Technology, Tradition and Survival: Aspects of Material Culture in the Middle East and Central Asia

By Richard Tapper; Keith McLachlan | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Pigeon Towers and Ice-Houses on the Iranian Plateau

Elisabeth Beazley

Of the many buildings designed by the ingenious Iranians to make life more civilized in the harsh climate of the plateau, ice-houses perhaps take pride of place. Their pigeon towers are equally astonishing. 1


Pigeon towers(borj-e kaftar)

Their function and distribution

The distribution of pigeon towers is, naturally enough, a direct consequence of their use. By far the greatest number survive within the oasis of Esfahan (there are only isolated groups elsewhere). Afghan examples, near Herat, are in country which was part of Iran until two centuries ago, on the opposite edge of the plateau to Esfahan, in another fertile river valley near what was then another royal capital.

The general absence of pigeon towers is at first sight very surprising, but it can probably be accounted for by the fact that the squabs (young birds) were not used for food as they were in Britain and many other parts of Europe. The towers were built for the collection of pigeon manure, which was found to be particularly beneficial to the cultivation of melons, a fruit much prized in the hot, dry climate. A capital city produces a concentration of wealth which makes it profitable to intensify the agricultural output of a region which serves it; a steady demand for the luxury of melons over a long season would necessitate heavy use of fertilizer. Its production was the raison d'être of the pigeon tower, which might

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