World’s oldest bridge-water retainer
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
The Province of Khuzestan
History of Khuzestan (part 1)
History of Khuzestan (part 2)