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Thousand year-old windmills in Iran (2017) (longnow.org)
296 points by autokill 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments

As an Iranian, this is the first time I hear about these windmills! Unfortunately, the only source of info about them is this National Geography video.

There is no exclusive page for them on wikipedia, but I could find how they work generally here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panemone_windmill

That wiki page suggests that the sails are articulated? In the video these are very much fixed sails - looks like battens of woods lashed or nailed together so I don't think the sails themselves can turn.

I do wonder which way the prevailing wind is for those windmills though as they are surrounded by walls. The knee jerk reaction is that the wind comes "face on" but then surely there would not be a turning force if the wind blows on both sides of the axis equally (especially since the sails look to be fixed)

I did notice there was a small vertical slit on the back wall, which makes me wonder if the wind blows "sideways" and generates lower pressure by blowing over the slit, causing the sails to move.

I would guess the wind blows into the slit, driving just one side of the paddle.

Just watching the video shows how they work just the same as a water wheel does, except "on their side". The wall(s) erected around them are shielding one half of the windmill, thus there is wind flowing onto one side of the windmill only.

Hmm yes of course :) So in the videos we are seeing the "back" of the windmills.

They look surprisingly similar to a modern vertical axis wind turbine, although without the "lift" shape to the blades.

They also have incredible underground aqueducts that have been maintained for thousands of years. Smart people.

The distance these cover and the depth they tunnel into mountains is part of what makes them incredible, in case the description of underground aquaducts doesn't sound cool enough.

True! :) I first learnt of them years back on TV - think it was a Channel 4 (UK broadcast channel) documentary, in which they sent a British academic into somewhat hazardous situations. He walked underground along one of these tunnels. Haven't been able to find the documentary since, unfortunately.

I think Iain Stewart went down one for his "Rise of the Continents" series.

3000 years old: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/05/iran-qanat-i...

> The technology spread, through Silk Road trade and Muslim conquest, and qanats can be found as far as Morocco and Spain.

Petra in Jordan also has water system although not tunnels.

Other ancient cities in Jordan had tunnels (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadara_Aqueduct). These tunnels, which are thought to be originally from Iran but adopted by many cultures including the Romans, exist all over the world including in Luxembourg.

Fascinating how these windmills come across as a symbiosis between man and nature.

They’re an integral part of the landscape, part of the culture (or used to be), and harness the local environment to produce something. Same goes for rice terraces, vineyards, etc.

And yet I see many people complain about us sticking wind turbines on top of hills.

One can only imagine how the Iranian wind wills were received a thousand years ago.

I suspect it will take a generation or two for these turbines to turn them in to an integral part of our life as well. Or utter necessity.

I know that in Europe Millers were treated and depicted literally satanic for their use of cleverness to gather work passively and riches without conquest or subjugation. Their greatest sin was not fitting in with the expectations of the social order.

People whinge about new things. You don't see anyone complaining that the pyramids are an eyesore or the Arc de Triomphe is a waste of taxpayers' money.

The Eiffel Tower wasn’t well received at first, now it’s a part of Parisian identity.

Gotta love that cycle.

Guy de Maupassant loathed it so much that he ate lunch there daily, since it was the only place that it didn't spoil the sklyine.

My vague understanding is there are still mixed feelings about it.

Sure but the ratio is pretty overwhelmingly positive now.

The Eiffle Tower is the best example of this as it was derided as an eyesore allowed for the World Fair.

Iran also has ancient natural air conditioning tech


Persians are very smart people

> Persians are very smart people

I agree, but doesn't this have more to do with the stability of their society, in that period?

What stability? Persia (current Iran) has been under constant attack from its neighbors for thousands of years, most notably Alexander's conquest, the Arab invasion, and the Mongols.

I wonder if they enjoyed fame and technical 'supremacy' (pardon the term) at the time kinda like the western world in the last century.

Another film about the windmills:


From the International Wood Culture Society, who have a ton of other wood-related content:


What are the windmills used for? Is it for milling grains?

I suspect many bread makers would immediately recognize the name of the province where the windmills are located.


Yes, wheat into flour for naan. In this video[0] linked by twic you can see them in operation

0: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv3Pn2DFkDw

There's likely an interesting Ship of Theseus debate to be had about whether these are indeed thousand-year-old windmills, and whether it's accurate to consider the windmills build a thousand years ago to be "still standing".

'In one of the most iconic scenes in British television comedy, Trigger, the butt of so many ‘Only Fools and Horses’ jokes, proudly reveals that he has used the same road sweeping brush for his entire career. “This old broom”, he says “ has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles”. We, the audience, are laughing at his apparent stupidity long before Sid points out “how the hell is it the same bloody broom then?”'

Only Fools and Horses, Ship of Theseus edition, wait till you see Plato fall through the bar.

"This is not the same river! All the water is new!"

And of course there is a “Wait but Why” article about that...

PS: scroll down to “Continuity”


Well so are you. None of you exists from ten years ago. Are you still you?

I have a few tatoos that are way older than 10 years. So at least the bits with ink in them are still there.

Yes. The dead parts can remain. The living parts change. Weird stuff are we.

This is so cool!


"Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents."


Please leave non-substantive comments for elsewhere; the reason people come back to HN is because of the high quality comments.


Yes it is as he's explaining what's generally accepted here (not downvoted). Maybe you do not usually read the comments but it's often discussed. And your personal case does not make it less valid.

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