• Keywords: Iran, Cultural Landscape, Shushtar, Historical hydraulic system, Karoon River, Gargar canal, Mianab, Salasel Castle, damns, bridges, Elamite, Mesopotamian.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is in the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 2009, criteria: (i)(ii)(v), ref: 1315.

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape
1

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is an island city from the Sassanid era with a complex irrigation system, situated in Iran’s Khuzestan Province. It has been registered on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 2009, as Iran’s 10th cultural heritage site to be registered on the United Nation’s list. The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System demonstrates outstanding universal value as in its present form, it dates from the 3rd century CE, probably on older bases from the 5th century BCE. It is complete, with numerous functions, and large-scale, making it exceptional. The Shushtar system is a homogeneous hydraulic system, designed globally and completed in the 3rd century CE. It is as rich in its diversity of civil engineering structures and its constructions as in the diversity of its uses (urban water supply, mills, irrigation, river transport, and defensive system). The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System testifies to the heritage and the synthesis of earlier Elamite and Mesopotamian knowhow, it was probably influenced by the Petra dam and tunnel and by Roman civil engineering. The Shushtar hydraulic system, in its ensemble and most particularly the Shâdorvân Grand Weir (bridge-dam), has been considered a Wonder of the World not only by the Persians but also by the Arab-Muslims at the peak of their civilisation. The Gargar canal is a veritable artificial watercourse which made possible the construction of a new town and the irrigation of a vast plain, at the time semi-desert. The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System sits in an urban and rural landscape specific to the expression of its value. Med-O-Med considers the site an Associative Cultural Landscape (as well as “Qanats Cultural Landscape”), where the historical and cultural values linked to this hydraulic system are pointed ou

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, (Persian: سازه‌های آبی شوشتر‎).
  • Current denomination Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, (Persian: سازه‌های آبی شوشتر‎).
  • Original denomination Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, (Persian: سازه‌های آبی شوشتر‎).
  • Popular denomination Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, (Persian: سازه‌های آبی شوشتر‎).
  • Address: Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System: Iran's Khuzestan Province.
  • Geographical coordinates: N 32 1 7 E 48 50 9
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is an island city situated in Iran's Khuzestan Province. UNESCO's Property : 240 ha Buffer zone: 1,572 ha
Get directionsExport as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen mode
SHUSHTAR HISTORICAL HYDRAULIC SYSTEM (IRAN)

loading map - please wait...

SHUSHTAR HISTORICAL HYDRAULIC SYSTEM (IRAN) 32.018611, 48.835833 SHUSHTAR HISTORICAL HYDRAULIC SYSTEM (IRAN) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

  • Owner: Iranian Government.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Iranian Government.
  • Legal protection: Management and protection requirements (UNESCO): The components of the management plan are satisfactory, but they need to be improved in terms of the interpretation of the sites and the involvement of the local population.

4. HISTORY

While the Shushtar water system may have its roots in the Achaemenid times (such as the construction of the artificial Daryoon Canal), however, much of its renovation and expansion was done by the Sassanids. The Gheysar dam was built during Shapur the First’s time in order to regulate the water flow into 6 equal portions. Much of the construction was done by Roman soldiers captured by Shapur following battle with the Roman Emperor Valerian. Another artificial water way in place is the Gargan Canal that branches off of Karoon and after approximately 80 kilometers rejoins it. Along Gargan’s path it enters many tunnels and feeds adjoining watermills. While the Sassanids have been credited with its creation, however, the many Ashkani artifacts in its vicinity hints at an even older origin. The Salasel Castle was used up until the Qajar Era as the main headquarter for managing and supervising the smooth running of the hydraulic system along this way.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Other
  • Geography: High Mountain
  • Site topography: Natural
Water resources:
Of course the main attraction of the water system is its waterfalls. As a result of the dam on the Gargan waterway, the water level significantly rises and subsequently enters three manmade canals carved through the rocky surroundings. Once inside the canals, water is branched off in many directions and ultimately ends up feeding the watermills before exiting on the other side and pouring down into the water pools. There were approximately 40 watermills constructed in the general area of the water falls although many of them have been destroyed with the passing of time and lack of maintenance.
Land uses and economical activities:
Agricultural. Tourism.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:
The system forms a cliff from which water cascades into a downstream basin and enters south of the city enabling the people of Shushtar to plant orchards and create farms over an area of 40,000 hectares.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

The Shushtar hydraulic system is located in Shushtar and dates back to the time of the Achaemenid king Darius the Great in the 5th century BCE. It is a spectacular complex of rivers, waterways, dams, waterfalls and canals. It involves two main diversion canals on the Karoon River one of which, the Gargar canal, is still in use providing water to the city of Shushtar via a series of tunnels that supply water to mills. Also known as Mianab, the site includes the Salasel Castle, damns, bridges, basins and mills, the operation centre of the hydraulic system as well as the tower where the water level is measured.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

See point 5.2.4.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
Man-made elements related to water management:
(Also see point 5.1.5) The site includes the Salasel Castle, damns, bridges, basins and mills, the operation centre of the hydraulic system as well as the tower where the water level is measured. The Band-e Kaisar ("Caesar's dam"), an approximately 500 m long Roman weir across the Karun, was the key structure of the complex which, along with the Band-i-Mizan, retained and diverted river water into the irrigation canals in the area. Built by a Roman workforce in the 3rd century AD on Sassanid order, it was the most eastern Roman bridge and Roman dam and the first structure in Iran to combine a bridge with a dam. Parts of the irrigation system are said to originally date to the time of Darius the Great, an Achaemenian king of Iran. It partly consists of a pair of primary diversion canals in the Karun river, one of which is still in use today. It delivers water to the Shushtar city via a route of supplying tunnels. The area includes Selastel Castel, which is the axis for operation of the hydraulic system. It also consists of a tower for water level measurement, along with bridges, dams, mills, and basins. Then it enters the plain south from the city, where its impact includes enabling the possibility of farming over the area called Mianâb and planting orchards. In fact the whole area between the two diversion canals (Shutayt and Gargar) on Karun river is called Mianâb, an island having the Shushtar city at its northern end. The site has been referred to as "a masterpiece of creative genius" by UNESCO.
Domestic, industrial ensembles, energy related systems:

There were approximately 40 watermills constructed in the general area of the water falls although many of them have been destroyed with the passing of time and lack of maintenance. Nevertheless much use has been made of the remaining mills. In 1933 on the northern side of the area, an electric company was founded fully utilizing the existing system. Also in 1955 on the west end, an ice factory was built. Today, the system has been replaced by several dams built in accordance with modern technological methods. As with the old system, these have served the purpose of controlling the river and storing its waters for irrigation, as well as the production of electricity today.

B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    See point 5.2.4.

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: Archaeological remains. Hydraulic system.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Languages and dialects: Persian

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
Today, the system has been replaced by several dams built in accordance with modern technological methods. As with the old system, these have served the purpose of controlling the river and storing its waters for irrigation, as well as the production of electricity today.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

The hydraulic system: its tunnels, canals, the Salasel Castle, damns, bridges, basins, etc.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
  • Architectonical
  • Ethnological
  • Living heritage
The main tangible values of "The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System" are: -Aesthetic: The waterfalls presented visitors a beautiful unique landscape, enjoying a water engineering technology rare for that point in history. -Archaeological/ Architectonical: The Shushtar hydraulic system, in its ensemble and most particularly the Shâdorvân Grand Weir (bridge-dam), has been considered a Wonder of the World not only by the Persians but also by the Arab-Muslims at the peak of their civilisation. The Gargar canal is a veritable artificial watercourse which made possible the construction of a new town and the irrigation of a vast plain, at the time semi-desert. -Living heritage/Ethonological: The Shushtar system is as rich in its diversity of civil engineering structures and its constructions as in the diversity of its uses (urban water supply, mills, irrigation, river transport, and defensive system).

Intangible

  • Historical
The main intangible values of "The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System" are: -Historical: The Shushtar system is a homogeneous hydraulic system, designed globally and completed in the 3rd century CE. It testifies to the heritage and the synthesis of earlier Elamite and Mesopotamian knowhow, it was probably influenced by the Petra dam and tunnel and by Roman civil engineering. -Cultural: The structures were used as an irrigation system and encouraged cultural interactions in the region.
Authenticity:
The Hydraulic system dates from the 3rd century CE, probably on older bases from the 5th century BCE. It is complete, with numerous functions, and large-scale, making it exceptional. The authenticity of elements reduced to archaeological remains is certain, but has been affected by 20th century works and materials so far as the civil structures and sites still in use are concerned. Efforts directed to the restoration of attributes that demonstrate authenticity must be pursued.
Universality:
Med-O-Med agrees to the UNESCO criteria (World Heritage List, 2009: i, ii, v) to describe "The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System": i) The Shushtar Hydraulic System is testimony to a remarkably accomplished and early overall vision of the possibilities afforded by diversion canals and large weir-dams for land development. It was designed and completed in the 3rd century CE for sustainable operation and is still in use today. It is a unique and exceptional ensemble in terms of its technical diversity and its completeness that testifies to human creative genius. ii) The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is a synthesis of diverse techniques brought together to form a remarkably complete and large-scale ensemble. It has benefited from the ancient expertise of the Elamites and Mesopotamians in canal irrigation, and then that of the Nabateans, Roman technicians also influenced its construction. Its many visitors marvelled at it and were in turn inspired. It testifies to the exchange of considerable influences in hydraulic engineering and its application throughout antiquity and the Islamic period under the various Iranian dynasties. v) Shushtar is a unique and exceptionally complete example of hydraulic techniques developed during ancient times to aid the occupation of semi-desert lands. By diverting a river flowing down the mountains, using large-scale civil engineering structures and the creation of canals, it made possible multiple uses for the water across a vast territory: urban water supply, agricultural irrigation, fish farming, mills, transport, defence system, etc. It testifies to a technical culture dating back eighteen centuries serving the sustainable development of a human society, in harmony with its natural and urban environment.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
The hydraulic are a tangible expression of Islamic culture and define a way of relation betwen persian people and natural resources (water). The Shushtar hydraulic system, in its ensemble and most particularly the Shâdorvân Grand Weir (bridge-dam), has been considered a Wonder of the World not only by the Persians but also by the Arab-Muslims at the peak of their civilisation.

7. ENCLOSURES

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1315 http://whc.unesco.org/en/activities/21/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.livius.org/sh-si/shushtar/shushtar.html http://historicaliran.blogspot.com.es/2009/12/shushtar-hydraulic-system.html http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/shushtar.html -Hartung, Fritz, Kuros, Gh. R. (1987), Historische Talsperren im Iran, in Garbrecht, Günther, Historische Talsperren 1, Stuttgart: Verlag Konrad Wittwer, pp. 221–274, ISBN 3-87919-145-X. -Hodge, A. (1992). Roman Aqueducts & Water Supply, London: Duckworth, p. 85, ISBN 0-7156-2194-7. -Huff, D. (2010), Bridges. Pre-Islamic Bridges, in Yarshater, Ehsan, Encyclopædia Iranica Online. -Kleiss, W. (1983), Brückenkonstruktionen in Iran, Architectura 13: 105–112 (106). -Kramers, J. H. (2010), Shushtar, in Bearman, P., Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.), Brill Online. -O’Connor, C.(1993), Roman Bridges, Cambridge University Press, p. 130 (No. E42), ISBN 0-521-39326-4. -Smith, N. (1971), A History of Dams, London: Peter Davies, pp. 56–61, ISBN 0-432-15090-0. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara, Italy.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.