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Ancient Iranian Irrigation Systems to be Studied by American Archaeologists


News Category: Prehistory

Province of: Khuzestân

 03 November 2003



A team of American Archaeologists of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, who started excavations in the southwestern province of Khuzestan last year for the first time after the 1979 Revolution, will travel there once more in February 2004 to study the first signs of irrigation systems in Ancient Iran.

According to Chicago Chronicle, published by Chicago University, the new round of the Archaeological studies in Khuzestan province will aim to gather more information on a region where some of antiquity’s most dramatic hydro-engineering projects were once located.

"There are two major revolutions in human history, and both of them are well represented in this area,” said Professor Abbas Alizadeh, Senior Research Associate in the Oriental Institute. “The first revolution was the agricultural revolution, in which people gained control over their food supply and began living in villages. The second revolution was the urban revolution in which people developed cities and created the institutions we have today.”

Important changes began in the area in the fourth millennium B.C., when a climatic change brought on a need to create irrigation. Research by the team showed that the plains were periodically flooded, and early farmers probably planted crops in the freshly moistened land, much as Egyptian farmers planted their fields after the flooding of the Nile.

Farmers may have begun channeling water during the time when the area was flooded, and that could have provided knowledge that later led to the building of irrigation canals, the researchers said.

That change in farming practices spurred the development of urban civilization as a greater degree of organization was required to manage irrigation systems than was needed in farming villages using conventional agriculture. The irrigation system in Khuzestan probably developed contemporaneously with the emergence of irrigation in nearby Mesopotamia, which likely connected the people in the two areas, Alizadeh said.

“Many of the mega-projects of the ancient Near East were developed in Khuzestan, dams that were the Hoover Dams of their day, for instance,” Nicholas Kouchoukos, Assistant Professor in Anthropology, said. The region was the home of Elamite culture, which also was known as the Susiana culture, named for Susa, one of the capitals of Elam.

Last fall, Alizadeh and Kouchoukos visited the archaeologically rich area of Khuzestan, and Alizadeh stayed in Iran to work with local archaeologists on the development of a new research center at the National Museum, also taking part in the first international conference of "Ancient Cultural Relations between Iran and West Asia".




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