Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

It is Iran’s 10th cultural heritage site which is also listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
An island city that is considered to have the largest industrial complex irrigation system in the world, before the industrial revolution.
A work of art from the Achaemenid period.
The irrigation system is considered to be a masterpiece of engineering in the world, given that it was the first at that particular time. Iran has quite a lot of history, each special in its own. The Achaemenid period was particularly remembered for its focus on engineering and architecture. Most people think that Persepolis is the only thing left from the Achaemenid period but there are other historic sites that are just as fascinating.
This historical site is located in the south of Iran. Darius I is considered to be the founder of this island city. This astounding structure is located in Khuzestan province. The structure has stayed intact through all these years. Simply put it is a reminder of Iran’s rich history.

The site is easily reachable and well known in the area. it is a complex irrigation system that dates back to the era of Darius the Great and in 5th century BC.
The Achaemenes and Sassanids built a complex set of dams, barrages, water mills, waterfalls, canals, and tunnels to control the flow of the water in order to make more use of it.
Only some small parts of this complex structure have stood the test of time, but the water coming from the water mills have created beautiful artificial waterfalls that create amazing scenery within the city.
This complex system can be considered as a reminder of how intelligent people were in that time, and it shows that water engineering sciences were quite advanced in that time period. They closed off Karun River and at the same time built a dam over it. Then they managed to raise the surface of the water and level it while sending it to agricultural areas in the province. This was done more than 1700 years ago using the tools available in that time period. This was no easy task.


Different parts of the Hydraulic System
The Barrage (Dam)

For agricultural purposes, the land should be irrigated with water from the river. Due to the low level of the water that was not possible so they had to somehow boost the flow. Nowadays they just pump water from the river, but in the past, they did not have pumps so they created a barrage blocking the flow of water, and at the same time raising its level. A barrage is different from a dam; dams are used for storing water, but a barrage is used to raise the level of the water. Water gets past the barrage when overflowed, but a dam does not allow water to pass.
The barrage was man-made and it dates back to the Sassanid period, during the reign of Shapur I. The barrage was used in particular for leveling or adjusting Karun River. It divided the water into two parts and consequently, in ratios of 2 and 4 it flowed water towards Gargar and Shoteit rivers.

Due to ratios, the Gargar River was called Do-Dangeh or Maserghan, and Shoteit River was known as Chahar-Dangeh. Gargar is separated from Karun by about 40 meters in width at the beginning of the city of Shushtar, and again it joins the main branch through Qir barrage in the south of Shushtar. It is said that there is a Sassanid facility called Rustag Cavaz (Rostam Kavaz) near Qir barrage.
It is often mentioned in Arabic sources as Rostaghabaz or Rostaghabad. Later, it was called Askar Mokaram. It was used as a minting facility during Buyid dynasty in the eleventh century.
Shoteit River forms as it enters Khuzestan province. Gargar and Shoteit rivers eventually merge with Dez River and form Karun.


The barrage was made using Sarooj and carved stones. Sarouj was one of the inventions of Iranian architects in ancient times. It is a kind of water-resistant mortar made from clay and limestone. The barrage was formed interspersed with several curves and it has 10 entrances from which water enters. Nine of the entrances are on the east side and the tenth one which is quite wider than the others is on the west side of it. After the tenth entrance, the barrage extends to the west as a wall, reaching the hearth of the historic Kolah-Farangi tower.
Barrages like the one mentioned played an important role in the history of Shushtar. With the help of this particular barrage, the water irrigated 40 thousand hectares of agricultural areas and it provided a lifeline for the locals. It has several entrances but the most important of which is the one that regulates the water of two branches of the river. If Gargar River fills up to one-third of its quota, then the entrance opens and it shifts the water towards Shoteit River, and vice versa.
Nowadays, the entrances to this historical barrage are blocked by foliage and trunks of the trees, and this has led to added pressure on the irrigation system. Damage to this barrage slows down the flow of water towards the complex and in time provides for the destruction of them.


Kolah-Franagi tower

It is located along Shoteit River and includes the remains of an 8-tier tower which dates back to the Qajar period. Located on a small hill near the aforementioned barrage. The place is said to have been supervised by Kaiser or Shapur I. Others consider it as a place to monitor the amount and intensity of the flow of the river.
This tower is four meters above the ground, and the tower’s height is seven meters. The exterior of the tower is made of grit stones that have eroded over time and now only some of them are visible.
The tower is considered as part of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, and it was registered as a national monument in Iran on March 25, 1999, with the registration number 2611.
Gargar River is a man-made and an artificial river, which is located north of Shushtar, the barrage divides it from the strait of the Karun River and afterward, it goes south. It is said that the river was excavated during the Achaemenid period, for the evolution of the city’s aquatic structures.
In addition to being registered as part of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, this river was registered as a national monument in Iran with the registration number 17599. It is 40 kilometers long, and it blends in with Shoteit River.
The reasons behind making this particular river
Reducing the level of water in Karun River: reducing water levels would reduce the risk of flooding, and also creates the opportunity for making water structures such as dams on the river.
The thinking was that as the water flow went down, the security of the structures will be provided.
Irrigation of lands north of Karun River: The slope of the area is from east to west. By creating the river the possibility of flowing water to the north of Karun was made possible.
The security of the city itself: The River was made in order to keep the city safe from attacks.


Gargar Barrage (Dam)

One of the six historic gates in Shushtar, which dates back to the Sassanid era. The barrage was designed to divert water from the Gargar River to the water mills. By blocking the river, it caused the water to rise and reach the tunnels. These tunnels were made on three different levels and transferred a certain volume of water to move the mill.
The task of flowing water from the back of the barrage to the downstream area was done by the tunnels, and water was used through substations to generate energy for water mills and irrigation purposes. These sub-divisions are called “Neir”, which is equivalent to “creek” and refers to small tunnels. The three tunnels are:


Beliti tunnel

The passage of this channel from an under a suburb named Beliti has provided the name for it. The tunnel is about 360 meters long and about 5-7 meters wide and its surface is higher than the rest of the tunnels.
The difference in the surface of the tunnel has made it the main tunnel out of all of them. The channel was made for the disposal of overflowing water and also as a water supply to the water mills in the east.
Beliti tunnel turns into a number of sub-channels, some of which were used to irrigate agricultural lands and water supply for homes, and they also provided the water needed for the water mills in the east. The largest outlet of the tunnel is known as “Tuf Didi”, because the exit is not visible from the waterfalls, and only the steam from the waterfall itself is visible.
In the local language “Didi” means smoke or dust. This output works only during three months of high rainfall, i.e. the months of October, December, and November. Other outputs named Darab-Khan and Two Brothers work year round.


City Entrance Tunnel

The surface of this one is smaller than that of the one before, but it is bigger than the Three-Furnace Tunnel. This canal has a shorter route, with an approximate length of 150 meters and a width of 1.5 to 2 meters. The outlet of this tunnel is located in the northeast of the barrage and leads to the eastern side of the complex. The tunnel provides water to a number of eastern side water mills, called the crater of the city and Haj Mendel. The overflowing water goes through these two.
This tunnel has water year round, due to its relatively low surface area, except for months where the water level is too low.


Triple- Furnace Tunnel

A tunnel located north of the waterfalls which have three entrances. Most seasons the tunnel is under the water and reaches about 100 meters in length. Providing water to the western side of the mill is the responsibility of this particular tunnel. This tunnel merges with a diversion tunnel under the barrage and on its path, it brings water to the north of the complex and turns on the water mills. The entrance of this channel is at the bottom of the river and this has caused the water to be running during all months of the year. The main output of this tunnel is called “Lufa” which means stagnant waters.
Gargar dam is located 800 meters below the Mizan dam. It dates back to the Safavid period and it is 470 years old. The dam was in the form of natural rocks during that time.
It is located east of the complex and north of the waterfalls. In addition to being listed on the World Heritage List on December 20, 2000, this monument has been registered with the number 2914 as one of the national sites of Iran.


Waterfalls and water mills

This collection is the most significant part of the complex. They are located near the Gargar dam and on the riverbank. They are simply a number of mills that run on water. It is said that in the Shushtar waterfall area there were about 40 water mills which were used to make flour. The mills were made of granite, lime mortar, and Sarooj. The walls were are also made of stone. In general, this part of the complex is divided into three parts:


Eastern section

There are about 10 water mills in this area, including the Two Brothers mill, Darab Khan, Haj Mandal, Ratagh and the one at the entrance of the city. Each of these water mills has two millstones and the water they need is supplied from the tunnel at the entrance of the city and from the Beliti tunnel.


Northern section

The buildings in this area are less old than the others. Khodai water mills, Raza Golab or Cheese mills, Razvan water mills, facilities related to the Mostofi power plant built in 1332 and the pump-house which supplied water to the city. The Triple-Furnace tunnel provides the water these mills need. The water that the power plant needs comes from the tunnel at the entrance of the city.


Western section

There are 21 water mills in this section that are either “Shibi” or “Tanurehi”. The water they need is supplied through the Triple-Furnace tunnel. The water mills in this section of the complex are located between Dopalune canal and Gargar River. The only way to reach them is through a bridge called Dopalune. The bridge has two spans, its 9 meters long, 3 meters wide and 5 meters high.

In the past, after Dopalune Bridge and in the western section, there was a Sabat with one entrance and two outlets, which was used as a resort for visitors, but along with the destruction of the water mills in recent years the resort fell to ruin.
In addition to the water mills, the Jolazadeh Ice Factory, built in 1334, and a water pumping house, are also featured in this section of the complex.
There is a huge stone staircase with 115 stairs, which was a way of connecting the old texture of the city to the western section and through it, the people of the area had easy access to drinking water. The staircase was constructed using natural components such as sandstone and mud with a mixture of limestone.
Below this staircase and on the rooftops of a mill, called Lo Ali, there is a square-shaped construction that looks like a fire temple. They used the chamber as a chapel and a resort. The chamber has four curved vaults which are open on three sides.
There are also chambers at the end of the complex that can be accessed through stairs mounted on the cliff nearby.

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Different sections of the complex

This site is about 20 meters higher than Shariati Street. The entrance to the collection is a steep Sabat located next to the monument of Seyed Mohammad Mahru, which is consequently 3 meters below the street level. A Sabat is a long and roofed corridor that can be seen in some Iranian cities. In Shushtar aquatic structures, the two sides of the subway have been assigned to traditional Harir Bafi and Shamad Bafi workshops. On the slopes of the Sabat, you can hear the sound of water.
After that a series of twisted buildings with a short roof reveal themselves. The water passageway is built on the floor of little rooms underneath it, and all the rooms reach a pond. At the bottom of this pond, a wooden spatula has been situated that rotates with the inlet water pressure. The wheel rotates the heavy lever of the mill and turns the stone mill ultimately resulting in wheat flour.
After the mills, you will see the Tof Beliti waterfalls.
The entrance to the mills is through two staircases: the eastern staircase known as the Shah staircase and the main staircase, which was the entrance for livestock in the past. At the side of the second staircase, there is a porch that seems to have been a resting place for the workers. The staircase ends at the west side of the complex.
The components of this complex are Gargar Dam, Beliti Tunnel, the tunnel at the entrance of the city, Triple-Furnace Tunnel, Watermills, Staircases, Sabbats, new water mills, Duplon Bridge and Sika Area.



The Gargar River reaches a bridge 600 meters below Mizan Dam. It is known as the Gargar Bridge and like a dam, it holds the through a surface of the water in a similar alignment. They used tunnels to pass through this section. The water rises resulting in added water pressure on the tunnels which in turn adds to the speed of the water that goes through. In the past, the force generated by this water pressure spun 32 water mills in the Sika area. Therefore, Sika was part of the water supply channels to the water mills.
The Sika area has also used a place for resting and recreation. It has two sections and it is located at the end of the western section of the complex. Access to the inside of the Sika is possible through a staircase, and within it, there is a pond with small channels. The pool’s water is provided through a ditch. This stream comes out of Sika and reaches the Gargar River through two small canals.

During the Qajar period when Muhtasham Kashani was in office, they built a dam and turned it into a small resort. After the construction of the dam, the water came in and entered a ditch and then it was divided into two canals and at the end, it went to the river.
There is still no consensus on the meaning of Sika; however, Dehkhoda Dictionary presents the term as a kind of duck or a kind of a tribal tree in the Buddhist religion.


4000 years old staircase

The stone staircase is located south of the waterfalls. It has more than 200 steps and it connects the waterfalls to the residential areas overlooking the complex.
According to Herodotus, this staircase dates back to 2,500 years ago, and the craftsmanship reflects the ancient history of the work itself. On the steps, there are rooms that appear to be where the guards where situated. It is said that the chambers date back to more than 4000 years, and the architecture and its short ceiling are an affirmation of their purpose as a station for the guards.
The windows are right on the waterfalls and it must have given good visibility to the guards.


Shawadan (Shabestan)

Chambers parallel to the water entrance to the water mills. They are made of rocks and sandstones. These chambers are known as Shawadan or Shabestan. They were used as a resting place for people during hot summer days. Small windows were made in the walls of these chambers and there are upright windows on the ceiling as well.
The windows were arranged so that the workers could monitor the big stone mill and see the amount of water entering the accelerator channel. It was also possible to monitor other workers. Shawanda’s were also used as a place of entertainment for the locals.


The Mills

There are two kinds of mills in this area, which include: “Tanurehi” with a vertical axis blade and “Shibi” with a horizontal axis blade. Here is a brief explanation:

Tanurehi Mill

In this mill, the spinning wheel rotates with the pressure of the water that is stacked in the ditch below it. The water pours in from a high-altitude canal into the ditch and at the end it reaches another ditch called “Javan”. The last one is about 30 to 40 centimeters wide and water is released from it with high pressure. The water released from that ditch rotates the blades in a vertical axis.


Shibi Mill

In these types of mills, the blades are located on the water channel and the force of the water rotates it around a horizontal axis. In recent years, the use of these kinds of mills has plummeted, and they have been replaced by Tanurehi mills. In these mills, a belt is used to convert the horizontal-vertical rotational force, which increases the wear and tear of the mill. For the same reason, this kind of mill is more expensive than a Tanurehi mill, and it is deemed not economical.
The millstones in Shushtar consist of a number of different stones and the reasons for its uniqueness are:
The large volume of water which demands the stone to be larger than usual.
The difficulty of moving a gigantic stone.
Excessive crushing and rubble plus the added expenses of wear and tear.
The stone found in the region is not compatible for this kind of work.
The strength and volume of water determine the dimensions of the millstone. In the mills located in this complex, the diameter of the stone mill is about 1 m and its height is 35 cm.


The mills’ structure

Their structure can be examined in two parts:
The top Section: This section consists of one or two dome-covered rooms and vaulted entrances. The use of crushed sandstones is visible in the mill’s structure, and they are also covered with bricks. Some of these buildings include more than one mill.
The bottom section: This section is also referred to as the “Ziriu”, and it includes canals and tunnels where the mill blades rotate.


Ayar Tower Dam

It is located on Gargar River and downstream of the waterfalls. It dates back to the Sasanian era. Seyed Mohammad Ali Imam Shushtari wrote about the naming of this dam in the book called History of Khuzestan:
The area is known as “Sabi”, which is probably the result of an important event. It can be assumed that due to a pre-planned conspiracy by religious fanatics in Shushtar, people attacked the Mandaeans living in this place and killed a number of them, and the rest flew to Ahwaz, Khorramshahr and elsewhere. So this part is known as the “Sabi-Kosh”.
Some believe that the name “Ayar” means that of a container for the women’s jewelry in the past and that the tower itself was rebuilt with the gold reserves of one of the women.
The remnants of this dam are now visible in three parts, two of which are located along the Gargar River, each 150 meters high. According to the evidence, a tower was a fairly large tower that was used to measure water levels. The rocks used in making the tower have different dimensions, but the walls are well-arranged. The tower is from the outside and inside, covered with Sarooj and a small amount of sand in the mortar. At the top of the tower, there is a strip that is about 30 cm wide.
The arc of the building shows that the diameter of the tower was about 15 meters. The height of the arched wall is 4.5 meters and its width and length reach 4.5 and about 20 meters, respectively. Sandstone and mortar make up the materials used in this tower.
Outside of the building and on the cliff side by side of the trail, an old wall appears that is in turn arched, which seems to have been used to contain water. The wall is about 80 cm high from the surface of the river and its height is been identical with that of the tower. There are several rows of stairs on the outer surface of the wall and towards the river, with stairs about 25 cm long and about 20 to 15 cm wide. Some mistakenly consider these stairs to be used as a water entrance, but due to their slope, they seem to have been used to measure water levels.
It is said that this dam raised the water levels for use in gardens. In addition to being listed on the World Heritage List, this monument has been registered with the number 2940 as one of the national sites of Iran.


Mandaeans Temple

On the eastern side of the tower, there are relict chambers and canals that are made in the form of a cross, and according to archeologists, they are related to the Mandaeans Temple. Mandaeans or Sabians are followers of John the Baptist and are one of the religious minorities in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
The area was previously located in a very large garden belonging to the Hakim family at the end of the Qajar period. The water in this complex was provided with a tunnel called the Hakim Garden tunnel – a branch of the Beliti Tunnel. During the Safavid period to Qajar, the Sabians used this place as a sanctuary, temple and the venue for religious ceremonies.


Salasal Castle

a very big fortress situated along the Shoteit River which contains: joint courtyards, barracks, stables, baths, Shabestans, towers, gardens, armory, Naqareh house, shrine, home, kitchen, a number of gates, large ponds, fences, and ditches.
This castle is considered as a multi-faceted castle and is oval-shaped. Most of the castle’s structure has been destroyed, with only underground rooms (underground spaces commonly found in southern Iran called Shawadans and Daryun tunnels. we will talk about them later on in the text) remaining. This castle has two large gates and there is a ditch on the north and northeast of it, which reaches Daryun River in the south.
Historical texts indicate that this castle goes back to the Achaemenid period and it is said that the castle was still up and about 50 years ago.
The castle also had a defensive role I the region. It was the center for controlling Daryun river and for a time it was the residence of Khuzestan’s governor at that time. In 1881 famous French archaeologist Madame Jane Dieulafoy in her studies of the region mentioned that:
Salasal Castle is the official residence of the Governor of Khuzestan and is located on a mountain that is like a small plateau. At the foot of this mountain, a branch of Karun River which is called “Shoteit” passes, and the buildings and fortifications that remain after the Sassanid era make it defendable from the city.
The Castle has been renovated and restored over and over again; once by Fath-Ali Khan Qajar in the 11th century AH, again in 1237 by Mohammad Ali Mirza Dowlatshah, and again by the command of Hussein-quli Khan Mafi in 1307. The Shawadan in the castle was renovated in 1307 and decorated with blue tiles. Apparently, it was the place where military elders were resting in the summer. Some say the name “Salasal” is related to Abi Salasal, which renovated the castle in the 4th century. During the Qajar period, Khuzestan governorate built a government building with 3 floors and on the north side of the castle.
In the 1940s, the castle was destroyed in order to use the materials for building offices of sugar, grain, and tobacco in the western part of the castle.
The important thing about this castle is that besides military capabilities, its main function in connection with the irrigation network is the protection and restoration of aqueous structures and the management of water distribution in the southern parts of Shushtar.


Mahi Bazan Dam

A natural dam situated on the Gargar River and on the lands of the historic Dastwa district in Shushtar. The bridge dates back to the Sassanid era, and in addition to being listed on the World Heritage List, this monument has been registered with the number 4207 as one of the national sites of Iran.
It was made to raise water pressure and maintain that. It includes an integrated stone which has water passageways. Now only two parts of it are left:
One that is at the end of the eastern side of the river. A wall that is composed of two parallel pieces of stones about 1.5 meters high.
The other part is in the middle of the dam and consists of three parallel walls that cut the river bed vertically and separate the three ducts from each other. The approximate height of these walls is between 2 and 4 meters.

At the beginning of the dam and at the western end of it, there are several small canals that were created as a ditch that is half a meter wide. Considering the works that are below this part of the complex and in the south, it can be guessed that it was a horseshoe-shaped dam. The two sides of the dam were shortened so that the lateral water pressure did not put pressure on the front and end of the dam and would not break it. In the dam, there are canals that appear to have been a ditch for leftover water.
This dam has been used, like most dams in the area, for both water and traffic. People from the city of Dastwa could pass through it and move to another area.

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Daryun Channel

The Daryun Canal, the Dariush River, or Dara, is the name of the lake created during Darius I era. This canal brings water from the north of the city to the south and also west to Shushtar and agricultural lands.
This river, which was responsible for irrigation of Mian-Ab Plain, separates from the Shoteit River and after a long distance, they rejoin again. Dariun River is located below Salasal Castle, and the conductors controlled the waters from the castle. The conductors or “Mirabs” were director and calculator of the water quota. The directed the fair division of water provided to the people.
In addition to being listed on the World Heritage List, this monument has been registered with the number 4141 as one of the national sites of Iran.


Khak Dam

It dates back to the Sassanid era. It transmitted water from Daryun river to Right River; a water channel that separates from Dariun and joins Gargar River. During the flooding of Daryun River, Mian-Ab plain was in danger of destruction so the Khak dam was built to control the flow of water in Raght River. On the other side of this section of the complex, there are other dams and bridges, including Lashkar dam, Ali Shah Bridge, Sheikh Baha Bridge (Melat) and Sharabdar dam.
In fact, Daryun River divides into two branches after going through the Khak Dam:
The main branch goes to the south and after 33 km in a place called Arab Hassan dam, it joins Shoteit River.
The second branch, which is called Raght, flows through Gargar River after crossing Lashkar Dam.
The materials used in the construction of this dam are rocks and Sarooj mortar. In the 1960s, with the creation of a highway nearby, much of the monument went under water and was destroyed, but its remains are still evident.
Parts of this dam have entrances that are 72.1 meters wide and columns with a height of about 33.1 meters. The main wall is both westward and eastward and the eastern part continues northeast. From that, a wall goes out to the north, which is associated with the western side of the dam. In fact, these walls form the core of a water storage tank, and the adjoining walls in the south have been constructed for water withdrawal.
According to the evidence provided, this dam was used to hold reservoirs and also as a water outlet. In addition to being listed on the World Heritage List, this monument has been registered with the number 10874 in 2002 as one of the national sites of Iran.


Band-e Shadravan Bridge

With the creation of Gargar dam, the amount of water flow in Karun decreased and the water level dropped. This led to the flow of water in Daryun River. For the same reason, this particular bridge was built. This structure provides the possibility of passing through the river, which also causes the surface of the water to rise.

It dates back to the Sassanid era, some refer to it as the oldest bridge in the world. The bridge has 44 entrances, which currently have 16 of them have arches and 8 of them are without one. It is located 300 meters southwest of Shoteit River, and its remains can be seen along Azadegan Bridge. The width of the entrances is about 8 meters and the width of the bridge is 7 meters. The bridge is 10 meters high from the river bed. Stones, bricks, Sarooj and plaster materials make up the bridge. The height of the bridge from the river bed is about 5 meters and its crown length is 200 meters. Each entrance is between two rectangular bases which face the opposite direction. On top of these bases, smaller valves have been constructed to allow water to flow in case of flooding. Several entrances are situated lower than the others, and the bed was made using large and heavy stones.
According to historical evidence after the captivity of Valerian, the Roman Emperor, Shapur I forced him and his troops to develop the dam near Shushtar.
They were forced to build the bridge under the supervision of Iranian engineers in order to compensate for the damage they had caused in the towns along the border. The depiction of this victory is on display in the form of a rock relief called Naqsh-e Rustam, located near Persepolis. It shows the Roman emperor kneeling down in front of Shapur I. Evidence suggests that the Shah of Iran established the Roman captives in Gundeshapur and Shushtar, and Iranians built the Shushtar Dam and Bridge, inspired by the work of Roman engineers.
The length of this particular dam is 1500 steps, and today it is used to return water from Karun to agricultural lands.


Shah Ali Bridge

The bridge was built during the Safavid period. it is located on Dariun River. It seems that the bridge provided the connection between Shushtar and its southern villages and was used until the second Pahlavi period. It is worth noting that after the construction of the new bridge between Ahvaz and Shushtar, the bridge will not be used.
The bridge had many arches but today only 3 of them are left. These arches are made of bricks measuring 21 * 20 cm which is in turn made of plaster, rocks, and Sarooj.
This monument has been recorded as part of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, its name is also listed on the Iranian national sites since March 17, 2002.


Lashkar Dam

This dam that dates back to the Sassanid era and is located on Raght River, near Imamzadeh Abdollah. It is said that this dam was originally located next to one of the six historic gates of Shushtar.
This dam played a vital role in the connecting Shushtar to its southern villages. It is made of rubble, sandstone, and Sarooj. At the end of the northern side of the dam and above a cliff, a chamber appears, which seems to have been used for religious purposes before Islam, and then used it as a security station.
On the southern side of the dam, there are remnants of three stone water mills. Locals got their flour from this particular mill. About 200 meters below the dam, there is an old facility, known as the Khorram military fortress. The width of the dam is 4 meters and the average height is 35.8 meters. Now only 12 entrances remain of it at 183 meters. In the west of the river, they also had a vertical hinge, which today only parts of it remain.
The arches and their shape are from the vaults in the Safavid period. It reflects the restoration and recreation done in this era. In the Qajar era, five entrances were demolished and people repaired them with timber, which was also lost due to water pressure.
Currently, this dam is considered to be the healthiest dam left from the Sassanid era. This dam is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List and it was registered as a national monument in Iran on July 29, 1999, with the registration number 2359.


Sharabdar Dam

This dam is located on the Raght River and it dates back to the Sassanid era. This structure is located between the Lashkar Dam and the Khodafarin Dam.
This dam has two curves on the east and west sides, which have a length of 35 meters, a width of 2 meters and a height of 1 meter. Rubble trench foundation, mortar, and sandstone make up the materials used in this work. By raising the surface of the water, this dam would have provided water for surrounding parts of the agricultural lands and gardens.
This monument has been recorded as part of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, its name is also listed on the Iranian national sites with registration number 4218.


Dokhtar Dam

Located about three kilometers north of Shushtar, where Karun River enters the plain from the mountains and the bottom bed has its lowest width. The history of the construction of this dam back to the Sassanid era, and because of its proximity to Qal’eh Dokhtar, the name was a given.
The dam stored the water and allowed it to flow through two tunnels across the river.
There are remains of two historic castles on the two sides of the river. One of them is called Qal’eh Dokhtar and the other Qal’eh Rostam.
The word “Dokhtar” and “Rustam” refer to the male and female sex of the water and is derived from the names of the two goddesses Tishtrya (male) and Anahita (female). Some consider the naming of this dam as attributing it to Anahita, the water of flowing waters and fertility.
The function of Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
The Hydraulic System is the most obvious example of the optimal use of water in ancient times. The dams, tunnels, sub-channels, and water mills are formed in this area as an industrial-economic complex, and they work perfectly in conjunction with each other.
Everything starts with Gargar Dam. This dam blocks the river, and the water level rises behind it to reach the tunnels.
These tunnels direct water to the complex, and water flows through numerous channels. The water pours into the pond areas after turning the water mills into cascades. In addition to industrial uses, the site also provided people with water in the days of dehydration and provided the water needed by the residents of the city.


History of Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

You might ask why the need for these structures was felt in the city.
To answer this question, we need to know about the history of Shushtar. The oldest works discovered in this city belong to the prehistoric period. The vicinity of Shushtar with Karun River was a privilege and decent living conditions in the city were provided to different tribes, and for this reason, many people lived there. Evidence suggests that Shushtar has had a special reputation in the era of Elamite because of its proximity to Chogha Zanbil complex. During the reign of Artaxerxes I of Persia, from 465 to 424 BC, the city was restored and became an island. The need for water structures in the form of canals, barrages, dams and water mills became increasingly important, and the city’s face was transformed with the presence of new structures. Of course, the foundation had already been laid by Darius the Great and evolved in this era.

Shushtar was considered as the capital of the local rulers of Khuzestan during the period of the Parthians, and at the time of the Sassanid was considered one of the most important centers of Khuzestan. According to the history of Shushtar, with the rise of Shapur I, the city peaked and it had the brightest future. During that time, by making the hydraulic system, agriculture became a prosperous profession.
The building of the water mills was mostly done during the Safavid period, and the floods of 1342 brought serious damage to them. Of course, the foundation of these water mills belongs to the Sassanid period, which has been restored in the Qajar period.
Today, Shushtar is referred to as the city which has a historical hydraulic system, and therefore it is considered as an unparalleled city around the world.



National and Global Registration of Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

In the list of national works of Iran, various sections of the system have been registered, which we mentioned earlier, but the collection of these works, as a collection of water mills and waterfalls of Shushtar, was registered in the year 1377 with the number 2181 in the national list of national historical sites.
The water mills had been on the list for registration for many years, but experts from the UNESCO World Heritage List, referring to the fact that the mill site is only part of the interconnected complex of Shushtar Aquatic Structures, filed a request for the complex to be submitted as a whole. The case was completed by the Cultural Heritage Organization and presented to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee at the tenth international event. The request was reviewed at the Annual Meeting of the Committee members in the city of Seville, Spain, on June 26, 2009, and was registered under the name Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System (No. 1315).

A masterpiece of human genius and creativity. Represents the exchange of human values within a specific time frame. The exchange has taken place in a cultural area and has led to advances in architecture, technology, urban planning, and landscape design. A prominent example of interaction between humans and the environment.
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is a global phenomenon that attracts everyone from all over the world. The British and Canadian archaeologists hold classes regarding ancient aquatic structures in this complex. Many of the features and components of this system, such as wells, ponds, water channels, and more are fascinating to them. Compilation of 50 books and more than 100 dissertations on this particular system, which is often carried out by foreign researchers, indicates the importance of this complex in the world. It is said that more than 1.3 million people visit the site year round.



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