Photos by Laleh Khajoie, Jame Jam
Arg-e Bam (Bam citadel) was the largest adobe building in the world, located in Bam, a city in the Kerman Province of southeastern Iran. It is listed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Site "Bam and its Cultural Landscape."
On December 26, 2003, the Citadel was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake, along with much of the rest of Bam and its environs. The quake killed about 32,000 people, flattened 70% of Bam's buildings and equally devastated the nearby town of Baravat and 260 area villages. Bam Citadelwas reduced from a stunning byzantine garrison, visited by more than 100,000 people yearly, to a canyon of pulverized rubble not much different than the other treeless, rock-strewn mountains that delineate the central Iranian plateau from the southern desert.
In the days after the quake, the Iranian government announced that the Citadel would be rebuilt. However, this architecture jewel has been ignored and neglected. The pace of reconstruction has been slow, and after 10 years this monument is yet to rise again.
Bam and its Cultural Landscape: (Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC)
Bam and related sites represent a cultural landscape and an exceptional testimony to the development of a trading settlement in the desert environment of the Central Asian region. It developed at the crossroads of important trade routes at the southern side of the Iranian high plateau, and it became an outstanding example of the interaction of the various influences. It is an outstanding example of a fortified settlement and citadel in the Central Asian region, based on the use of mud layer technique (Chineh) combined with mud bricks (Khesht).
The cultural landscape of Bam is an outstanding representation of the interaction of man and nature in a desert environment, using qanats. The system is based on a strict social system with precise tasks and responsibilities, which have been maintained in use until the present, but has now become vulnerable to irreversible change.
Bam is situated between Jebal Barez Mountains and the Lut Desert at 1,060 m above sea level in south-eastern Iran. The city was affected by the 6.5 Richter scale earthquake on 26 December 2003. More than 26,000 people lost their lives and a large part of the town was destroyed.
Bam grew in an oasis created mainly thanks to an underground water management system (qanats ), which has continued its function until the present day. The principal core zone consists of the Citadel (Arg-e Bam) with its surroundings. Outside this area, the specified remains of protected historic structures include: Qal'eh Dokhtar (Maiden's Fortress, c . 7th century), Emamzadeh Zeyd Mausoleum (11th-12th centuries), and Emamzadeh Asiri Mausoleum (12th century). The Enclosure of the Citadel (Arg-e Bam) has 38 watchtowers; the principal entrance gate is in the south, and there are three other gates. A moat surrounds the outer defence wall, which encloses the Government Quarters and the historic town of Bam. The impressive Government Quarters are situated on a rocky hill (45 m high) in the northern section of the enclosure, surrounded by a double fortification wall. The main residential quarter of the historic town occupies the southern section of the enclosure. The notable structures include the bazaar extending from the main south entrance towards the governor's quarters in the north. In the eastern part, buildings include the Congregational Mosque, the Mirza Na'im ensemble (18th century), and the Mir House. The mosque may be one of the oldest built in Iran, going back to the 8th or 9th centuries, probably rebuilt in the 17th century. The north-western area of the enclosure is occupied by another residential quarter, Konari Quarter.
The beginnings of Bam are fundamentally linked with the invention and development of the qanat system. The technique of using qanats was sufficiently well established in the Achaemenid period (6th-4th centuries BC). The archaeological discoveries of ancient qanats in the south-eastern suburbs of Bam are datable at least to the beginning of the 2nd century BC. A popular belief attributes the foundation of the town itself to Haftvad, who lived at the time of Ardashir Babakan, the founder of the Sassanian Empire (3rd century BC). The name of Bam has been associated with the 'burst of the worm' (silk worm). Haftvad is given as the person who introduced silk and cotton weaving to the region of Kerman.
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