The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
IRANIAN ARCHITECTURE: SASANIAN DYNASTY
(Mainland-Iran & Mesopotamia)
By: Professor Dietrich Huff
architecture is characterized by the widespread use of mortar masonry and the
associated vaulting techniques. Although mud brick had been developed long
before, and mortar constructions were known in Parthian dynastic eras, both
became pre-eminent in the high-standard architecture of the Sasanians. Mud brick
remained a most important building material (e.g. Dāmghān, Istakhr/Estakkr, Haĵiābād,
Kīš, Ctesiphon, Kūh-ī Khwāja), and only its impermanence shifts our
attention to the better preserved stone and brick ruins of Sasanian
architecture. Among these, rubble stone masonry with gypsum mortar is
predominant. Brickwork was frequently used for vaults and domes, although there
are a number of buildings made entirely of brick (e.g. Dastegerd, Ayvan-a Karka,
Ctesiphon, Takt-a Solayman). Dressed ashlar appears sporadically, mainly in the
early (e.g. B1'sapur, Firūzābād, Nurābād, Pāykūli) and late (e.g. Tāq-a
Gerrā, Darband, Takt-a Solaymān, Kangāvar) phases of the empire, and seems to
be due to western influence (H. Wulff, Traditional Crafts of Persia,
Cambridge, Mass., 1966, p. 102).
Construction and structural types
Sasanian vaulting techniques depend largely on the special qualities of gypsum mortar, which allows vaulting without centering because of its short setting time. Barrel vaults with "pitched courses," the most frequent system, owe their elliptical shape and their significant step out above the impost to this technical procedure, which requires only a back wall or a narrow strip of centering for the first courses, with the following ones successively glued in front (K. A. C. Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture 1/2, Oxford, 1969, p. 544; O. Reuther, "Sasanian Architecture," in Survey of Persian Art I, p.498). Notwithstanding its practical advantages, vaulting without centering prevented the development of geometrically advanced constructions. Semicircular barrel vaults appear only when built on centering as a voussoir arch with "lying courses." The cross vault, resulting from the intersection of two barrel vaults at right angles, was not developed. There are no examples of pointed arches built by formal intention, although they occur as a result of building practice in lesser monuments (e.g. Qasr-a Shīrīn) (G. L. Bell, Palace and Mosque at Ukhaidir, London, 1914, p. 5 1). The standard unit of the rectangular barrel-vaulted room was frequently enlarged by vaulted bays. Adjoining semi-domes occur rarely (e.g. Kīš, Bozpār, Negār, Sarvestān), although in vernacular architecture the use of the squinch vault, probably an ancient technique and one widely regarded as the origin of the Iranian dome, results in a hybridization of semi-dome or dome and cloister vault (A. Godard, "Voutes iraniennes," Athar-e Iran 4, 1949, p.221). With the barrel-vaulted ayvān, a rectangular room with the front side open, the visible shape of the vault became the dominant feature of the facade. Already present in Parthian time, the ayvān became the most conspicuous element of Sasanian and later Iranian architecture.
propagation of the dome on squinches above a square hall may be regarded as the
most significant Sasanian contribution to the World architecture. This most
uncomplicated and solid of all constructive systems already appears fully
developed in the buildings of Ardašīr I in Firūzābād (Fig. 1). Its tectonic
disposition remained basically unchanged throughout the Sasanian period and had
a decisive impact on Islamic architecture; its empirical form clearly
distinguished Eastern dome construction from the abstract geometrical concept of
Western domes with pendentives (J. Rosinthal, Pendentifs,
trompes et stalactites dans l'architecture orientale,
Paris, 1928, p.43). The variety of squinch forms demonstrates an increasing
effort to find satisfying forms for what was originally a purely constructive
element. In its early stage (e.g. Fīrūzābād) the cupola proper does not yet
have a perfectly circular base, but rises on a fairly well rounded octagon.
Later examples (e.g. Qasr-e Shīrīn) draw nearer to geometric perfection, which
is finally achieved in Islamic architecture.
Columns and other supporting constructions
the introduction of far-spanning vaults, the use of columns as constructive
elements was widely discarded. There are examples of archaizing slender columns
with bases, capitals, and sometimes fluted shafts that maintain Achaemenid
traditions (e.g. Bišāpūr, Nurābād, Kīš), while those of later monuments
(e.g. Bisotūn, Tāq-a Bostān) reflect a fresh Byzantine influence. But most
often the column was transformed into a massive, round or rectangular pillar
suitable for vaulted masonry constructions according to Iranian traditional
from their use in colonnades (e.g. Kangāvar), pillars distinguish a
characteristic group of generally three aisled halls covered by longitudinal or
transversal barrel vaults (e.g. Čāl Tarkhān, Dāmghān, Ctesiphon, Takt-a
Solaymān, Tepe Mil). Nonetheless the typical supporting elements remained the
massive wall, and pillars more often appear as relics of a wall pierced by
arches than as individual tectonic members.
Constructive and decorative details
remained the chief coating material for flat and vaulted roofs as well as for
floors which were frequently covered with gypsum plaster, stone, or in rare
cases, with foreign influenced mosaics (e.g. Bišāpūr). Plaster of Paris,
frequently painted (Bišāpūr, Ayvān-a Karkha, Kīš), was widely used for
building facings and for the dominant mode of architectural ornamentation, the
stucco relief (Čāl Tarkhān, Dāmghān, Hajiābād, Kīš, Ctesiphon) (D.
Thompson, Stucco from Chal Tarkhan, London, 1976; J. Kroger, Sasanidischer
Stuckdekor, Mainz, 1982; M. Azarnoush, "Excavations at Hajidbad,
1977," Iranica Antiqua 18, 1983, pp. 159ff.). The traditional
stepped revetment remained a favorite decorative element, normally with four
rectangular stages, which were already becoming dovetail-like at the late
Sasanian Tāq-a Gerra.
Functional types of buildings
reference to sacred fires in Pahlavi texts indicate the important role that
sanctuaries of the Zoroastrian state religion played in Sasanian architecture,
but their architectural type remains disputed (F. Oehlmann "Persische
Tempel," Archäologischer Anzeiger, 1921, pp. 273ff.; U. Monneret de
Villard, "The Fire Temples," Bulletin of the American Institute for
Persian Art and Archaeology 4,1936, pp. 175ff.; K. Schippmann, Die
iranischen Feuerheiligtümer, Berlin, 1971; M. Boyce, "On the
Zoroastrian Temple Cult of Fire," JAGS 95, 1975, pp. 454ff.; Y.
Yamamoto, "The Zoroastrian Temple Cult of Fire in Archaeology and
Literature," Orient 15, 1979, pp. 19ff.; 17, 1981, pp. 67ff.). The
prevailing theory suggests that the main sanctuary structures were a
freestanding Čahār-tāq, under which the sacred fire, shining through
the four lateral arches, was exposed to worshipers during the religious
services, and a small Āteāgāh some distance away, where the fire was
kept at other times (A. Godard, "Les monuments du feu," Athār-a
Iran 3, 1938, pp. 7ff.; K. Erdmann, Das iranische Feuerheiligtüm,
Leipzig, 1941, pp.46ff.). Apart from religious prescriptions that raise doubts
about this kind of cult practice (Dārāb Hormazyār's Rivāyat, ed. M.
R. Unvala, 1, Bombay, 1906, pp. 60, 65ff.), archeological field work suggests
another type of sanctuary: a closed chamber, where the fire was permanently
maintained and served by priests, with adjoining ambulatories or rooms for
worship (E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East, London, 1941, pp. 301ff.;
E. Keall, "Archaeology and the Fire Temple," in C. J. Adams, Iranian
Civilization and Culture, Montreal, 1972, pp. 15ff.; D. Huff, "Das
Imamzadeh Sayyid Husain and E. Herzfelds Theorie fiber den sasanidischen
Feuertempel," Stud. Ir. 11, 1982, pp. 197ff.). If the suggested
identification of the Takht-e Nešīn in Fīrūzābād with a fire temple of
Ardasīr I proves right, the early type was a square, domed room with four
interior bays and with ayvans or rooms added to the four facades (Huff in Archäologischer
Anzeiger, 1972, pp. 517ff.). A unique, semi-subterranean structure at Bīšāpūīr,
convincingly attributed to Shāpūr I, is believed to be an ambulatory type fire
temple because of its corridors; these surround a courtyard-like square of
uncertain roofing, apparently associated with Anahita, as it was connected with
an underground water canal (Ghirshman, RAA 12, 1938, p. 14; see, for a
different interpretation, R. N. Frye, "The So-called Fire Temple of
Bishapur," in The Memorial Volume of the Vlth International Congress of
Iranian Art and Archaeology, Oxford, September 11-16th, 1972, Tehran,
1976, p.93). The Sasanian phase of the mud brick structure at Kūh-e Khwāja,
identified as a fire temple by an altar in its principal building, had a square,
domed sanctuary surrounded by corridors and halls, with a vast complex of
subsidiary rooms and ayvāns
around a central court (Herzfeld, op. cit., pp. 291ff.; G. Gullini, Architettura
iranica, Torino, 1964, pp. 87ff.). A similar layout was found at Takht-a
Solaymān, tentatively dated to the 6th century, which has been identified, on
the basis of historical tradition and the excavation of clay bullae bearing
priests' names and titles, as the shrine of Adhur Gūšnasp (Fig. 2), one of the
three most important Adhur Wahrāms; the others, Adhur Farnbag
and Adhur Burzēnmihr, have not yet been precisely localized. A second shrine
excavated here, beside a dome-ambulatory temple, revealed an altar socle in a
small sanctuary, preceded by two successive pillar halls rather than
ambulatories (H. H. Von der Osten and R. Naumann, Takht-i Suleiman,
Berlin, 1961; R. Nauman, "Takht-i Suleiman," Archäeologischer
Anzeiger, 1975, pp. 109ff.; idem, Die Rumen von Tacht-a Suleiman and
Zendan-a Suleiman, Berlin, 1977, pp. 57ff.; D. Huff, "Takht-i Suleiman,"
AMI 10, 1977, pp. 211ff.). The Čahār Qāpū at Qasr-e Šīrīn,
attributed to Khosrow II, seems to have been another dome-ambulatory type temple
within a large architectural compound (Bell, op. cit., pp. 51ff.; Reuther, op.
cit., pp. 552ff.; differently J. Schmidt, " Qasr-e Šīrīn," Baghdader
Mitteilungen 9, 1978, pp. 39ff.).
great number of Čahār-tāq ruins, surveyed all over Iran and most
frequent in Fars and Kerman, are regarded as fire temples. Nearly all of them
were closed to the outside by blocking walls in their bays or the surrounding
vaulted corridors (L. Vanden Berghe, "Récentes
découvertes de monuments sassanides duns le Fars,"
Iranica Antigua 1, 1961, pp. 163ff.; idem, "Nouvelle
découverte de monuments du feu d'époque sassanide,"
ibid., 5, 1965, pp. 128ff.; idem, "Les
Chahar Taqs du Pusht-i Kuh, Luristan,"
ibid., 12, 1977, pp. 175ff.). See further D. Huff, "Sasanian Čahar Taqs in
Fars," in Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Symposium on Archaeological
Research in Iran, Tehran, 1975, pp. 243ff.). The two types are represented
by the excavated examples at Tūrang Tepe identified as a sanctuary by an altar
socle, and at Qal'a-ye Yazdegerd, respectively (J. Deshayes, "Un
temple du feu d'époque islamique a Tureng Tepe,"
feu dans le Proche Orient antique,
Leiden, 1973, pp. 31ff.; E. Keall, "Qal`eh-i Yazdigird, an Overview of the
Monumental Architecture," Iran 20, 1982, pp. 51 ff.). Several open
air altars including those at Naqš-a Rostam and Tang-a Karam most likely served
for some Zoroastrian religious practice (A. Stein, "An Archaeological Tour
in the Ancient Persis," Iraq 3, 1936, pp. 175ff.; K. Erdmann,
"Die Altare von Naqsh-i Rustam," MDOG 81, 1949, pp. 6ff.; D.
Stronach, "The Kuh-i Shahrak Fire Altar," JNES 25, 1966, pp.
217ff.). Christian churches discovered at Hīra, Ctesiphon, and Rahalīya have
long prayer halls, mostly with two rows of pillars and tripartite choirs (Reuther,
Die Au.sgrabungen der Deutschen Ktesiphon-Expedition, Berlin, 1930, pp.
llff.; D. Talbot Rice, "The Oxford Excavations at Hira, 193 1," Antiquity
6, 1932, pp. 276ff.; B. Finster and J. Schmidt, "Sasanidische and frühislamische
Ruinen im Iraq," Baghdader Mitteilungen 8, 1976, pp. 27, 40ff.).
palaces provide the best known examples of Sasanian architecture, the number of
well defined monuments is smaller than generally assumed. They are characterized
by a regular layout along an axis of symmetry and an obligatory ayvān.
The two palaces of Ardašīr I at Fīrūzābād, Qal'a-ye Doktar (Fig. 3) and Āteškada,
both have as public reception areas a deep ayvān
with lateral rooms, followed by a central dome and domed or barrel-vaulted
subsidiary halls. A courtyard with ayvāns and large, uniform halls
behind or in front of the reception area is generally regarded as the royal
living quarters, although it gives the impression of belonging to the official
area. Therefore the private lodgings may be assumed in small rooms on the upper
floor that are otherwise unexplained (D. Huff, "Qal'a-ye Dukhtar bei
Firuzabad," AMI, N. F. 4, 1971, pp. 127ff.; idem, "Ausgrabungen
auf Qal'a-ye Dukhtar bei Firuzabad, 1976," AMI 11, 1978, pp.
are few palaces remaining from the middle Sasanian period, during which the
characteristic combination of ayvān and domed hall seems to have been
abandoned. At the Taq-e Kesrā, now generally attributed to Khosrow I (Reuther,
op. cit., pp. 15ff.; O. Kurz, "The Date of the Taq-e Kisrā," JRAS,
1941, pp. 37ff.; differently Herzfeld, "Damascus: Studies in Architecture
II," Ars Islamica 10,1943, pp. 59ff.), and at the probably
building at Takt-e Solaymān (Nauman, Die Ruinen von Tacht-a Suleiman,
pp. 44), the ayvān appears to be the only dominating element. The
inadequately documented `Emārat-e Khosrow in Qasr-a Šīrīin and the nearby
ruin of Hawš Kūrī, both attributed to the time of Khosrow II, also seem to
lack a dome behind the ayvān, where a transverse structure of uncertain
elevation and a square courtyard were located instead (J. de Morgan, Mission
scientifique en Perse IV,
Paris, 1896, pp. 341ff.; Bell, op. cit., pp. 44ff.; Reuther in Survey of
Persian Art I, pp. 533ff.). Regular house-like units added to the rear seem
to have been living areas. Both palaces stand on artificial terraces with double
ramps like the ruin at Kangāvar, now thought to be a late Sasanian palace (V.
Lukonin, "The Temple of Anahita in Kangavar" [in Russian], VDI
2/140, 1977, pp. 105ff., cf. G. Herrmann, The Iranian Revival, Oxford,
1977, p. 107; M. Azarnoush, "Excavations at Kangavar," AMI 14,
1981, pp. 69ff.). Other terraces such as Tall Dhahab and Haram-a Kesrā at
Ctesiphon (Reuther, Ktesiphon-Expedition, pp. 23ff.; E. Kiihnel etal., Die
Ausgrabungen der zweiten Ktesiphon-Expedition, Berlin, 1933, pp. Iff.) or
Sarmaj (L. Trümpelmann, "Die Terrasse des Hosrow," Archäologischer
Anzeiger, 1968, pp. l lff.) may have carried palace-like super structures as
residential function of a number of monuments generally regarded as palaces has
been questioned. The ground plan of the well-preserved building of Sarvestān
suggests other than palatial use. Its dating in the mid-Sasanian period has also
come into question because of its highly developed vaulting system, closely
paralleled by early Islamic constructions such as Qasr al-Kharāna in Jordan (O.
Grabar, "Sarvistan. A
Note on Sassanian Palaces," in Forschungen zur Kunst Asiens. Festschrift
K. Erdmann, Istanbul, 1968, pp. lff.; M. Siroux, "Le palms de Sarvistan
et ses voutes," Stud. Ir.
2, 1973, pp. 49ff.; L. Bier, The `Sasanian' Palace near Sarvistan, New
York, 1979.). The highly complex layout of the socalled palace of Shāpūr I in
Bišāpūr raises similar questions of function (Ghirshman, "Les fouilles
de Chapour (Iran)," RAA 12, 1938, pp. l5ff.; idem, Bichapour
II, Paris, 1956, pp. llff.; Huff, Archäologischer Anzeiger, 1972, pp.
517ff.). The three-naved buildings of Dāmghān (F. Kimball, apud E. F. Schmidt,
Excavations at Tepe Hissar, Philadelphia, 1937, pp. 327ff.), Čāl Tarkhān
(Thompson, op. cit., pp. 3ff.), Tepe Mil (Kroger, op. cit., pp. 202ff.), and Kīš
(P. R. S. Moorey, Kish Excavations 1923-33, Oxford, 1978, pp. 134ff.) can
be reasonably regarded as forerunners of similar, early Islamic palaces such as
Kūfa and Tall al-Okhayder but are formally connected with the second fire
temple at Takht-a Solaymān and other cult buildings as well. There is little
decisive evidence for the purpose of the hall on the city wall of ayvān-e
Karkha (M. Dieulafoy, L'art
antique de la Perse
V, 1889, pp. 79ff.; Ghirshman, MDAFI, Paris, 1952, pp. lOff.) or the
buildings at Bozpar (L. Vanden Berghe, "Le
tombeau achéménide de Buzpar,"
in Vorderasiatische Archäologie.
Festschrift A. Moortgat, Berlin, 1964, pp.243ff.), Behešto Dozakh (L.
Vanden Berghe, "Les ruines de Bihisht-a Duzakh a Sultanabad,"
Iranica Antiqua 8, 1968, pp. 94ff.), and elsewhere.
Cities and houses
political importance of city foundations in Sasanian Iran is indicated by the
almost obligatory component of the sponsor-king's name in the name of the city.
Although many attributions may concern some kind of re-founding or shifting of
existing places, a number of original foundations are known, the standard
pattern of which is a rectangular system of streets. The exceptional concentric
and radiating plan of the circular city of Ardašīr-khorra may reflect an
individual decision by Ardašīr I, demonstrating the cosmological and
sociopolitical ideas of his emerging empire (D. Huff, "Zur Rekonstruktion
des Turmes von Firuzabad," Istanbuler Mitteilungen 19/20, 1969/70,
pp. 319ff.; idem, "Der Takht-i Nishin in Firuzabad," Archäologischer
Anzeiger, 1972, pp. 517ff.; idem, AMI 11, 1978, pp. 117ff.).
Archeological evidence for other circular geometric city plans is scanty,
although they appear at different periods in the ancient Orient and with
different stages of refinement. The round layout of Hatra, the best known
Parthian example, lacks a genuine geometrical concept. It is unlikely that the
round perimeter of Dārābgerd is a prototype for Ardašīr-khorra, as it
probably dates from the 8th century (Creswell, Early Islamic Architecture
I/2, 1969, p.21). The circular plan of Ctesiphon and the general topography of
the site of al-Madā'en are still under discussion (Reuther, in Survey of
Persian Art I, pp. 2ff.; J. M. Fiey, "Topography of al-Madā'in," Sumer
23, 1967, pp. X.), and the reportedly round city of Sasanian Esfahān is not yet
uncovered. Ardašīir-khorra may have influenced the layout of later circular
cities such as al-Mansur's Baghdad and its successors.
details are known about the architectural and sociological structure of
orthogonal cities such as Jondīšāpūr (R. McC. Adams and D. Hansen,
"Archaeological Reconnaissance and Soundings in Jundi Shapur," Ars
Orientalis 7, 1968, pp. 53ff.), Ayvān-e Karkha, and Bišāpūr, the last
featuring a commemorative monument at the intersection of its two orthogonal
main axes (Ghirshman, Bichdpour I, pp. 21 ff.; II, plan I). The majority
of cities certainly continued older settlements with regular or organically
grown patterns, as at Estakr (D. Whitcomb, "The City of Istakhr and the
Marvdasht Plain," In Akten des VII. internationalen Kongresses fur
iranische Kunst and Archkologie, Munchen, 7.-10. September 1976,
Berlin, 1979, pp.363ff.). Some residential areas have been surveyed or excavated
in Kīš (S. Langdon, "Excavations at Kish and Barghutiat 1933," Iraq
1, 1934, p. 113), Ctesiphon (Kuhnel, 2. Ktesiphon-Expedition, pp. lff.;
R. Venco Ricciardi, "The Excavations at Choche," Mesopotamia
3-4, 1968/69, p.57; idem, "Trial Trench at Tell Baruda," Mesopotamia
12, 1977, pp. Ilff.), Lorestan (Morgan, op. cit., pp. 36111.), Roqbat al-Madā'en
(Finster Schmidt, op. cit., pp. 151ff.) and Qasr-a Abū Nasr (W. Hauser and J.
M. Upton, "The Persian Expedition 1933-34," Bulletin of The
Metropolitan Museum of Art 29, December 1934/11, pp. 3ff.), but the daily
life of the middle and lower classes remains incompletely known.
main elements include ditches, walls with stepped niches, blind windows and
arrow slots with horizontal or triangular covering, stepped battlements,
corridors or narrow rooms within the walls, and far-protruding bastions,
generally with semicircular headings. Unsophisticated gates were placed between
pronounced bastions, and gate chambers were connected with the defence platform
above by vertical shafts, probably for acoustic communication.
city ramparts have survived later changes. Ardašīr-khorra clearly had an earth
wall with bastions, a ditch, and a small fore-wall. The ramparts of Bišāpūr
were originally lined with semicircular bastions about 40 cm apart (`A. A.
Sarfaraz, "Bišāpūr, the Great City of the Sasanians" [in Persian], Bāstān
Chenāssi va Honar-e Iran 2, 1969, pp. 27ff.). The presumed palace section
of the ramparts of Ayvān-a Karkha shows an elaborate arrangement of brick
constructions (Ghirshman, MDAFI, 1952, pp. IOff.). The brick wall of
Dastegerd, an unusual 16.6 m thick, harbored narrow corridors with radiating
arrow slots and connecting semicircular tower chambers (F. Sarre and E. Herzfeld,
Archkologische Reise im Euphrat-and Tigris-Gebiet II, Berlin, 1920, pp.
76; IV, pl. 127). The exceptional cut stone facing of the wall at Takt-a Solaymān
(Osten Naumann, op. cit., p. 39) seems to be identical with that of the Darband
walls (S. Han-Magomedov, Derbent, Moscow, 1979.). The standard Sasanian
fortification type is represented by the mud brick ramparts of Ctesiphon and
Estakhr (M. M. Negroponzi and M. C. Cavallero, "The Excavations at Choche,"
Mesopotamia 2, 1967, pp.41ff.; Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East,
pp.276ff.) and by the rubble stone walls of Qal'a-ye Dokhtar at Firūzābād
(Huff, AMI 11, 1976, pp. 138ff.).
Most surviving fortresses served as isolated strongholds or protection for cities; this abundant but scarcely explored military architecture gives some insight into the Sasanian social hierarchy. Examples of the regular, generally square, Roman-type fort with rounded bastions are found in Harsin, Qasr-a Šīrīn (Morgan, op. cit., pp. 354ff.), Sirāf (D. Whitehouse, "Excavations at Siraf," Iran 10, 1972, pp. 63ff.), and at several Mesopotamian sites (Finster-Schmidt, op. cit., pp. 49ff.). More frequent are irregular fortresses on strategically important heights; these usually have straight curtains between rounded bastions, as at Firūzābād, Bišāpūr, Tūrang Tepe (R. Boucharlat, "La forteresse sassanide de Tureng-Tepe," in Collogues internationaux du C. N. R. S., No. 567: Le plateau iranien et I'Asie Centrale des origines a la conquête islamique, Paris, 1977, pp. 32911f), and the "Ātašgāh" at Esfahān (fig. 4 ), (M. Siroux, "`Atesh-gāh pres d' Ispahan," Iranica Antigua 5, 1965, pp. 39ff.). Territorial defence lines are known from literary tradition and archeological evidence (R. N. Frye, "The Sasanian System of Walls for Defence," in M. Rosen-Ayalon, ed., Studies in Memory of Gaston Wiet, Jerusalem, 1977, pp. 7ff.), such as the ditch of Šāpūr II west of the Euphrates, the limes of Sistan (A. Stein Innermost Asia II, Oxford, 1928, pp. 972ff.), the walls of Darband from the Caspian into the Caucasus (A. A. Kudryavtsev, "O datirovke pervykh sasanidskikh ukreplenii v Derbente," Sovetskaya Arkheologiya 3, 1978, pp. 243ff.), the wall of Tammisha (Tamīša) from the bay of Gorgān/Astarābād to the Elburz (A.D. H. Bivar and G. Féhervári, "The Walls of Temisha," Iran 4, 1966, pp. 3511f), and the wall of Alexander north of the Gorgān river, although the last may date back to Parthian times (D. Huff, "Zur Datierung des Alexanderwalls," Iranica Antigua 16, 1981, pp. 125fl.; M. Y. Kiani, Parthian Sites in Hyrkania, AMI, Erganzungsband 9, Berlin, 1982, pp. I Iff.).
Funerary, commemorative, and rock architecture
remarkable lack of monumental funeral architecture “maybe” explained by
Zoroastrian religious prescriptions (Vd. 6.44ff.) [by the
Western-Iranian-Zoroastrians] restricting burial rites to exposure of the dead
and a possible but not necessary preservation of the bones in bone receptacles,
or astodans (q.v.). Rock-cut exposure platforms and small cavities for
preserving the bones are known mainly from southern Iran, notably around Estakhr
and Bīšāpūr, where the huge grotto with the statue of Šāpūr I (fig. 5) is
interpreted as his tomb (Vanden Berghe, Archéologie
de l'Iran ancien,
p.45; A. Stein, Old Routes of Western Iran, London, 1940, pp.311ff.;
Ghirshman, Bichapour I, pp. 180ff.). Ritual texts describe astodāns
as freestanding buildings, a type possibly represented by a bone burial in a
fortification tower in Shahr-a Qūmes (J. Hausman and D. Stronach, "A
Sasanian Repository at Shahr-i Qumis," JRAS, 1970, pp. 142ff.) and
by the tower of Nurābād (D. Huff, "Nurabad, Dum-i Mill," AMI,
N.F. 8, 1975, pp. 167ff.). Rock-cut tombs on the island of Khārg seem to belong
at least partly to non-Zoroastrian communities (E. Haerinck, "Quelques
monuments funéraires de file de Kharg dans le Golfe Persique,"
Iranica Antiqua 11, 1975, pp. 134ff.) [or followers of the Eastern
Iranian tradition of Zoroastrianism, which they were against the exposing their
deaths to revered elements]
commemorative or triumphal monuments are identified by inscriptions. The
twin-column monument in Bīšāpūr was dedicated to Shāpūr I (G. Salles and
R. Ghirshman, "Chapour," RAA 10, 1936, pp. 117ff.). The
tower-like monument of Pākūi celebrates the victory of Narseh over his rivals
(E. Herzfeld, Paikuli. Monument and Inscriptions of the Early History of the
Sasanian Empire I-Il, Berlin, 1924). There is as yet no definitive
explanation for [possibly] the late Sasanian Tāq-e Gerrā a small ayvān
building with archivolt (H. V. Gall and W. Kleiss, "Entwicklung and Gestalt
des Thrones im vorislamischen Iran," AMI, N.F. 4, 1971, pp. 2ff.; S.
Kambakhsh-Fard, "L'arc de Guirra, monument en pierre," Traditions
architecturales en Iran 4, 1976, pp. 2ff.), or for a freestanding gateway
building outside the wall of Bīšāpūr (Sarfaraz, op. cit., pp. 27, 73). The
tower in the center of Ardašīr-khorra (fig. ), which possibly carried a hall
with the king's seat or his fire, may symbolize God-given royalty (Huff, Istanbuler
Mitteilungen 19-20, 1969/70, pp. 319ff.). The late Sasanian Tāq-a Bostān,
an ayvān-like artificial grotto, is linked by its monumentality with official
Sasanian architecture, and by its decoration with the tradition of Sasanian rock
reliefs (E. Herzfeld, Am Tor von Asien, Berlin, 1920, pp. 57ff.; M. C.
Mackintosh, "Taq-i Bustan and Byzantine Art," Iranica Antigua
13, 1978, pp. 149ff.; S. Fukai et al., Taq-i Bustan I-IV, Tokyo,
1968-84). It may be related to other, partly unfinished rock monuments, such as
those at Bisotūn (H. Luschey, "Bisotun, Geschichte and
Forschungsgeschichte," Archäologischer Anzeiger, 1974, pp. 114ff.;
W. Salzmann, "Die Felsabarbeitung and Terrasse des Farhad in Bisotun,"
ibid., 1976, pp. I l Off.) and Harsin (Godard, Athar-a Iran 3, 1938, pp. 67ff.).
Civil engineering architecture
The centralized Sasanian government enabled the realization of large scale community projects such as road communications, bridges, irrigation, and drainage systems, most of which utilized the technical skill and manpower of prisoners of war. Many bridges (e.g. Kūzestān and Lorestān, Fīrūzābād, Bīšāpūr, and Bisotūn) dressed masonry with iron clamps at their preserved piers, which are generally rectangular with a triangular prism upstream; the arched superstructures are mostly destroyed (Stein, op. cit., pp. 15, 48, 71). Bridges were frequently constructed as weirs for irrigation and constituted the starting point of far reaching canal systems, as at Šūštar and Dezfūl (Dieulafoy, V, pp. lOSff.; G. Van Roggen, "Notices sur les anciens travaux hydrauliques en Susiane," MDAF 17, 1905, pp. 167ff.; R. J. Wenke, "Imperial Investments and Agricultural Developments in Parthian and Sasanian Khuzistan: 150 B.C. to CE 640," Mesopotamia 10/I1, 1975/76, pp.31ff). Aqueducts were carried on walls or bridges, and the use of syphon tunnels seems to have been known (Adams-Hansen, op. cit., pp. 59ff.).
Given in the text.
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