Sunday, December 20, 2009

Water Mills of Yazd

Before World War II most of the corn ground to produce the flour for the staple in the Iranian diet, bread, was processed by traditionally powered mills, principally water mills (آسیابهای آبی). They were fed by a leat diverted from a qanat. The head of water to drive the wheel is generally penned up in a stone tower or well or hollowed-out tree trunk or allowed to run down a wooden channel set at a fairly steep gradient. The paddles may be shaped like rough spoons or spatulas, wedged at an oblique angle into the base of the shaft just above its foot bearing. As they are spun by the jet of water from the penstock the shaft revolves and drives the single runner stone above. Litigation over water rights for irrigation, which so often hounded the Iranian rural scene, seldom extended to water mills, which benefited from, but did not obstruct the flow of water from a qanat or stream on its way to the fields.  

The ancient water mills in Yazd province are due to be documented as an anthropological symbol in this desert community. A file of characteristics, features, and antiquity of these mills has been prepared for documentation works.  

The mills building mainly comprise of three completely separate parts. The middle part of the building, located in front of the entrance of the mill, used to be a dwelling for overnight stays as well as weighing wheat and flour, and called Mardkhaneh. There is a one-meter high platform in the middle part of this building where an oven was used for heating purpose and baking bread. Mills were driven by water which when came to the wheel blades under the oven, was directed out through tunnels under the building. Therefore, when the mills did not work due to lack of water, bringing water into the building would be possible through this tunnel. To prevent people and animals from entering the tunnel, a stone wall was erected in the middle of the tunnel. Most of the mills, with a more vantage position, used to have watch towers next to the mill.  

Two water mills, Vazir and Koshk’e Nou mills, dating back to the 1st to 5th centuries are slated for restoration after sitting in disrepair for decades. The mills were built 30 to 40 meters deep in the ground to use the water current of qanats and people accessed them via a staircase, which has had 5 landings and each one was adequately lit. One of the feeding qanats still trickles and renovation experts hope to have it run the mills again.  

The double stone water Mill of Mohammad Abad Meybod, an amazing hydraulic structure, is absolutely unique. The mill is remotely situated in a deserted area some 8 kilometers out of Mohammad Abad Village and 50 kilometers from Yazd. It has been created at the depth of 40 meters in order to grind wheat. No construction materials were used to establish this marvelous mill. The entrance corridor of the mill is high enough for animals such as cows, donkeys or camels could go back and forth easily and the lateral stables would room the animals to carry flour. The nearby oasis supplied their consuming flour from this 150 year old water driven structure. Dust and slime had filled the mills long narrow passage gradually in the course of time due to flood waters and was later unblocked by the regional water organization’s authorities.  

The Water Mill of Ashkezar is an extremely impressive water mill dating back to Ali Naghi Khan’s period in the 19th century. This structure which is one of the biggest water mills in Iran, has recently been reconstructed by the cultural heritage organization of Yazd due to its historical credibility and terrific engineering characteristics. This mighty structure which was driven by the Hemmat Abbad qanat water and could grind 210 kilograms of wheat per hour was once the only water mill supplying flour for the whole oasis from Meybod to Ashkezar.  

The steep Corridor of the mill is 56 meters long and 4.1 meters wide. It is located in Ashkezar some 15 kilometers north of Yazd. The mill is built of brick and the innovative geometrical designs of the indoor ceiling are of thrilling Iranian features architecturally. The building is octagonal indoors and its four sides are 4.8 meters each while the other four ones are 2.75 meters and it has a dome shaped roof. Each small side includes an arch with a notch. Two chambers have been devised on the right and left angles as well as the southern cloister which was used as storage for the mill equipment.  

The Water Mill of Taft is the only active one out of 17 water mills constructed on qanats of Aharestan and Dolat Abad. It is located 20 kilometers southwest of Yazd in the city of Taft. The structure is more than 200 years old. 


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