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A qanat is a gently sloping subterranean canalwhich taps a water-bearing zone located at a higher elevation than cultivated lands. Itconsists of a series of vertical shafts in sloping ground, interconnected at thebottom by a tunnel with a gradient flatter than that of the ground. From theair, this system looks like a line of anthills leading from the foothillsacross the desert to the greenery of an irrigated settlement. In a traditionalrealm, qanats are embraced by a socio-economic system which guarantees theirsustainability. The facets of this socio-economic system operate closelytogether and make it possible for the qanats to remain into the future.
Veins of the Desert shows that digging a qanat requires a variety of sciences andtechnologies, though at a glance a qanat is just a horizontal tunnel which drainsout groundwater. A qanat is a feat of technology left from our ancestors—hiddenunderground, but its technical importance is apparent and not less valuablethan such surface structures as bridges, castles, towers, etc. A qanat enjoysextended structures and sometimes its length reaches tens of kilometers. Itpasses through geological formations and faces different conditions andobstacles; this has led to the accumulation of knowledge in terms of qanatconstruction over time, which has been handed down from generation togeneration. A qanat is one of the most complicated traditional technologies, which requires knowledge on nature ranging from groundwater to management. Thisindigenous technology is used to bring water efficiently from tens ofkilometers away to the thirsty lands.
This book also gives insight into the culturaland social heritages which have crystalized around this technique, stillinfluencing the social life of thepeople living in such regions as the central plateau of Iran where qanats have been the only means of supplying water. This technology is the focal point ofthe genesis of a particular civilization in the arid and semi-arid regions ofIran. Thus, the qanat is not only an irrigational means, but it should be seenas a technical and cultural legacy which deserves more attention. This book isa small encyclopedia on the qanat system, providing readers with easy answersto their questions about different aspects of this ancient technology.