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  • Date :
  • 4/2/2016

World’s oldest bridge-water retainer

shushtar’s shadravan  bridge

One of Iran’s  historical  bridges, located in the  vicinity  of  new  bridge of  Shushtar to Dezful is  Shushtar’s Shadravan  Bridge  or  Qeisar Dam  (Water-Retainer) which dates  back  to  the Sassanid  era.
According to some reports this bridge-dam is considered the world’s oldest bridge. It has 44 big gates and 43 small gates.
Currently, 9 gates have remained on the northern side and 28 on the southern side. The length of  the  bridge  is  around  500 meters which is  more than  the  width of  the  river.
The  dam  has  2 convex  arches  facing the  flow  of  water  towards the  east  and a  concave  arch  in the  direction  of  water  flow.
Although these arches are the result of natural riverbed, one can consider them among arched dams.
The  width  of  the  substratum  or foundation of  the  bridge  is 7 meters,  the  width  of  the  water-gates  is 8 meters and  its  height  from  the  crown to  the  bridge  floor  is 10 meters. Carved stones, joined by metal fasteners, were used in the construction of the bridge-dam.  Its construction lasted for 3 years. There  were  mills  at the  side of  this bridge-dam  whose  wheels  were  moved  by  hydropower. There  was a massive  brick doorhead/facade in the easternmost side  of  the  bridge-dam  where  it  would  open to  city, and while  passing  over the  bridge-dam people  would  pass  under  this  massive facade.
The  materials  used  in  the  construction of  the  bridge-dam  are  from  unhewn stones, mortal and  ash.

In the course of the construction of the bridge-dam the riverbed was covered with hand-hewn stones joined to each other with metal fasteners. The Persian word Shadravan means carpet and precious, decorated setup and because the riverbed was covered by ordered hand-hewn stones, it is known as Shadravan. One of the reasons for construction of this giant bridge-dam was to raise and contain the water flow by foundations and pillars of Shadravan bridge-dam and redirection of water to the Dardiun River for the irrigation of Mianaab farms.

According to  eastern  narrations, Shapur I of the Sassanid Empire  after  captivating  Valerian, Emperor  of  Rome, asked  him  to  supervise the construction of a dam  near Shushtar.
This dam was 1500 feet long and it is still used for directing Karoon water to  farms.
One strong possibility is that the Shah of Iran had employed the Romans in Jundishapur  and Shushtar.
The Iranians attached great significance to the Roman  techniques  and  skills  and  also  undoubtedly this  dam  and  Shustar’s  Great Bridge  are the result of cooperation with Roman  engineers.

This bridge-dam along with other 15 Shushtar’s historical water-retaining structures all together are registered as Iran’s tenth site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

By Rahimeh Zargar

Translated by: Sadroddin Musawi

Other links:

The Province of Khuzestan

History of Khuzestan (part 1)

History of Khuzestan (part 2)

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