What is the contribution of Persian civilization

Masterpieces of technical ability

Eleven canal systems, so-called “qanats”, consisting of a spring and underground canals and associated infrastructure, now form a serial world heritage site in Iran. As an exceptional example of a traditional technological ensemble that is still used and promoted today, the cultural heritage site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the 40th World Heritage Committee meeting.

While the origins of the emergence of this type of technological infrastructure in the Middle East are not fully understood historically, it is undisputed that the qanat system has developed since the Assyrian Empire between 1,400 and 550 BC. In Iran and developed further in all subsequent epochs. It is also considered certain that only this system of water supply made it possible to use and develop the very dry regions in Iran, especially the Iranian high plateau (criterion iii).

About 37,000 qanat systems still exist in Iran today. The eleven canals recognized as components of the World Heritage Site with their respective sources and structures illustrate the diversity of the techniques used and the variance of the canal systems in terms of geographical distribution, length and time of origin. Some of the structures are also of particular importance due to their connection with certain rituals or religious currents, as in the case of the Qanat Ebrahim Abad and Mozd Abad.

Extract from the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, 2016

"The vital role of the qanat in the formation of various civilizations is so expansive that the basis of civilization in the desert plateau of Iran has been called‘ Qanat (or Kariz) Civilization ’."

"The vital role of the qanat in the formation of various civilizations is so great that the foundation of civilization in the desert plateau of Iran has been called 'Qanat (or Kariz) Civilization'."

A qanat basically consists of a horizontal tunnel through which an underground water source is tapped. A gradual incline of the tunnel enables the water to flow to the so-called mazhar, the exit of the tunnel, from which further, now above-ground canals ensure the water supply for the fields. The underground part of the sewer system has vertical shafts over its entire length, which are used for ventilation and maintenance measures. A large number of the individual canal systems include other structures such as accommodation and work areas for the technicians, water mills and public and private baths.

The calculation and planning of the length and slope of the canals is based on traditional methods that have been passed down from generation to generation over centuries. The management of the canals - especially the distribution of water among farmers and users in general - is the responsibility of local committees. This management system has been preserved to this day (criterion iv).

Common regional heritage

The irrigation of dry areas, which makes agricultural production possible in the first place, has always been a challenge not only in Iran. In other states and areas in the Middle East and on the Arabian Peninsula, canal systems similar to the Persian have been set up to keep human life in the To allow arid areas. This is also reflected in the existence of other World Heritage sites, which - although they all represent or are related to similar irrigation systems - each have their own specific characteristics that justify their extraordinary universal value.

It is assumed that there are around 50,000 Qanat systems still in existence, spread over 40 countries. Of particular value are the five qanat, which were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006 as the Aflaj irrigation system of Oman. Qanat systems also form part of the “Land of Olives and Wine” World Heritage Sites - the cultural landscape of South Jerusalem, Battir in Palestine, the Serra de Tramuntana cultural landscape in Mallorca and the cultural sites of Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.

Portrait series

At the 40th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Istanbul in July 2016, 21 new sites were added to the World Heritage List. In their entirety, they symbolize the diversity and breadth of the common heritage of mankind, the preservation and care of which the international community of states committed itself to in 1972 with the "Convention for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of the World".

Portrait series

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