The Persian civilization can be considered one of the most scientific civilizations of the ancient world because of the advanced level of the invention carried out. Now the present day Iran, the Persian civilization holds credit to some very interesting and scientific inventions like the refrigerator, battery, sulfuric acid etc. which were very advanced and modern for the world back then. These inventions were very simple and made use of the available resources in the region. The potential of these discoveries may not have been fully understood in ancient Persia as these discoveries are still evolving in the modern world. Nonetheless, it shows the high degree of advancement of the people in the civilization. Here are the top 10 inventions of the Persian civilizations.
10. Yakhchal (Refrigerator)
Yakhchal is an ancient evaporative cooler which has the two-fold meaning. Yakh represents ‘ice’ and Chal means ‘pit’. These ancient refrigerators were mainly built and used in Persia. The Persians had mastered the technique of building and using Yakhchal by 400 BCE. The structure above the ground was dome shaped and had a subterranean storage space. Coupled with thick heat-resistant construction materials, the subterranean storage space was insulated year round. The underground spaces were up to 5000 cubic meters in volume. Many of these structures were constructed hundreds of years ago are still standing.
Cold air entered the structure through the base and subterranean space. The conical shape of the structure allowed the remaining heat to flow upwards and outside which caused the inside of the structure cooler than the outer environment. It is built of unique water resistant mortar called sarooj. The structure is composed of sand, clay, egg whites, goat hair and ash in certain proportions that makes it resistant to heat transfer and waterproof. The walls at the base are at least 2 meters thick. The main usage of the structure was to store ice, but it was also used to store food. Ice was created in the winter and stored in the Yakhchal for the summer.
A ceramic pot, a tube of one metal and a rod of another created the Baghdad Battery or Parthian Battery. The artifacts were found in Mahoze which is the modern Khujut Rabu. The battery was tested by some western scientists which revealed the jar of the battery filled with vinegar (or other electrolytes), that generated the current of 1.5 to 2.0 volts
Wilhelm Konig, assistant at the National Museum of Iraq in the 1930s, authored a paper that proposed that the artifacts may have formed galvanic cells used for electroplating gold onto silver objects. This hypothesis is rejected today while the origin and purpose of the artifacts still remain unclear. If the artifacts were used as batteries in the Persian civilization, the discovery of batteries by Count Alessandro Volta could have been predated over 1,600 years.
8. Sulfuric Acid
The sulfuric acid is one of the prominent discoveries of the Persian civilization. Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Jakarta al-Razi, a Persian astronomer, mathematician, and geographer was the first to discover sulphuric acid. It was not just an important discovery back then, but also the basis for chemical engineering in the modern day field of chemistry.
Sulfuric acid, today, is used to make many substances from fertilizers to detergents and thus has impacted agriculture to lifestyle. A nation’s industrial strength can also be gauged by the amount of sulfuric acid that is produced by that nation.
Backgammon, a popular game in the modern world was first invented in Iran about 3000 BC. It is one of the oldest surviving board games. In the modern world, it is played with two players where the playing pieces are moved according to the roll of the dice. A player wins if he/she is able to remove all of their pieces from the board before their opponent.
Senet was a similar type of game invented by the ancient Egyptians but the Persians are still widely known as the inventors of backgammon. Excavations at Shahr-e Sukhteh in Iran has discovered a board game with two dice and 60 checkers. The popularity of backgammon has survived thousands of years in the region as Iranians can still be found playing the game in public parks and cafes all over the country. The game is today known as Nard with different initial positions and objectives than the ancient game.
During the middle of 6th century BCE, the Persian Empire of the Achaemenid dynasty sprung to supremacy and spread across Mesopotamia and Afghanistan. The old Persians language was developed during the early history of the dynasty. It is not a direct descendant of the Sumerian and Akkadian systems. While the physical appearance of Old Persian signs is Cuneiform (in the shape of wedges), the actual shape of the signs do not correspond to signs in the older system using similar phonetic values.
Some logograms were also part of the Old Persian ‘syllabary’, making it somewhat of a misnomer. Old Persian is classified as a syllabic script and is also a very skeletal syllabary with sounds like /pu/ not having independent signs. IT was written with the signs pa and u. Texts written in this form have been found in Persepolis, Susa, Hamadan, Armenia, Romania, Kharg Island, along the Suez Canal. These were inscriptions that date to the time period of Darius I and his son Xerxes I. Later on a more recent form of the language known as ‘pre-Middle Persian’ was used.
5. Postal Service
There are reliable evidences that the first regular postal system in the world began from ancient Iran. The horse riders and horse-drawn wagons carried mail that consisted mostly of governmental dispatches, and were delivered from one place to another. As per the Greek historian Herodotus, the regular postal service began in ancient Iran in the 6th century BC during the reign of the first King of Achaemenid, Cyrus the Great. The postal system was supposed to be very swift with men and horses standing along the road at the interval of a day’s journey stopped by neither snow nor rain nor heat.
The service used the system of messengers known as Chapaar in Persian. The messengers rode horses and carried mails. The relay stations were close by so that a horse could run without resting or feeding. These relay stations were post offices or post houses known as Chapaar-Khaneh in Persian. The messengers stopped to pass their packets of mail to another messenger or to get another horse.
4. The Concept of Human Rights
Human rights is a burning issue in the present modern day. While it may seem like a new development, the concept of human rights takes root in ancient Persia. The armies of Cyrus the Great, the first king of ancient Persia conquered the city of Babylon in 539 BC. He freed the slaves and gave people the right to choose their own religion. by establishing racial equality. This declaration was recorded in the baked clay cylinder in the Akkadian language with the cuneiform script known as the Cyrus Cylinder.
The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia in 1879 and is currently placed at the British Museum. This Declaration has been translated into all six official languages of the United Nations and its provisions parallel the first four Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has also been dubbed as the First Declaration of Human Rights which has been supported by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in a 1967 book, The White Revolution of Iran.
Modern animation has taken a great leap forward but its history dates back to the Bronze Age in the Persian civilization. An earthenware goblet discovered in Burnt City in Sistan and Baluchestan province is believed to be 5,200 years old. The goblet depicts a series of drawings of a goat that jumps towards a tree and eats the leaves. Sequential pictures similar to the one on the goblet can be found throughout medieval Islamic Persia.
Discovered by Italian archaeologists from a burial site, the special relationship between the images was not immediately noticed. The relationship of the figures was discovered years later by Iranian archaeologist Dr. Mansur Sadjadi. Researchers have been at odds since then over the significance of the artwork over the bowl. It was believed to depict the goat eating from the Assyrian Tree of Life, but archaeologists now believe that the goblet predates the Assyrian civilization by 1,000 years.
2. Taxation System
Taxation system takes its root in the Persian civilization. It was an important component of the Achaemenid state administration. It was known as the Achaemenid Taxation. In the Persian Empire under Cyrus II and Cambyses, subjects were mostly obliged to deliver only gifts. Regular taxes were first started under the rule of Darius I (r. 522-486 BCE). While state taxes already existed during the time of Cyrus II, it was not regulated and people who did not pay taxes had to deliver gifts and vice versa.
While Persians, as the ruling people were exempt from taxes, they were not exempt from taxes in kind. It was only monetary taxes that were exempt for them. Some information on the collection of the taxes in southwestern Iran during the reign of Darius I is found in the Elamite Fortification document. Some of the records have the receipt of small livestock paid as state taxes. Approximately 7,740 Babylonian talents of silver (about 232,200 kg) was paid by the people subject to the Achaemenid rulers each year excluding the Indian satrapy which paid its assessment in the form of gold dust.
1. Qanat (Water Supply System)
Qanat is a gently sloping underground channel that carries water from an aquifer or water well to houses and fields. It is used for irrigation at fields and for drinking at houses. It is an old system of water supply from deep wells with series of vertical access shafts. They still are a reliable supply for water in human settlements and for irrigations in hot, arid and semi-arid climates. It was first developed by the Persian people in Iran around the 1st millennium BC. It slowly spread westward and eastward from there.
The Qanat tunnels which could be several kilometers long were hand dug and it was big enough to fit the person digging the tunnel. The vertical shafts, sunk at about an interval of 20 to 30 meters removed excavated materials and also acted as ventilation and access for repairs. Main Qanat tunnels were sloped down from pre-mountainous alluvial fans to an outlet at villages. From there the canals distributed water to fields for irrigation. This structure built with such scientific vision allowed the Persian farmers to survive during long dry periods without surface water. These Qanats are still used in many places in China, Morocco, and America.
All these discoveries having both utilitarian value and intellectual value, show that the Persian civilization was one of the most advanced civilizations in the history of the world. Development of abstract concepts like human rights, taxation etc. have emerged from this civilization which is still highly valued and studied about. Persian civilization was also rich with scientific discoveries that include the first batteries, refrigerators, and chemicals like sulfuric acid. These discoveries have been crucial for the modern world.