The Qanat System: A Reflection on the Heritage of the Extraction of Hidden Waters

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This chapter focuses on a traditional Iranian water infrastructure, the qanat system, a technical solution to the problem of accessing water for irrigation and urbanization that has shaped the landscape and organized the territory. The qanat was the basis for habitation, construction, and prosperity (abadani). It is also a key to understanding the culture and civilization of the Iranian Plateau and has evolved as a form of cultural heritage. Therefore, preserving this heritage is more than protecting an old technology. Rather, it requires a deeper understanding of the territory in which the qanat operated and of its limitations and possibilities. Discussing a historical work, The Extraction of Hidden Waters by Muhammad Al-Karaji (953–1029), this chapter explicates the multivalent role of the qanat system in managing and organizing the territory, society, life, and culture in the Iranian Plateau; this multiplicity of aspects and scales shapes its consideration of qanats’ heritage today.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdaptive Strategies for Water Heritage
Subtitle of host publicationPast, Present and Future
EditorsCarola Hein
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-00268-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-00267-1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Al-Karaji
  • Heritage
  • Iranian plateau
  • Qanat
  • Territory


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