Ancient tunnel discovered near Achaemenid dam in Persia

A cultural heritage protection team has recently discovered a stone-arched tunnel located near an Achaemenid embankment dam in southern Iran.

“A stone-arched tunnel, which is 1.5 meters in height, has recently been found adjacent to a historical dam that is named after the Achaemenid king Darius (the Great) in Marvdasht plain of Fars province,” a local official said.


So far, 40 meters of the tunnel, which is believed to be once an aqueduct, have been explored, the official added.

“However, a careful study by heritage and cultural experts is expected to reveal the original usage of the tunnel.”

Archaeologists believe embankment dams constructed during the Achaemenid era (c. 550 – 330 BC) and their role in water management is still a source of inspiration for modern architects and engineers.

“Achaemenid-era embankment dams were built with such knowledge, extent, and durability that after 25 centuries, [modern] earthen dams are still built per the Achaemenid engineering model,” Hamia Karami says.

The archaeologist pointed to “Bostan Khani” Dam, which is registered in the National Heritage list, as one of the “engineer masterpieces” the Achaemenids, saying: “Excavations and surveys on Bostan Khani Dam, as one of the engineering masterpieces of the Achaemenid period… can increase our knowledge and understanding of the methods and techniques of dam construction and architectural structure that is currently being practiced.”

Located on a branch of the Pulwar River, near the UNESCO-registered Pasargadae, the dam is designed to contain floods and store large amounts of water for public use as well as use in agriculture and horticulture.

The Achaemenid [Persian] Empire was the largest and most durable empire of its time. The empire stretched from Ethiopia, through Egypt, to Greece, to Anatolia (modern Turkey), Central Asia, and to India.

Building activity was extensive during the height of the empire, and of the several Achaemenian capitals, the ruins at Pasargadae and Persepolis are probably the most outstanding. Achaemenian sculptured reliefs and a great number of smaller art objects present a remarkably unified style for the period. Metalwork, especially in gold, was highly developed, and a variety of carefully executed examples survive.

The Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire that was based in Western Asia and founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. It reached its greatest extent under Xerxes I, who conquered most of northern and central ancient Greece. At its greatest territorial extent, the Achaemenid Empire stretched from the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. The empire was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning a total of 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles).[11][12]

The empire had its beginnings in the 7th century BC, when the Persians settled in the southwestern portion of the Iranian Plateau, in the region of Persis. From this region, Cyrus rose and defeated the Median Empire—of which he had previously been king—as well as Lydia and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, following which he formally established the Achaemenid Empire.

The Achaemenid Empire is known for imposing a successful model of centralized, bureaucratic administration via the use of satraps; its multicultural policy; building infrastructure, such as road systems and a postal system; the use of an official language across its territories; and the development of civil services, including its possession of a large, professional army. The empire’s successes inspired the usage of similar systems in later empires.