Sunday, April 6, 2008
The Red Snake
At the time when the Western Roman Empire is collapsing and even the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire under great external pressure, the Sasanian Persian Empire musters the manpower to build and garrison a monument of greater scale than anything comparable in the west. The Persians seem to match, or more than match, their Late Roman rivals in army strength, organisational skills, engineering and water management. Archaeology is beginning to paint a clearer picture of an ancient super power at its apogee. What a pity that the current Islamic regime ruling Iran is so intent on destroying all things pre-Islamic. And they call us in the US barbarians! Hah! Here's the first part of a fascinating article about uncovering the secrets of the 195 kilometers long Red Snake, from currentarchaeology.co.uk: is longer than Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall taken together. It is over a thousand years older than the Great Wall of China as we know it today. It is of more solid construction than its ancient Chinese counterparts. It is the greatest monument of its kind between central Europe and China and it may be the longest brick, or stone, wall ever built in the ancient world. This wall is known as ‘The Great Wall of Gorgan’ or ‘the Red Snake’. An international team of archaeologists has been at work on the snakelike monument and here they report on their findings. The ‘Red Snake’ in northern Iran, which owes its name to the red colour of its bricks, is at least 195km long. A canal, 5m deep or more, conducted water along most of the Wall. Its continuous gradient, designed to ensure regular water flow, bears witness to the skills of the land-surveyors responsible for marking out the Wall's route. Over 30 forts are lined up along this massive structure. Their combined size is about three times that of those on Hadrian's Wall. Yet these forts are small in comparison with contemporary fortifications in the hinterland, some of which are around ten times larger than the largest Wall forts. The 'Red Snake' is unmatched in so many respects and an enigma in yet more. Who built this defensive barrier of awesome scale and sophistication, when, and for what reason? Even its length is unclear: its western terminal was flooded by the rising waters of the Caspian Sea, while to the east it runs into the unexplored mountainous landscape of the Elburz Mountains. An Iranian team, under the direction of Jebrael Nokandeh, has been exploring this Great Wall since 1999. In 2005 it became a joint Iranian and British project. Our aim: to answer the fundamental questions of when, who, and why. Rest of article.