Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region refers to the eight archaeological sites in southeast of Fa province. These sites are registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage list on 30 June 2018.
The sites located in three geographical areas:
Firuzabad: Qal’eh Dokhtar, Ardashir Investiture Relief, Victory Relief of Ardashir, Ardashir Khurreh, Palace of Ardashir
Bishapur: Ancient City of Bishapur, Shahpur Cave
Sarvestan: Sarvestan Palace
The Sasanian dynasty was a Neo-Persian empire, one of the leading world powers alongside their rival Roman-Byzantine Empire for over 400 years from 224 to 651 AD. The Sasanian culture as the peak of Iranian civilization extended beyond the empire’s borders reaching as far as China, India, caucuses, Anatolia, Western Europe and Africa. Ardashir Papakn (180-242 AD) of house Sasan was the founder of Sasanian dynasty who defeated the last Parthian King Artabanus IV in 224.
More or less, The Sasanian kings were successful to rule over an urban and civilized empire. They were the patrons of art, architecture, music, philosophy, natural science, medical science and literature. Under their order, many cities and impressive monuments established, organized and developed. Not only the Sasanian structures reflect the glory of the empire but the optimized utilization of environment and culture. Especially their art and architecture had a significant impact on the ancient world’s architecture. As they originated in the Fars region, they assumed themselves as the successor of Achaemenians and had the view to restore the glory of the Achaemenian empire. Ardashir Khurreh and Bishapur, two Sassanian cities include the most impressive structures and perfectly, show the Sasanian city characters. There are about 30 Sasanian reliefs in Fars, most of them illustrate the ceremony of coronation, hand in the crown, Combat and war. There is a king road to connect Bishapur to Sarvestan and Firuzabad dates back to Sassanid Kings Ardashir I or Shahpur I.
Here are some architectural characteristics of Sasanians:
The architecture of the Sassanid is closely related to their religion, Zoroastrianism. The Sasanian architectural technique, form and design continuing during the Islamic era and become the main source to build mosques and tombs.
Their architecture illustrates urban typology, such as the circular city plan, strategically under control, considering defence purposes and safety, good access to the natural source of water, stone, mines, wood. These characteristics make those cities particularly suitable for the living and developing industry and Art.
the early examples of construction of domes with squinches on square spaces invented by Parthians but the Sasanian architects developed and completed it.
Chahar-Taq buildings, where the four sides of the square room show arched openings where the holy fire was kept and worshipped is the most important structures during Sassanid dynasty
Advance architectural elements: Iwan, dome and Double Stone pillars were common elements in Sassanid architecture.
Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil
Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble located in the beautiful city of Ardabil in Northwest of Iran. It was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. The complex includes especial monuments and structures including Khānegāh, mausoleum, library, mosque, school and cistern. Sheikh Safi was the eminent leader of a Sufi organization and the patriarch of Safavids tribe. After his death, the mausoleum was built by his son, Sheikh Sadr al-Dīn Mūsā in the 16th century. The complex was continuously developed within the next 200 years and several structures with different functions gradually added to mausoleum or shrine. Nowadays the shrine is one of the most popular complexes with tourists and world travellers in the northwest of Iran.
The shrine of Sheikh Safi al-din has been divided into 7 parts to illustrate the seven stages of Sufi mysticism. The tomb is a strange example in Iranian architecture but completely based on the principles, it is a cylindrical tower topped off with a short dome. The domes and entrances of the building were adorned with Kufic calligraphy, epigraph in Rega and mosaic tiles.
One of the popular parts of the complex is Chini-khaneh means the house of Chinese dishes. The story behind it refer to a fact that the emperor of china gave about 1250 pieces of china dishes to Shah Abbas I, the great Safavids king as presents and next after the king donated the collection to Sheikh Safi’s tomb. Unfortunately, about 800 pieces of them stolen by Russian invaders after the Turkamanchay treaty.
Tchogha Zanbil ziggurat refers to the most important building in the Elamite city, Tchogha Zanbil, the magnificent example of Elamian art and architecture dates back to 1250 B.C. As the first Iranian site, it was registered on the UNESCO’s world heritage list in 1979. Elam was an ancient Pre-Achaemenian civilization who ruled over a vast area in southwestern Iran, exactly what today is called Khuzestan, Fars, Bakhtiary, Ilam and a part of southern Iraq.
Tchogha Zanbil is the local name of the ziggurat, including two words: Tchogha (hill) + Zanbil (Basket). The original name of it was Dur-Untash or the city of Untash Gal, the ancient God of Elamian theology. The city was founded by the Elamite king, Untash-Napirisha (1275-1240 B.C) to serve as the religious centre of Elam.
The archaeological site of Tchogha Zanbil covers a vast area near the Diz river, it is protected by three concentric walls formed the different parts of the city, the inner part includes the ziggurat. It centred in the first part, it is the greatest ziggurat out of Mesopotamia and the best preserved of this type. It is also firm evidence of the culture, beliefs and traditions of one the oldest civilized nation of the world. This five-levels building originally measured 105.2 meters on each side and about 53 meters in height. The whole city was destroyed during the Assyrian invasions by Ashurbanipal in 640 B.C. The whole structure was built by sundried-mud brick but it was given a facing of baked brick that preserved the building against destruction and erosion.
The ruins of Tchogha Zanbil is one of the important example and testimony of Elamian powers in art, architecture and science. Today become a main tourism destination of Iran and an archaeological centre to develop the theories about Elamians, one of the great nations of ancient times who ruled over a vast part of Iran from (2700- 640 BC).
Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex
Tabriz Historic Bazaar located in Tabriz city in the northwest of Iran, one of the most important commercial and trade centre on the Silk Road was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2010. The complex includes different parts as sub-bazaars, alleys, caravanserais, mosque and other structures. The important sub-bazaars are Amir Bazaar (for gold and jewellery), Mozzafarieh (for Carpet and other heavy and light textiles, a Shoe bazaar, Household bazaar. The complex was a centre of trade for centuries before Safavids (1501- 1736) but it was developed and organised during their kingdom and next dynasties. In t1780 after an earthquake, the bazaar was partly destroyed but it was constructed again after the earthquake.
The old bazaar of Tabriz the best example of traditional trade and commercial activities for at least four centuries, it is still a lively and economically active palace.
A especial reason which made the Bazaar very important in the history of Iran and also was a place of political significance and leadership of Iranian Constitutional Revolution in the last century. A series of rehabilitation of Tabriz Bazaar won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2013.
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System as an impressive and incredible masterpiece of archaeology located in Shushtar city, Khuzestan, Iran. This system has been registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2009. This massive hydraulic system includes three canals that transport water from Gargar, one of the main branches of Kârun river, the canals providing water to a series of tunnels that supply water to mills and then cascades into a downstream basin. The system dates from the 3rd century CE, probably on older bases from the 5th century BCE.; Parts of the system originally dates back to the time of the Achaemenian king, Darius the Great.
The hydraulic system of Shushtar demonstrates magnificent universal value, creativity, environmental adaption and the expertise of the founders. From centuries ago, the Iranians had sufficient expertise in the construction of dams and bridges. Evidence such as Pasargadae bridge and Band-e Amir in Fars confirms it. The complex includes some remarkable sites, such as the Salâsel Castel, the measuring tower, bridges, damns, basins, cliffs and mills. The nearby Shâdorvân Grand Weir (bridge-dam) has been considered a wonder of the world too. There are other weirs related to the system which control the water amount. It means when the water amount in each one of the canals exceeds a certain limit, the weir will transfer the extra amount of water to the other canal. The most important weirs are Mizan Weir, Mahi Bazan Weir, Lashkar Bridge-Dam, Khak Weir, Sharabdar Weir, Borj-e Ayar Weir, Shah Ali Bridge-Dam. There is a Qajarian octagonal tower alongside Shatit canal, probably used to control water of Mizan weir.
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System and related construction become one the most popular tourist destination in Iran that annually attract many tourists and world traveller from all around the world.
Susa, Susiana or Shush is undoubtedly one of the five archaeological heavens of the world where the development of villages towards cities (urbanisation) and the early states observable. The ancient city of Susa, which was registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2015, located in Khuzestan province, Iran. the chronology of site covers important periods of Ancient Near East, including prehistory, proto-Elamite, Achaemenian dynasty, Parthian, Sasanian and Islamic era.
Occupying an area about 1Km, there are three mounds remaining of the city named, the Apadana, the Ville (the Royal town), the acropolis and a part named the industrial town. Susa is one of the important areas that mentioned in the Book of Esther and other Biblical books. The settlement of Susa includes 14 archaeological layers, the lowest layers named early settlements, the absolute chronology of the layers based on C14 dating indicates the foundation of the settlement dating as early as 4395 BC. Next layers related to Susa I (4200-3900 BC), Susa II (3900-3100 BC), Susa III (3100-2700 BC), Elamites (2700- 640 BC), Achaemenid (550- 330 BC), Parthian (147 BC – 224 AD), Sassanid (224- 651 AD), Islamic period. The historical part of Susa was occupied by Achaemenian cultural data especially the winter palace of Darius the Great was built parallel to Persepolis. The great Achaemenian ‘’King Road’’ connected Susa to Persepolis and Sardis in Lydia.
As one the oldest settlement on earth, annually the Susa historical monuments attracts a considerable number of domestic and foreign tourists who are interested in history and culture. Today the majority of the population lived in the adjacent modern town named Shush where there is the tomb of Daniel, the Jewish prophet.
The Persian Garden
The Persian Garden refers to a collection of garden designing and developments were invented by Iranians, as the pioneer nation who believed in the pure beauty of heaven, which was called Paradise by them. The property includes nine historical gardens as the best examples to demonstrate the Persian gardening techniques, were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2011. Some of the Persian gardens scattered in the most important tourism cities of Iran like Isfahan, Kashan, Shiraz, Yazd and Kerman so that they become one of the most popular attractions for tourists who are interested in the Persian art and architecture.
The oldest example of Persian gardens located in the Achaemenian city, Pasargadae. Under Cyrus, the great (reign, 559-530 BC) orders, the garden served as the ideal index to organize and develop the palaces and other parts of the complex.
Under the influence of Zoroastrianism, the gardens built to be the best places to exhibit and symbolized the important elements including Sky, Earth, Water and Plant.
The nine gardens dating from 6th century BC to 19th century, featuring structures like palaces, pavilions and manner houses, Qanat, internal network of canals to transport water and pounds. The basic plan of gardens consists of a massive structure like a palace or house at the middle and surrounding quadrants divided by waterways or pathways, it means by this form the gardens were divided into four sectors, were water playing an important part in both irrigation and ornamentation.
The Chahar Bagh style (Four-garden) applied to constructs the gardens related to a part of towns. The idea of the Persian garden expressed in Persian literature, poetry, music, calligraphy and carpet design. The techniques of Persian gardening widely applied by the Indian and Spanish architects within the last centuries. The influence of Persian gardens style is obviously observable in Alhambra in Spain, Humayun’s Tomb and Taj Mahal in India.
Takht-e Soleyman is an outstanding ensemble of royal architecture and one the most important archaeological sites in northwestern Iran, in a valley set in a volcanic mountain region. The site located in Takab, Western Azerbaijan province of Iran. The whole complex was registered on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in 2003.
There are magnificent cultural data and structures related to different periods of Iranian history from Achaemenids to Ilkhanids, but the name of the complex derived from the folk’s legend related to King Solomon. The name of the city in the Sasanian era was Shayz and one of the probable birthplaces of Zoroaster prophet. There is a nearby site named Zendan- Soleyman, the folks’ beliefs said: He used to imprison monsters in this volcanic phenomenon and historical site. Takht-e-Soleiman was the largest pre-Islamic religious, social and worship centre in Iran belong to the royal family. An artesian lake and a volcano are the amazing phenomena of Takht-e Soleyman.
Anahita Temple Architecture
To the east is a central courtyard fireplace and temple belong to Anahita. It is a square courtyard with four rectangular columns on each side. There is a brick twin entrance leading to the narrow corridors. The columns and walls are of carved and thick stone. In the Sassanid or early Islamic era, the central courtyard was divided into two separate sections and changed the courtyard from open to covered. Takht-e Suleyman was one of the three great places of keeping holy fire of Zoroastrianism.
The Ilkahnid residence
The Ilkhanid ruler Abaqa Khan (r.1265-82) chose this site as his summer residence because of good weather and the main reason that the Ilkhanid ruler wanted to take the advantage of being connected into the historical Iranian dynasties especially Sassanids. they used the pre-existing and pre-Islamic Sasanian structure and then built their own Mongol complex.
The Persian Qanats
The Persian Qanats is registered on UNESCO’s list of World Cultural Heritage in 2016. There are eleven qanats in this list representing the intelligence and skills of the builders. A qanat or the Persian name of it, Kariz refers to magnificent underground structures acted like horizontal tunnels to transport underground water from the mother well to the surface for irrigation and other consumes. The word Qanat is derived from Kene which means digging in Persian. Traditionally qanats are built by a group of skilled workers called labourers or (muqannīs or Karizgar). Historically, the occupation was respected by the peoples, they were paid well and it was typically handed down from father to son.
There are different structures related to this system including the rest area for workers, water reservoirs and watermills. Each Qanat includes an almost horizontal tunnel (underground river) with a gentle slope that partly cuts through the aquifer, collecting water from an underground water source with a series of wells to an alluvial fan. The well shafts are sunk at regular intervals along the horizontal tunnel to enable removal of alluvium and allow ventilation.
Here is the list of UNESCO registered Persian Qanats:
Ghasabe qanat of Gonabad, Khorasan Razavi, it is probable to be the oldest qanat in the world with more than 2500 years old.
Baladeh qanats of Ferdows, Khorasan Razavi, has a considerably different method for water distribution.
Zarch qanat, Yazd, is the longest qanat in the world with 71 Kilometer length.
Hassan Abad Moshir qanat, Yazd, for its high volume and good quality of water.
Goharriz qanat, Kerman, registered for its volume of water supply.
Akbarabad qanat and Ghasemabad qanat, Kerman, the twin qanats of Iran.
Moun qanat, Isfahan, registered for being the only doubled-decked qanat in the world,
Vazvan qanat and Mozdabad qanat, Isfahan, two magnificent qanats with underground dam
Ebrahimabad qanat, Markazi, registered for its conical shape of the qanat.
The qanats provide exceptional testimony to an amazing system of managing water source and civilizations in warm and arid areas.