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Over 300 Pigeon Houses Identified in Isfahan


17 October 2005

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(MNA) -- Over 300 historic pigeon houses have been identified in Isfahan Province, an expert of the Isfahan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department (ICHTD) announced on Sunday.


“Most of the pigeon houses are located in Falâvarjân, Homâyun-shahr, Khwânsâr, Golpâyegân, and eastern Isfahan Province,” Fariba Saeidi told the Persian service of IRNA.


“A total of 65 have been registered on the National Heritage List, and the ICHTD has restored some of them over the few past years,” she added.


Pigeon houses were an important part of the agricultural sector of the Safavid era (1501-1722). The pigeon houses are one of the wonders of historic Iranian architecture and have been mistaken for city towers over the years.


Farmers constructed the buildings in bygone days in order to obtain pigeon droppings that they used to fertilize their fields.


No one knows exactly when construction of the pigeon houses began, but the “Majma' al-Tawarikh” written by the historian Hafez Abru (d. 1430) at the order of the Timurid ruler Shahrokh, refers to the structures in only one sentence, which reads, “Ghazan Khan, the seventh ruler of the Ilkhanid dynasty (1271-1303) has banned hunting near the towers to protect the pigeons.”


According to the travelogue of Chevalier Jean Chardin, the French tourist and painter, there had been about 3000 pigeon houses around Isfahan when he traveled to Iran in the 17th century. However, most of the pigeon houses have fallen into disrepair over the years due to neglect.


Pigeon houses had several thousands cells built with mud-bricks to shelter pigeons. The towers were often covered with a mix of straw and mud to protect pigeons from the cold in winter and the heat in summer. The upper parts of the pigeon houses were covered with a glossy surface plaster which prevented snakes from entering the tower.


These structures also had a door for the farmers and smaller openings for pigeons. Farmers used to open the door once a year to gather pigeon droppings for their fields and then it was sealed with plaster.


Due to the production of chemical and other types of fertilizers, the use of pigeon droppings as fertilizer is regarded as no longer economical, so nowadays the pigeon houses have been consigned to oblivion.