Section 1 Pages 8 - 9

Geography of Iran. The Iranian Plateau

Introduce the specific geography – Iran/Persia as crossroads between east and west, north and south. - also its vulnerability, despite mountains. Where are the gaps? Plateau v lowlands (Iraq). Introduce basic features: Caucasus Mountains, Zagros Mountains, Alborz, deserts, rivers (Euphrates, Tigris, Oxus) and seas. (Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea).

Iran in the world


Try to demonstrate the idea of scale - relative size of Iran and UK.

Exercise/activity: map-making with scale ; use playground or other open space for scale exercise (1ft=100 miles). Show Iran, Greece and England on the same scale, and Persian empire.


"Throughout the arid regions of Iran, agricultural and permanent settlements are supported by the ancient qanat system of tapping alluvial aquifers at the heads of valleys and conducting the water along underground tunnels by gravity, often over many kilometres.

Each qanat comprises an almost horizontal tunnel collecting water from an underground water source, usually an alluvial fan, into which a mother well is sunk to the appropriate level of the aquifer. Well shafts are sunk at regular intervals along the route of the tunnel to enable removal of spoil and allow ventilation. These appear as craters from above, following the line of the qanat from water source to agricultural settlement. The water is transported along underground tunnels, so-called koshkan, by means of gravity due to the gentle slope of the tunnel to the exit (mazhar), from where it is distributed by channels to the agricultural land of the shareholders.

The levels, gradient and length of the qanat are calculated by traditional methods requiring the skills of experienced qanat workers and have been handed down over centuries. Many qanats have sub branches and water access corridors for maintenance purposes, as well as dependant structures including rest areas for the qanat workers, public and private hamams, reservoirs and watermills. The traditional communal management system still in place allows equitable and sustainable water sharing and distribution.

Criterion (iii):?The Persian Qanat system is an exceptional testimony to the tradition of providing water to arid regions to support settlements. The technological and communal achievements of the qanats play a vital role of qanat in the formation of various civilisations. Its crucial importance for the larger arid region is expressed in the name of the desert plateau of Iran which is called “Qanat Civilisation”. Dispersion of primary settlements on alluvial fans of the inner plateau and deserts of Iran is immediately related with the distribution pattern of qanat system across the country. The system also presents an exceptional living cultural tradition of communal management of water resources.

Criterion (iv):?The Persian Qanat system is an outstanding example of a technological ensemble illustrating significant stages in the history of human occupation of arid and semi-arid regions. Based on complex calculations and exceptional architectural qualities, water was collected and transported by mere gravity over long distances and these transport systems were maintained over centuries and, at times, millennia. The qanat system enabled settlements and agriculture but also inspired the creation of a desert-specific style of architecture and landscape involving not only the qanats themselves, but their associated structures, such as water reservoirs, mills, irrigation systems, and gardens." [UNESCO]



The picture shows part of the Fin Garden in Kashan, on the edge of the desert in central Iran. It's thought to be the oldest surviving Persian Garden - though it dates only from the Safavid period (16th century). The paradise (walled garden) was a distinctive feature of Persian culture, going back to the Achaemenids. It was the scene of a political murder during the Qajar period (1852). The abundant water is from a natural spring, not in fact a qanat, but it's controlled entirely by gravity and a complicated system of different-sized pipes. The design may have been inspired by a Garden Carpet - see below.


"A hand-woven carpet was found in the Pazyryk valley in Siberia in a tumulus dating back to the fifth century BC. This unique piece of art was partly damaged by age and oxidation, but it was preserved in a thick sheet of ice -- which had protected it for twenty-five centuries. Late in 1929, a Russian ethnographic mission led by Rudenko and Griaznov began the excavation of five tumuli dating from the Scythian period. The tumuli had been discovered in the Pazyryk valley, in the Altai mountains of Siberia, 5400 feet above sea level, and some six miles from the border of Outer Mongolia. In 1949 during the excavation of the fifth tumulus, a magnificent carpet came to light which today represents the most important piece of evidence in the history of Oriental Carpets. This is the only rug from the Achaemenid period known and preserved up to the present day. Although it was found in a Scythian burial-mound, most experts attribute it to Persia. Its design is in the same style as the sculptures of Persepolis, The outer of the two principal border bands is decorated with a line of horsemen: seven on each side, twenty-eight in number -- a figure which corresponds to the number of males who carried the throne of Xerxes to Persepolis). Some are mounted, while others walk beside their horses. In the inner principal band there is a line of six elks on each side. The two external guards are decorated, with a succession of small squares containing imaginary creatures, probably griffins. The original colours used for this carpet are not known as they have almost faded away. The Pazyryk carpet is of rare beauty and was woven with great technical skill. The Pazyryk carpet compares favourably with that of the best work from modern sources. There are about 49 knots per square cm in this carpet and it measures 200 cm X 183 cm . The discovery of the Pazyryk carpet leads us therefore, to the belief that in a much more remote epoch than the sixteenth-century Imperial period, carpet-making had gone through an earlier, brilliant phase, in which a very high level of technique and decorative values had been reached. Unfortunately between this rug and the next discovered carpet there is big gap in time. This does not mean that the production had stopped but rather vanished by nature or destroyed by invasions. The centre of the craft of carpet-making is traditionally Persia and the history of the craft is linked to the history of Persia, sharing its development and fortunes."

Pazaryk Carpet

The Pazaryk Carpet

Garden Rug

An 18th century "Garden Carpet"


Farsi answers: a daughter, b father (cf Latin pater, It padre etc) c door d mouse e star f dark g thunder.

Learn to count up to ten in Farsi . Students may connect do with deux, duo; panj with Urdu panj (Punjab), and English "punch" (drink not bash); haft with Greek hepta and derivatives, dah with Latin decem, Greek deka and derivatives.

one yek
two do
three se
four chahār
five panj
six shesh
seven haft
eight hasht
nine noh
ten dah