0501 GMT July 24, 2021
There were more than 14,000 pigeon towers on the plain of Isfahan, especially on the east and west of the city, iranparadise.com wrote.
For most city dwellers, pigeons are categorized along with rats, cockroaches and mice as vermin. Not so in 16th and 17th century Iran. Domesticated, pigeons were a valuable resource, or rather, their poop was, atlasobscura.com wrote.
Rich in nitrogen, pigeon guano was used across the country as a natural fertilizer for melon and cucumber fields.
To gather this precious resource, homes were built for the pigeons. Often over six stories high and 45 to 75 feet in diameter, these towering structures were filled with a honeycomb of small roosts for the pigeons.
The towers are also an amazing example of architectural theme and variation, each based on one of eight traditional forms, but unique in its particular architecture.
Once numbering in the thousands, many of the towers are now falling apart. Today, due to the use of artificial fertilizer, only a few hundred pigeon towers remain operational. The remaining towers are clustered largely in Isfahan Province. More than 700 of the mud-brick towers remain in the city’s environs. The best place to see them is along the river of Zayanderud, south of the Fire Temple of Isfahan.
The pigeon houses are usually built of mud-brick. Unbelievably varied, often decorated by ornate cupolas and muqarnas friezes, they are so charming that it is well worth going even great distances to see them. The 17th-century traveler, Thomas Herbert, described the pigeon towers in 1629, saying that “albeit their [Iranian] houses were neat, yet they were in no wise comparable to their dovecots for curious outsides.” In the past, pigeon towers reflected the wealth of their owners, iranparadise.com wrote.
Although there are never two absolutely identical pigeon towers, all conform to a single plan. Basically, each tower consists of an outer drum, buttressed internally to prevent collapse and to support the inner drum that rises perhaps a third as high as the main structure. The buildings were created so as to be resistant to vibrations caused by pigeons when they flew out in groups. Thus, these curious constructions may be the first tremor-resistant structures in history.
Galleries are supported by arches, barrel vaults, and domes, which have holes to allow the birds to fly up and down, the top-most being crowned by turrets through which the birds enter. The dimensions of pigeon nests were such that a pair of pigeons could fly around easily.
Built with brick and overlaid with plaster and lime, these towers were some of the finest dovecots in any part of the world. At its peak, Isfahan had an estimated 3,000 pigeon towers.