Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Nashtifan Windmills

Nashtifan is a town located in the southern parts of Khorasan Razavi province 20 kilometers away from Khaf and 30 kilometers away from the border with Afghanistan. One of the main characteristics of the area is the strong winds that blow across it, causing it to initially be called Nish Toofan (storm’s sting). As a result of the natural elements in the area, windmills have been part of the region’s industrial creativity and have been used throughout many centuries. With the speed of the wind at times reaching 120 kilometers per hour, such windmills have been constructed perpendicular to the direction of the wind flow to maximize its output. The 120 day winds no doubt play the most crucial role in supplying the necessary force for running the windmills although the also affect the everyday life of the locals in many other aspects as well.

There are approximately 30 of such windmills scattered thought the area and can reach heights of 15-20 meters. The windmills are believed to have been erected during the Safavid dynasty and are generally constructed out of clay, straw and wood. The wooden blades of these windmills turn the grinding stones in a room made of clay. Each of the windmills consist of 8 rotating chambers with each chamber housing 6 vertical blades (essentially a wall with slits). Once the chambers begin rotating by the force of the wind, it results in the turning of the windmill’s main axle which was in turn is connected to grain grinders. The vibrations created by such rotation gradually shifts the grains from their holding container to the grain grinders. The end result is that the grain is ground into flour.

These windmills are among the oldest windmills of the world and the idea to construct windmills in other countries, particularly the Netherlands, has been transferred to these countries from Iran. These windmills were invented in eastern Persia around 500-900 A.D. The first known documented design is one with vertical sails made of bundles of reeds or wood which were attached to the central vertical shaft by horizontal struts. The one downside to such windmills is that because the wind panels rotate horizontally, only one side will be absorbing the wind energy while the other half of the device will essentially be going against the wind current and thus wasting energy in order to do so. As a result the blades can never move faster than, or even at, the speed of the wind.

In 2002 the windmills of Nashtifan were registered as a national heritage site by Iran’s Cultural Heritage Department.


  1. Very nice site, I am writing a book about mills in The Hague - Netherlands and will refer to your website. I doubt that the European windmill design came from these Persian windmills. I think that it is possible that the Europeans invented their windmills without knowing the Persian windmill.
    In theory the Persian windmill design could have brought to Europe by Arabic geographers (like Mas 'udi and Farsi al Istakri) who travelled from Persia to the Mediterranean area in the 10th century. The first Crusade started in 1096 and by early pilgrimage to the Holy Land starting in 950 this idea could have been brought by these early pelgrims to Western Europe where the first postmills were build. But the big question is why this Persian windmill was never spread out to other countries like Syria and Iraq. We found that the first postmill was located in Wormhout in 1067. Wiard Beek

    1. Hello dear WiardBeek, You may find the following articles interesting.
      best Wishes.




  2. " Persian windmills predate their European equivalents by over 500 years
    Since early recorded history, people have been harnessing the energy of the wind. Wind energy propelled boats along the Nile River as early as 5000 BC.
    The earliest known windmill design dates far back in time when Iranians grinded grain and pump water. Windmills are mud-brick structures erected in eastern Iran and western Afghanistan to harness wind power to move the runner stone of a mill to grind flour. These mills rely on a consistent wind known as the "120-day wind" which blows southward from the Qizil-Qum steppes in Turkmenistan toward the Baluchistan desert during the summer months.
    The strip along which this wind blows includes the eastern parts of Khorasan and Sistan provinces in Iran and the western border of Afghanistan.
    The greatest number of well-known windmills are located in villages around Khaf in Khorasan, including Nashtifun and Neh (located midway between Birjand and Zahedan), where they can be found in rows along the outskirts of villages, where the terrain is higher in elevation. Building windmills in rows appears to be a practical way to save material and space while providing safety and protection for the millers. Free-standing and semi-detached windmills are more common on the Afghan side of the border.

    Some scholars have proposed that eastern Iran is the origin of the first windmills, which then spread as far as China in the east and Europe in the west. Historical sources suggest that these windmills predate their European equivalents by at least five hundred years. The first written reference to Persian windmills was found in 644 CE in the work of the famous medieval historian Masudi. An explanation of the architectural and functional characteristics of windmills is found in a fourteenth-century document written by the Syrian geographer al-Dimashghi, whose description also includes a schematic illustration. The construction date of the area's existing windmills is unclear, as they have been rebuilt and renovated over time. Some of them are considered to be Safavid or Qajar constructions, although no solid evidence exists. ...
    Up until the 1970s, a number of windmills were still in use in Iran and Afghanistan. With the advent of mechanical engines, abandoned windmills have fallen into disrepair and ruin. In recent years, some windmills have been renovated and restored by the National Heritage Organization of Iran. The best-preserved examples are in the Khorasani villages of Neh and Nashtifun, where thirty-three out of forty original windmills are still standing." (Source: archnet.org)
    Ref: http://www.tehrantimes.com/highlights/104993-persian-windmills-predate-their-european-equivalents-by-over-500-years

  3. "The earliest known windmill design dates back 3000 years to ancient Persia where they were used to grind grain and pump water. Reeds were bundled together to create vertical paddles that spun around a central axis. Carefully placed exterior walls ensured that wind would primarily drive the potentially bidirectional system in the desired direction. Of course, the use of wind power in sailing predates the inventions of windmills but these are the first known use of wind to automate mechanical/manual everyday tasks. Persia is also the original home of one of the most complex passive ventilation and cooling systems that has ever existed – 2,000-year-old engineering that rival modern hi-tech equivalents with the simple and elegant effectiveness of their design. Using a combination of air pressure differentials, structural orientation and running water these windcatcher structures help regulate temperatures in the harshest of desert environments with cool nights and burning hot days."
    Ref: http://www.solaripedia.com/13/80/persian_windmills_and_wind_towers_from_ancient_times.html

  4. Hello, I read with great interest what you have reported on windmills in Syria. They believe not widespread in Europe. I have found a mill with Syrian technique in southern Italy (medium evo). But it was not used to grind but through a PTO and continuous movement of the toothed wheel mechanism fed a saw for lumber. And 'likely this reconstruction? Unfortunately I can not find documents of the period. Can I have your opinion on this subject? Many thanks. Yours sincerely

    1. These windmills are not in Syria but in Iran. Perhaps those in Syria have a similar design but unfortunately I am not familiar with them and cannot give you any information about them.

    2. sorry, I was wrong indication, I'm in the mills page Iranians .... but a discussion on the phone on this matter made me commit the incorrect indication.
      I wish to mention the Iranian mills.
      I also am looking for news on Arab techniques that can be introduced in European countries and that are located on the Mediterranean Sea.
      Thanks for any opinions regarding