Wonders of ancient Iranian architecture

by Omid Ataeifard
Iran is the land of mysteries and wonders. When traced back well, every basic human science has roots in Iran, and Iranians' footprints can be seen wherever human culture has flourished.

Western portico of Apadana
Architecture is one of the fields in which Iranians have led the human caravan. According to evidence, the history of architecture and urban planning in Iran dates back at least to 10 thousand years ago. Iranians were the first to use mathematics, geometry and astronomy in architecture.
In a religious book of ancient Iranians, Iran's fundamental role in the expansion of culture and civilization is thus described: "The word of God for the good of the people travelled from Iran to all lands, so that the people of the world enjoyed progress" (Zoroaster).
One of these mysterious secrets is the evolution of architecture in ancient Iran. The ancient Iranian architects were pioneers in many fields, although their fame does not match the services they have rendered to the mankind. For instance, following the discovery of a 3800-year-old mound in Sagzabad, Dasht-e Qazvin, the head excavator said: "It was hitherto supposed that the use of parlours with columns were an assimilation from beyond Iranian borders.
Now an opportunity has arisen to study such structures within Iran." The innovations of Iranians in architecture are based on the fact that Iranians were the first people who started to build housing in plains.

Monumental works, Persepolis
According to Ghirshman, one of the well-known French archaeologists, the oldest human settlement built on a plain was in the Sialk area in central Iran. One of the novelties of Iranian architecture was the use of model buildings.
Several examples of such models have been discovered in Iran, the oldest of which dates back to 7,000 years ago and was found in the excavations by a Japanese group in Sang-e Chakhmaq mound near Shahrud. This unique model has been returned to Iran and provides a credible evidence of ancient Iranian architecture.Other examples have also been found in Susa and Choghazanbil. Iranian architecture left a profound influence on the architecture of old civilizations.
Professor Arthur Pope wrote: "Architecture in Iran has at least 6,000 years of continuous history, examples of which can be seen from Syria to north India and Chinese borders, and from Caucasus to Zanzibar." However, we will shortly see that many arts of Iran have travelled all over the world.
In China, there is a historical vault on wooden spars, inspired by Iranian architecture. According to evidence, in Turkey's Antalia coast on the Mediterranean Sea there was a large temple called Dimus, built by Iranians from bricks and stone, a building which once was a fire temple. On his findings in the ancient capital city of India, Dr. Spooner wrote: "Large parlours with identical columns, capitals, and other motifs all indicate a strong Iranian influence." One of the ancient Indian emperors had invited Iranian architects to build his magnificent castles. He had set heavy penalties for anybody who offended those craftsmen.
Several prominent Iranologists have pointed out that the Gothic style in Europe was adopted from Iran's Sassanid structures. A prominent Russian Iranologist wrote that all the characteristics of domes, barrelled vaults, and even cross-shaped structures which are regarded as the epitome of Byzantine architecture originated from Iran.

Aboba Piska palaces in Bulgaria were build exactly like Sassanid palaces in Sarvestan and Firuzabad. According to Ghirshman, a cathedral in Orleans was built after a fire temple, bearing the motif of the tree of life, which can be seen in the plaster work in Kermanshah's Taq-e Bostan.
One of the masterpieces of world architecture is the Taj Mahal in India, built by Master Issa Shirazi and his son Mohammad Shirazi, two Iranian architects. The building was inspired by the sublime Safavid style architecture. A famous French orientologist said that Taj Mahal and Sulaymania (in Turkey) are places where Iranian spirit entered the bodies of India and Turkey.
The most ancient stone structures in the world originated from Iran and then spread throughout the globe. Furthermore, Iran is the cradle of huge brick buildings, one of the most magnificent examples of which is the Ziggurat of Choghazanbil near Susa.
It stands out as the world's largest Ziggurat, once inhabited by Elamite emperors. Near Kerman in southern Iran there is a Ziggurat dating back to 5,000 years ago, i.e. before the Pyramids or the Mesopotamia Ziggurats were built.
One of the impressive achievements of Iranian architects in the structure of Choghazanbil is the water sanitation system.
Digging a 50 km canal, water was driven from the muddy river of Karkheh to the building, pouring into a large pool which was filled with layers of sand and coal to filter it, a practice which is still used after 3,250 years.

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