Recorded: May 9, 2019
Event: Pourdavoud Center Lecture Series
Citation: Soroush, Mehrnoush. "The Lords of Canals: Re-Examining the Sasanian Hydraulic Landscapes and Their Heritage in the Islamic Period," Pourdavoud Center Lecture Series. May 9, 2019
by Mehrnoush Soroush (Harvard University)
The Lords of Canals: Re-Examining the Sasanian Hydraulic Landscapes and Their Heritage in the Islamic Period
Sasanian kings are known as builders of impressive hydraulic projects such as the monumental canal of Nahrawan (in southern Iraq), and the Shadorwan bridge of Shushtar (in southwestern Iran). Sasanian hydraulic landscapes have had a profound impact on anthropological discourse of empires and water management, as they linked large and complex water infrastructures to a highly centralized state system. The evidence for state engineering is found in the linearity of Sasanian canals and the monumentality of their bridges and weirs. It is commonly believed that the monumental Sasanian waterworks fell into decline in the sixth and sevenths centuries because of the decline of the state power and its eventual demise in the wake of the Islamic conquest. This talk will shed fresh light on water management in the Sasanian period. First, it stresses the longue durée of the Sasanian hydraulic infrastructures by showing the connection of these waterworks to prior investments and the evidence for continuous investment in Sasanian hydraulic landscapes in the Islamic period . Second, it will question the degree and the scale of centralized water management in the Sasanian period.
About the Speaker
Mehrnoush Soroush is an archaeologist and historian of ancient water infrastructures. She holds a Ph.D. from the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) at New York University, and is currently a Visiting Fellow in the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University. Her research integrates digital technologies, fieldwork, and textual sources in order to investigate the history and intersection of water management and urbanism in the Iranian World. She is primarily interested in examining how water technologies enabled the formation and maintenance of a burgeoning network of Iranian cities in arid and semi-arid regions that relied on market-oriented irrigation agriculture and water intensive industries.