it is one of Iran’s top tourist destinations for good reasons.

Isfahan is filled with architectural wonders such as unmatched Islamic buildings, bazaars, museums, Persian gardens, and tree-lined boulevards.

It’s a city for walking, getting lost in its mazing bazaars, dozing in beautiful gardens, and meeting people. It has long been nicknamed as Nesf-e-Jahan which is translated into “half of the world”, suggesting that seeing it is equivalent to seeing half of the world.

Giant Jar Burials Unearthed in Iran

Discovery of bizarre tomb offers clues to ancient life in Iran

Discovering the second giant jar grave on the historic Isfahan Hill has shed new light on ancient human life in the central Iranian city.

The discovery of the second giant jar-tomb in the sole historical hill of Isfahan has shed new light on ancient human life in the central Iranian city.

“Finding the second giant jar-tomb on the historical hill of Isfahan – ‘ Tepe Ashraf ‘ or ‘ Tappeh Ashraf ‘ – confirms a previous hypothesis of a Parthian period cemetery in the eastern part of the hill. Now, Tepe Ashraf is the second place after the Tepe Sialk (in Isfahan province) that has yielded the discovery of such jar tombs that offers valuable clues to uncover the obscure history of pre-Islamic Isfahan,” IRNA quoted senior archaeologist Alireza Jafari-Zand as saying on Friday.

Jafari-Zand, who heads the archaeological excavation at the hill, believes that the cemetery could be covering a large area, adding “When we discovered the first jar-shaped tomb, we assumed that we should reach other ones until yesterday (on June 20) we could discover another one of these tombs embedded in a giant earthen jar.”

The archaeologist is confident that further excavations will lead to the unearthing of other examples of this type of burial places, the report said.

“The discovery of the second jar-shaped burial place in the eastern part of Tepe Ashraf proves to the archaeological hill we may have encountered a Parthian cemetery.”

Over the past couple of days, the team has uncovered ancient stone well estimating to date back to the time of Sassanids.

Some clay works from Seljuk and Buyid dynasties have also been found while workers were digging the ground for water piping of the six-meter well.

Researchers say the square stone well is historically very valuable in terms of its physical shape and form. The well is dug among the rocks and is six meters deep.

“Excavations on Tepe Ashraf began in 2010 and lasted for six seasons. Now, with the operation to save the historical works of the two hills of Jey and Ashraf, important objects were found that could help us in the excavations of the seventh season.”

Jafari-Zand further noted that the pottery found in the projects is amazingly undamaged and they can help a lot to say the exact age of the ancient site of Ashraf and Jey. The artifacts found in this area belong mostly to pre-Islamic periods up to the 5th century AH, he reiterated.

According to this archaeologist, the only place where archaeological excavations have been carried out in Isfahan in the past was the Atigh Grand Mosque, where only two or three pieces from the Sassanid era had been identified, and the rest were from the Islamic period.

Back in 2010, Jafari-Zand announced that his team had found evidence at the site suggesting that the Sassanid site had also been used during the Buyid dynasty (945–1055). “We stumbled upon a reconstructed part in the ruins of the castle, which suggests that the structure had been used during the Buyid dynasty.”

“The bricks used in the rebuilt part are very similar to bricks used in the construction of the Shahrestan Bridge and the Isfahan Congregational Mosque, which date to the Buyid era,” he added.

The archaeologists believe that their excavations at the mound, which is located in the urban area of the city, will be helpful in the development of archaeological studies in the ancient city.

“Isfahan is a city, which has never died over the history… and the old Isfahan is beneath the modern city. Thus, normally, archaeological excavation is impossible in the city,” according to Jafari-Zand who believes that the mount keeps a part of the history of Isfahan and Iran in its heart.

The mound has seriously been damaged on the northern side by the construction of a street. Besides, unscientific excavations carried out by several archaeology interns in 1987 disturbed the historical strata in a part of the site.

Soaked in a rich history, Isfahan was once a crossroads of international trade and diplomacy in Iran during the 16th and 17th centuries, and now it is one of Iran’s top tourist destinations for good reasons. Isfahan is filled with architectural wonders such as unmatched Islamic buildings, bazaars, museums, Persian gardens, and tree-lined boulevards. It’s a city for walking, getting lost in its mazing bazaars, dozing in beautiful gardens, and meeting people.

It has long been nicknamed as Nesf-e-Jahan which is translated into “half the world”; meaning seeing it is relevant to see the whole world.

Excavation in Northern Iran Recovers Early Islamic Artifacts

Excavation in Northern Iran Recovers Early Islamic Artifacts

During an archeological excavation process that is currently being carried out in a century-long congregational mosque in Rasht, the capital of the Gilan province in northern Iran, historical artifacts have been discovered.

Saturday, the Deputy Provincial Tourism Chief Vali Jahani announced that “the excavations within the historic Saphi Mosque of Rasht had led to the discovery of items with historical values which appear to have been discovered below Islamic era tombs.

“A glass scent-bottle, a pottery handmade bowl, and other glassware are the objects. And the placement of these objects in the lower layers of Islamic-era tombs shows the importance of this historical area,” the official said, CHTN reported.

Excavations at Iranian mosque unearth new evidence on life in early Islamic era

Earlier this month, several ancient glazed tiles were unearthed beneath the mosque while a team of restorers was digging into its mihrab.

Mihrab is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that points out the qibla, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying.

Referring to a restoration project, which initially led to such discoveries in the mosque, the official explained “The restoration project has been temporarily suspended to leave the ground for archaeological surveys.”

“Given that the discovered objects will be very useful in the dating of the city of Rasht, so fragments of these works will be sent to advanced laboratories in the country to obtain the absolute antiquity of the objects, and dating will be conducted via the thermoluminescent approach.”

“According to the present evidence, these historical objects discovered from the Safi Mosque belong to the Ilkanind and Timurid periods,” he concluded.

In the month of Farvardin (Mach 20 – April 19) a trench measuring 1.5 m by 1.5 m was carved in the mosque’s shabestan (an underground space that can be usually found in the traditional architecture of mosques in ancient Iran), which resulted in recognizing some additional sections.

Safi Mosque, also known as Sefid and Shahidiyeh Mosque, which is widely considered as the oldest standing monuments in Rasht, was reportedly established before Shah Ismail, the Safavid monarch, assumed power (in 1501).