Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sirjan Rugs: Meymand, living antiquity

Meymand, living antiquity
Wed, 28 Mar 2007 04:13:36
Meymand, a village near Babak (a city in the suburb of Sirjan township) in Kerman province, is undoubtedly one of the most ancient homes of man on earth. The village dates back to some 12,000 years ago and still lives on.

Researchers hold the early inhabitants of Meymand set it up at the time when the Persians were practicing Mithraists. Honoring the rituals of Mithraism, they chose dimly lit caves to say their prayers and carved out chambers and niches in the mountains to place their dead. Therefore, one can find numerous temples and tombs in this region, all cut into the mountain walls.

The Mithraists believed in the endurance, stability and imperishability of mountains and inspired by this belief, they dug out their domiciles in the heart of the rocks.

Some experts are of the opinion that chiseled out by Mithraists, the caves merely served as places of worship or burial chambers. However, strictured by severe climatic changes, their architects were compelled to make the caves their dwelling .

Mithraism was the dominant religion believed and practiced in pre-Zoroastrian Iran and it even lingered a good while after the dawn of Zoroastrianism.

Recent historical findings illuminate that Zoroastrianism emerged some 6,000 years before the birth of Christ. Thus, considering the fact that Meymand was founded by Mithraists, who predated the Zoroastrians, the date 6,000 B.C. may be the closest point of time we can posit for the foundation of the village.

10,000-year-old stone-carvings and 6,000-year-old pottery works discovered at the site are among telltale documents depicting the protracted history of Meymand.

Due to the impregnable position of its fortifications, Meymand suffered very little social or physical changes during history.

An extremely old complex of houses, temples, castles and fortifications has raised the status of Meymand from a simple village to a sample of an unrivaled civilization.


Religion

The religious values of the inhabitants of Meymand were originally rooted in Iran's era of Mithraism and later Zoroastrianism. After the arrival of Islam in Iran, Meymand villagers, who were born Zoroastrians, converted to Shia Islam and made lots of sacrifices for their new cult in the history of Islam in Iran.

The present peoples of the village are Jafari Shia Muslims. The ancient Mithraist and Zoroastrian cave chambers and temples have now been transformed into mosques and Hosseiniehs (places dedicated to Ashurah ceremonies in which the Muslims mourn the death of Hussein, their prophet's grandson, who was murdered at Karbala). Yet, the main function of these prayers sites has still remained unchanged, i.e. praising God.


The village mosque, besides functioning as a center for religious congregations, also serves as a forum for villagers to exchange views.


Natural Beauties

Meymand has a temperate mountainous climate. It has cold winters and mild summers. The village is flanked on one side by a plain and on the other by mountains.

The plain lies in the distance between Meymand and Babak and in the past it abounded with pistachios and wild almonds which have in time shrunk to only certain regions in the nearby plains. Closer to the village, mulberries are found in great numbers.


The Meymand plain is also home to different species of desert animals such as snakes, scorpions, lizards, porcupines, turtles, etc

Among wild animals occurring in the mountains of Meymand mention can be made of the antelope, wild ass, leopard, fox, wolf, wild goat and various species of birds of prey.

The flow of a few seasonal creeks and springs as well as the presence of numerous qanats (underground channels, or tunnels excavated to carry subterranean waters) have contributed greatly to the agriculture in this region.

Cultivated lands, just like any other natural beauty, caress the eyes of every beholder who steps into the village, especially in spring when it is crowned with the blossoming of natural beauty.


Economy

The economy of the villagers is hinged on three pivotal careers: agriculture, animal husbandry and carpet weaving. Among the trio, carpet weaving is given more attention, and Meymand carpets are among the best in the world.

The touch of technology has not exempted this hamlet so that it has both electricity and piped water. However, its people still shun the use of modern equipment as far as possible in meeting their needs.

In early spring, families focus on breeding livestock and producing dairy products. Later in summer they collect wild pistachios, wild almonds and grow almond, walnut and cumin. It should be noted that Meymand walnuts and almonds are well-renowned.


Meymand Topography

Rock houses are built on different levels (2 to 5) by chiseling horizontal cuts into the precipice. These cuts, called kicheh, measure 6 to 9 meters in length and they are dug into the precipice to the extent that enough height is provided for chiseling out the upper house.

The end of a kicheh reaches a terrace-like area known as the dalan which is a very important element in a neighborhood, for most daily family affairs take place there. The doors of 1 to 5 rock houses open to a dalan. There are around 400 large and small kichehs in Meymand.

The interior of a house is either square-shaped or round and in the past it was illuminated when the daylight shone in through an opening of 75 to 76 cm high. The wooden entrance doors are equipped with a latch known as the koleydun (keyhole) which fits into a hole drilled in one side of the stone doorpost when closed.

The entrance of a room in these houses is roughly shaped like the outline of a human body. It is narrower at the bottom of the door and gradually gets wider in the upper part at shoulder width.

The foot of a door is raised about 15 to 20 cm above the level of the kicheh which doesn't let water and dust getting into the house.
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