The Holy Pirs of Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion of Persia and other empires in modern-day Iran.  The prophet Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, lived between 1500-1200 BCE in ancient Iran and was the founder of the religion.  He disliked the class-based social structure of Bronze-Age Iranians because it broke apart the commoners and allowed them to be controlled by the priests.  Zoroastrianism revolves around a single god, Ahura Mazda, who gave his sacred rules and writings to his prophet Zoroaster.  One teaching that was handed down was the use of holy sites for pilgrimages to observe holy fire, fire being a dominant part of Zoroastrianism.  These sites are known as Pir and were located all around Persia and ancient Iran.

The main purpose of a Pir was to hold the sacred fires of worship.  Early believers used a simple hearth in their own homes for worship but as the religion grew sacred sites became more popular.  These so-called fire temples were spread across Iran but the main concentration was in Yazd province.  The six main Pirs are located in the mountains above the desert in Yadz.  Each one had a different schedule for pilgrimages so that travelers could enjoy festivals at each site without missing the next one.  Most pilgrimages took place during the summer months and were part of the fire festivals.


Pir-e Sabz or Chak Chak, Yadz (Zoroastrian Sacred Sites)

            Each Pir was constructed differently but they had many similarities.  Each one had an altar for worship and then an inner grotto for greater religious purposes.  The inner grottos were enclosed by large bronze doors with engraved images of Ahura Mazda or Zoroaster.  These inner areas were for specific Zoroastrian members but the outer parts of the fire temple could be enjoyed by all.  Each Pir also had a legend or story that accompanied its founding or location.  For example, the famous Pir-E Sabz is located on the mountain where a Sassanid’s daughter fled from Arab invaders and Ahura Mazda opened the mountain to give her a place to hide.  The fire temple was built in this grotto as a marker of Ahura Mazda’s blessing upon the young girl.  Other Pirs have similar origin stories and small festivals are often held to commemorate these events.  These holy sites are still popular tourist locations and each summer Zoroastrians from all over Asia travel the pilgrimage routes to give devotion to Ahura Mazda and Zoroaster.

Works Cited

“Chak Chak, Yazd.” Wikipedia. April 26, 2014. Accessed March 29, 2015.,_Yazd&oldid=605877689.

Eduljee, K.E. “Pir-e Sabz / Chak-Chak, Pilgrimage in Zoroastrianism.” Zoroastrian Heritage. Accessed March 29, 2015.

Green, Nile. “The Survival of Zoroastrianism in Yazd.” Iran 38:115-22. Accessed March 29, 2015.

Grey, Martin. “Zoroastrian Sacred Sites.” Places of Peace and Power. Accessed March 29, 2015.

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The Impenetrable Wall of Men

The Phalanx

There was nothing new about a fighting line by the time the Greeks came to power, but it is what they did with that line that changed everything. Homer described the phalanx in his poems as something of an organized battle line (I). Instead of man on man fighting, the phalanx would fight as one in a large pushing match, sometimes four to fifty rows deep (II), in an attempt to break the battle line of the opposing army. In most cases, the first line to break would lose the battle.

The Hoplite


The Phalanx of Greece, consisted of heavily armed men called Hoplites, who would stand shoulder to shoulder, overlapping shields to create a shield wall (II). The name Hoplite comes from the name large round shield called a Hoplon (II). The hoplon, was a wooden shield covered with bronze measuring three to three and a half feet wide, usually big enough to cover from a mans face to his knees, that he would hold in his left hand and use to protect his left side and the right side of the man to his left. The hoplites were expected to supply their own equipment, at the least his armor and weaponry, and were generally recruited from the Greek upper class, due to the high cost of the equipment (I). The most important piece of hoplite equipment, besides his massive shield, was his thrusting spear called a Doru (II). Usually six to ten feet long, later reaching up to eighteen feet long, the thrusting spear was wielded by a hoplite in his right hand, and used over his shield to strike at his enemy as the phalanx tried to push back and break the enemy line. The length of the spear, mixed with the very close quarters of the hoplites, enabled men from the first two rows to effectively thrust their spears into the enemy line (II). Once the enemies line was broken the hoplite would transition to his secondary weapon, a short double edged sword called Xiphos, usually no more than 60cm long (III), to fight and finish off the enemy in close-quarters combat. After the enemies line is broken, the hoplite is not exactly alone. The Greek Light Infantry, usually recruited from the lower class, steps in for support. Being lightly armored and fast, the light infantry is able to chase retreating armies and strike fast blows in battle (IV).

The Flaws

The Phalanx, as used in fighting an unorganized enemy is an amazing formation, but it does have several major flaws. The first is that since every man protects his left side and his neighbors right side, the man on the far right side is unprotected. This made the phalanx vulnerable and slightly weaker on its right flank (I). The second is that a tightly packed group of heavily armed fighters is not very maneuverable. The failure to maneuver and adjust during battle became more evident when fighting very fast and maneuverable fighters like the Roman Legion (I). The third major flaw is in a hoplite’s armor. Although the armor is great in the phalanx, after the enemies line is broken and the hoplite must now fight hand-to-hand, he is wearing an enormous amount of weight that can slow him down and exhaust him very quickly, making him more vulnerable if the Greek light infantry fail to back him up (IV).


Picture: Vase Painting of a Hoplite

  1. Lendering, Jona. 27, July, 2013.

  2. Greeks and Phalanxes. 2011.

  3. Cartwright, Mark. Hoplite. 9 February, 2013.
  4. History of Warfare- Greek Citizen Armies: from the 7th Century BC. Page 3.

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The Amazon Queen, Thalestris, and Alexander the Great

Johann_Georg_Platzer_-_Thalestris_im_Lager_Alexander_des_Großen (1)

Alexander’s campaigns in 330 BCE brought him around the Black Sea, where he received many emissaries from tribal leaders negotiating peace, surrender, or joint military campaigns. One of those emissaries is said to be representing Thalestris, a supposed Amazon warrior-queen with the intent to carry Alexander’s child in her belly. According to the legend, Thalestris strode boldly into Alexander’s camp with a company of 300 women dressed as warriors, and suggested the great Macedonian King mate with her in order to provide a strong child worthy of both well-accomplished leaders.

The reliability of this account was circumspect even to early authors of the tale. Plutarch, in Lives (46-119 C.E.) quotes Alexander’s General, Lysimachus, as saying “Where could I have been at that time?” when he was given an account of the supposed encounter, indicating that no one believed the fantastical tale of the Amazon warrior-queen and Alexander. Arrian, in The Campaigns of Alexander (146 C.E.), mentioned the story, but also discounts the tale, stating that the Amazons had all vanished long before the reign of Alexander the Great.

However, the tale has been passed down to us today as an account of Alexander’s prowess and magnificence. The identity of the Amazon Queen has intrigued both modern and ancient writers, as historians try to work out why this tale has been included within the ancient writings.

In a 2001 journal article “Alexander and the Amazons,” Elizabeth Baynham presented the argument that Thalestris is actually a daughter of a Scythian king who was presented to Alexander as a condition of treaty, and that her 300 female warriors were a gift to Alexander’s generals. Baynham argued that since Alexander sent the 300 females away with the intent to protect them from abuse by his own army, Alexander did not view this female escort to be a legitimate force. Baynham argued that true female warriors would be able to take care of themselves and would not have needed Alexander’s protection. She stated that these were most likely prostitutes sent by the Scythian king to please Alexander’s men, dressed up in play-armor and taught how to ride for Alexander’s amusement.

Another argument for a likely tale of the Amazon Queen was presented in 2015 by Adrienne Mayor. In “When Alexander met Thalestris” Adrienne stated that there were nomadic raiders near the Black Sea that sometimes banded together in same-gender groups. Mayor stated that often, the strongest female warriors would be sent out to find the strongest male warriors and mate with them, producing strong offspring to carry on their traditions. These groups often had similar custody arrangements that Thalestris arranged with Alexander, that the resulting female child would remain with the mother however, if the child was a male he would be sent back to be raised by the father. Adrienne pointed to recent archeological evidence to prove her point, consisting of graves of females adorned with weapons and grave goods that included drawings of armed women on horseback.

Whether the Amazon Queen was the daughter of a Scythian king or a nomadic raider in her own right, the enchanting tale of Thalestris and Alexander the Great delights the ear of all who hear this fantastic tale. The more cultural implications of these conflicting viewpoints have been lost to time, though it is clear from the skeptical tone of the contemporary writers that the story may have been nothing more than a propaganda tale showing Alexander’s greatness and glory.


Arrian. The Campaigns of Alexander. Translated by Aubrey De Selincourt. London: Penguin Classics, 1987.

Baynham, Elizabeth. “Alexander and the Amazons.” The Classical Quarterly 51, no. 01 (July 2001): 115-126.

Mayor, Adrienne. “When ALexander met Thalestris.” History Today 65, no. 1 (January 2015): 10-17.

Plazer, Johann Georg. “The Amazon Queen, Thalestris, in the camp of Alexander the Great.” Christie’s. sale 7609. London: Wikimedia Commons, 2008.

Plutarch. Plutarch’s Lives. Translated by Dryden. Vol. 2. New York: A. L. Burt Company, n.d.

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Kyla Johnson

Blog post 2

Etruscan tombs

Featured image

I had originally wanted to look at Etruscan architecture to see what kinds of things they built and what kind of houses they lived in but as I was researching it didn’t turn out the way I expected. It turns out that the more I looked into architecture the more I found out about their tombs. Most people would think weird why would the resting places of the dead come up when you’re looking for architecture? Well it isn’t so weird when you find out like I did that the best examples we have of Etruscan architecture is their tombs. The Etruscans didn’t build tombs like we do neatly lining people up in cemetery’s instead they built the tombs like cities with streets small squares neighborhoods. The huts and houses built in this city of the dead provide amazing insights to structural details of Etruscan houses that we would not have had otherwise. A well-known example is known as the “Hut Shaped Tomb” in imitating houses we find out that they had things like gabled roofs and a main cross beam it even has stone couches next to the walls. The tombs like the real city buildings differed depending on social status and wealth.

Featured imageAnother great thing about Etruscan tombs is that they also tell us about daily life and art because a lot of them have a wealth of paintings in side. These paintings show daily life, ordinary tasks, religious ceremonies and animals like birds and dolphins. So in all reality the best clues we have about the lives of the Etruscans is not from looking at how they lived but looking at what they did for their dead.


<a title=”By Franck Schneider (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons” href=””><img width=”512″ alt=”Le tombe etrusche dipinte 07″ src=”//”/></a>

“Norchia Nekropolis” by AlMare – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

“Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia.” – UNESCO World Heritage Centre. UNESCO World Heritage C Entre, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

“Classic Court.” Tombs of the Etruscans « The Toledo Museum of Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Elena. “Etruscan Architecture.” Art History Summary Periods and Movements through Time. 2015 Raindrops Entries RSS, 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

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Solon and the Foundation for Democracy


(Bust de Solon, collection Farnèse, Musée national archéologique de Naples.)

“Solon”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

    When one thinks of the city of Athens, one thinks of the roots of democracy and a democratic system of government – perhaps the very first seen in world history. If indeed Athens was one of the earliest if not first political state to institute a democratic form of government, where did the ideas for such a system originate? Although it would be impossible to pinpoint one single person or group in Greek history, one could argue very persuasively that if one man is to be considered the father of Athenian democracy that man should be Greek Axial Age thinker and Athenian statesman, Solon.

Solon taught that the citizenry of a state should be responsible in forming a collaborative political effort to create a stable form of government and together devise solutions to societies’ problems. To achieve this he formed an assembly open to all male Athenians. Solon’s main goal was to lead Athens on the road to a more democratic form of government. He set out to accomplish this goal by abolishing farmer’s debts, enslavement for debt, and by formalizing the rights and privileges of each class of Athenian society according to wealth. To Solon wealth was a better way to determine access to public office over birth. He created a comprehensive code of law made available on tablets so that the Athenian citizens could see how they were being governed and what their specific rights were. Solon also created a set of census ratings for each adult citizen to have their wealth recorded in order to have access to public offices. When the people of Athens wanted Solon to assume tyranny of the city, he, some would say nobly, rejected the offer.

Solon’s reforms and ideas were not always immediately accepted openly by some in Athens. In fact democracy would not be fully instituted in Athens until fifty years after Solon’s death. Despite this, there is no denying Solon’s influence and contributions in setting Athens on the road to democracy.


“The Axial Age.” The Human Journey: Axial Age Greece. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

“The Internet Classics Archive | Solon by Plutarch.” The Internet Classics Archive | Solon by Plutarch. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Hertzoff, Andrew. 2008. “Eros and Moderation in Plutarch’s Life of Solon.” Review Of Politics 70, no. 3: 339-369. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 26, 2015).

“Solon”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

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Class Systems Under Alexander the Great


Battle of Issus

Alexander overthrew Darius III as king of Persia in 333 BC and, therefore, became king of Persia. Dominating almost every country in the known world, Alexander the Great lived up to his name and was the ultimate king- the conqueror of the time.  People lived their lives while he acquired country after country. Power struggles and class systems always seem to begin when a civilization starts to establish itself. It was already apparent when Alexander took the throne but was an important part of the people and society. Usually the establishment of a new group of people involves the break off from one civilization, resulting in the creation of another.

There were two distinct groups within Persian society while Alexander ruled: the upper and lower classes. Although “Macedon was a male-dominated society, the queens and royal mothers were greatly respected” (Skelton & Dell, p. 80)


Alexander The Greate and Roxane

This respect was shown because they came from wealthy families and would be the ones to produce the next heir to the throne. Struggle for power occurred regularly between the queen, the king’s mother, and even his advisors.

The king, aristocracy, and religious priests made up the upper class. Most of the aristocracy within the upper class was in command of the army as generals or in the cavalry. Their preferred interests were “fighting, hunting, and heavy drinking. The king could only gain respect from the nobility if he was an expert in all these activities” (Skelton & Dell, p. 80). Alexander loved to hunt and ended up heading a huge army with an enormous camp of followers trailing behind him.


Alexander with the Spear

Although the spear is long gone, this statue shows the “conqueror” part in Alexander’s title. He was a true Macedonian and king of Persia. His love for fighting proved correct when he led his men into India and other countries ultimately conquering what was seen as the “world”.

The lower class lived very different lives from upper society. Most of these people were workers or laborers. “Freemen got paid and could choose where they worked. Bondsmen were serfs and slaves, and had little or no choice about where and for whom they worked” (Skelton & Dell, p. 80).

Works Cited

(2009). Part II: Society and Culture. In D. Skelton, & P. Dell, Empire of Alexander the Great. New York: Chelsea House.


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Imhotep: One of the most influential physicians in Ancient Egypt

Doctors have been essential in society for centuries upon centuries. Whether or not they were knowledgeable in medicine and on the subject of the body through modern contraptions, or saw illness as the requirement for spiritual purification, physicians have been looked upon as crucial healers within the public eye.


“Imhotep, the vizer and physician of King Zoser.”


One very important historical physician, Imhotep, lived during the Pyramid Age in ancient Egypt (Worrall, 504). Before this genius, physicians tended to lean towards the spiritual or magical.


“Page from Edwin Smith surgical papyrus”

However, Imhotep “was the author of a medical treatise remarkable for being devoid of magical thinking: the so-called Edwin Smith papyrus containing anatomical observations, ailments, and cures” (Wikipedia). Many of the ailments on the papyrus included:

27 head injuries (cases #1-27)

6 throat and neck injuries (cases #28-33)

2 injuries to the clavicle (collarbone) (cases #34-35)

3 injuries to the arm (cases #36-38)

8 injuries to the sternum (breastbone) and ribs (cases #39-44)

1 tumour and 1 abscess of the breast (cases #45-46)

1 injury to the shoulder (case #47)

1 injury to the spine (case #48) (Wikipedia)

After him, many other Egyptian physicians “examined [their] patient by inspection, palpitation, and smell (Worrall, 504). There are several statues depicting this man, who eventually became known as a god in Egypt. The one shown resides in the Louvre Museum. However, this statue is one out of three that have the same pose.



One of the other statues identical to this one that is pictured dwells in the Princeton Art Museum. This allows visitors to come and observe what this amazing man may have looked like. It is interesting to note that several figures depicting Imhotep are dressed in the same type of attire which includes a tight cap, a wide collar which was set upon the shoulders and along the chest, and a pleated skirt almost reaching his ankles (Turnure, 25-26). This may, in fact, be an excellent example of how important men in the ancient time periods of Egypt dressed.


Imhotep. (n.d.). Retrieved 03 08, 2015, from Wikipedia:

Turnure, J. H. (1952). A Statuette of Imhotep. Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, 11(2), 25-26.

Worrall, G. (1967). Without Prejudice. British Medical Journal, 2(5550), 504.


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Ancient history

 Ishtar gate


The beautiful city of Babylon with its hanging gardens with their beautiful colors and the amazing 8th gate of Babylon called the gate of Ishtar named so because it was dedicated to the goddess Ishtar goddess of love, sex, and war. Though there are various other animals on the gate to pay homage to various other Babylonian deities. Lions, Dragons and Bulls are set up in rows all up and down the Ishtar gate the lions are associated with the goddess Ishtar the bulls with the god Adad the weather god and the Dragons with Marduk who was the national god of Babylon. The Ishtar gate is on the most important road through the city called the Processional Way which leads from the inner city though the Ishtar gate to the House of the New Year’s Festival or Bit Akitu. The Processional way was used for the new year celebrations in which statues of deities would parade down the path to the temple of Marduk .The gate is covered with glazed brick which allowed a colorful presentation that is not possible of regular brick. Ny_Carlsberg_Glyptothek_-_Ishtar-Tor

The gate has rows of dragons and bulls in yellow and brown tiles surrounded by beautiful blue tile that is still being debated on what is in it some think it is lapis lazuli. The gate was excavated by Robert Koldewey between 1902 to 1914 CE they found 45 feet of the original foundation and 1930 they reconstructed in the Pergamon museum in Berlin. Due to space though only front smaller half of the gate was reconstructed. The gate was so well known and so amazing that it was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World until I got replaced later. The gate was an amazing work of art and is a testament to how the people of the ancient world were capable of amazing and inspiring things.


“Berlin-mitte-pergamon-ischtar-tor” by Balou46This file was imported from Wikivoyage Shared. – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Brittany Britanniae. “Ishtar Gate,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified August 23, 2013. /Ishtar_Gate/.

“Lion Relief from the Processional Way.” Lion Relief from the Processional Way. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015. Associates in Fine Arts, Yale University, “Handbook: A Description of the Gallery of Fine Arts and the Collections,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 5, nos. 1–3 (1931): 7, ill.

Raymond P. Dougherty, “The Lion of Ishtar,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 4, no. 3 (1932): 144

– See more at:

“Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek – Ishtar-Tor” by Wolfgang Sauber – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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The Code of Hammurabi

The Code of Hammurabi

Hammurabi’s code of law on a basalt stele in Louvre Museum Paris, France.

Statues with laws written on them was a way for King Hammurabi to present his laws to the general public.


The Code of Hammurabi showed the Babylonian legal innovations that King Hammurabi was trying to enforce upon the kingdom and the values this ancient Sumerian society held. Originally, in what would be united as Babylon under Hammurabi, an individual would have to track down a person guilty of committing a crime and get that person to court in order for the victim to receive justice. However, in about 1780 B.C. the code of Hammurabi brought about a change in the legal system where the government hunted down criminals and brought them to justice. That being said, there was no real incarceration system or police force. This is why so many punishments consisted of the death penalty. Quick death penalty justice was the only real way to administer judgements and keep control since no such institutions existed. For example the second law in the code of Hammurabi reads,

“If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.”

This quick sort of justice was used as a determinant for those seeking to commit future crimes and impose control of an unstable empire that was barely unified. It also set up a system of state based crimes for religious infractions displaying the value of religion in Babylonian society. This value of religion in the second law states that if you drown it was a choice by the Gods as a sort of secondary punishment of breaking the law. The first was leaping into the river because an individual was accused.

On the reverse side there was also a direct governmental punishment for disobeying religious rules as pointed out in the hundred and tenth law. “If a ‘sister of a god’ open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.” Here a a direct punishment for a religious woman drinking or coming in close contact with alcohol is issued.This law shows that although women had some governmental rights under the code of Hammurabi Babylon was still a predominantly patriarchal society.

Even though though the code of Hammurabi was a high point in ancient legal administration it still did not retain a perfect control over the empire and not everyone received unbiased justice. The value of men over women meant that women were more likely to be killed for crimes committed whereas men sometimes received lesser punishments. Higher social status meant that nobles received justice in favor over those of lower positions namely free persons and slaves. Lastly the code of Hammurabi did not permanently install unity though governmental control and by Hammurabi’s death in 1686 B.C. Mesopotamia had fractured to a state of disunity once again.


Fordham University The Jesuit University of New York. “Ancient History Sourcebook: Code of Hammurabi, c. 1780 BCE,” (accessed March 7, 2015).

Mathisen, Ralph W.. Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations: From Prehistory to 640 CE. 2nd Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

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Finding Water When Rain Does Not Fall

The Middle East may have had a very different climate in 700 BCE, but it did have one thing in common with the climate today, rain was definitely seasonal. One thing we know, is that despite the seasonal rains, people managed to do more than just scrape out an existence, they thrived. So how did people living in areas such as modern day Iran manage to find water in an area that is known for being in some places hyper arid?

Qanat Irrigation

A qanat, as they were called by the Persians, is a series of vertical tunnels that were hand-dug by a single person, to a single horizontal shaft. The horizontal shaft would start at the outer reach of an alluvial fan running off of a mountain, and run to the base of the fan itself where the water table was at a higher elevation than the beginning of the shaft, usually tapping in to an aquifer. The vertical shafts, which were covered after use, would be used during the building process for ventilation and removal of material from the construction of the horizontal shaft, and would be later used as access points for maintenance. [Wulff] The beauty of qanat style irrigation is in its simplicity. The water that flows from the base of the alluvial fan is fed by gravity to the opening of the horizontal shaft at a constant flow, which eliminated the need to pump the water at any stage. Since the vertical shafts were dug instead of a large trench, the flow of the groundwater down the main shaft is covered and therefore not subject to evaporation by the sun. Qanats were also notoriously very reliable, since the ground water was not pumped out, it was allowed to flow at its own pace, therefore not drying up aquifers from over use.

Building a Qanat

Dating when qanats were first constructed is very difficult, however the written records show that the birthplace is more than likely in modern day Iran. The earliest reports of qanat irrigation is from the 7th century BCE, from the Assyrian King Sargon II, who reported finding a way to tap in to ground water during a Persian campaign. King Sargon’s son, King Sennacherib later used this idea to build the underground irrigation system around Nineveh. Qanats are also found in most of the countries conquered by the Persians from 550-331 BCE, from the Indus Valley to the Nile, and expanded upon more by the Romans, reaching as far as Luxembourg. [Moki Systems]

Although qanats were developed almost three thousand years ago, they are still very popular around the world today. In Iran alone, seventy five percent of the water used in the country, for irrigation and household use, is supplied by qanats. There are around 22,000 qanats, with more than 170,000 miles of underground channels. [Wulff]

Iranian Qanat


H. E. Wulff. “The Qanats of Iran.” Scientific American. April 1968, p. 94-105

Moki Systems. “Qanats.” Provo, UT

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