Amid the famous walls of the world (e.g. Berlin Wall, Jerusalem Wall, Kremlin Wall, London Wall, etc.) there are only two walls known as the Great Walls. Those two walls are the Great Wall of China (GWC) and the Great Wall of Gorgan (GWG). A Great Wall (in Persian: Deevaar-e-Bozorg or Deevaar-e-Pahnaavar) usually refers to a building site that has permanent visible walls on the map that reduce passage to a bottleneck. In addition to those two great walls which are earthworks and barricades, there is also a mural (wall painting) named as the Great Wall of Los Angeles. That wall was designed by Judith Baca in 1976 and it is located on the eastern edge of the Valley College campus in the San Fernando Valley on the concrete sides of the Tujunga Wash (part of the drainage system of Los Angeles) in California, USA. With a length of 2754 feet, the Great Wall of LA is considered as one of the longest murals in the world. In this article, the most important aspects of GWG which is possibly the First Iranian Defensive Wall are briefly studied and discussed.
Location: The GWG is an ancient defensive bulwark located in the Plain of Gorgan (in Persian: Dasht-e-Gorgan) in Gollestaan Province, which is in the north-eastern of Iran, south of the Caspian Sea. The Wall, which is one of the most outstanding and gigantic architectural monuments in Dasht-e-Gorgan starts from the Caspian coast, circles north of Gonbad-e-Kaavous, continues towards northwest and vanishes behind Pishkamar Mountains (in Persian: Koohsaar-e-Pishkamar).
History: The GWG was built during the Parthian Empire (248 BC – 224) to protect Iran from the invasions of the various external adversaries. Some researchers believe that the GWG was constructed to prevent attacks by the Hephthalites (in Persian: Heptaalian) from northern regions of the country. (The Hephthalites were a people of obscure possibly from the Indo-European origin who at certain periods played an important role in the history of Persian Empire and ancient India. They were also called as Ephthalites by the Greeks and as Hunas by the Indians. According to Chinese chronicles they were originally a tribe living to the north of the GWC and were known as Hoa or Hoa-tun. Elsewhere they were called White Huns or Sveta Hunas. There is, however, no definite evidence that they were related to the Huns, the early confederation of Central Asian equestrian nomads). The Great Wall of Gorgan was restored during the Sassanid Empire (224 – 651). Its construction is about three decades earlier than the GWC, and it is second only to that edifice as the largest defensive wall in existence.
Other Names: The GWG has been also called as a Dam or a Barrier to Alexander (in Persian: Sadd-e-Sekandar), Anushirvaan Dam, Firooz Dam, Ghezel Arssalan Dam, and the Defensive Wall of Gorgan in various reliable documents.
Archeology and Composition: The archeological studies of the GWG were first launched in 1976-1977 under Mohammad Yousef Kiani, an Iranian scholar and archaeologist. More recent studies have revealed that the barrier consists of a 155 kilometers long, and 6 to 10 meters wide wall, along the length of which are located a number of fortresses, spaced at intervals of between 10 and 50 kilometers. Scientific works have also shown that the GWG is entirely made of bricks measuring 40 x 40 x 10 centimeters. Stone is hardly noticed on the structure. It consists of military castles, an old dam, brick kilns, a trench, and water channels for directing the water to the trench and kilns as well as the farming lands.
The Most Famous Great Wall of the World: Here are some facts about the Great Wall of China (GWC), which is also known as the most famous Great Wall of the world: The GWC is an extensive bulwark erected in ancient China. It is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in China, built, rebuilt, and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire during the rule of successive dynasties. Several walls, referred to as the GWC, were built since the 5th century BC, the most famous being the one built between 220 BC and 200 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. That wall was much further north than the current wall, built during the Ming Dynasty, and little of it remains. The GWC is the world’s longest human-made structure, stretching over approximately 6400 km (4000 miles) from Shanhai Pass near the Bo Hai (Gulf of Chihli) to Jiayu Pass in modern Gansu province of China. It is also the largest human-made structure ever built in terms of surface area and mass.
Epilogues 1. In present Iran, the walls in major cities are usually the favorite places on which various slogans, defensive and offensive, may be written. 2. Many Iranians have found the walls of the Iranian Embassy in some cities around the world as one of the best spots to express themselves by using graffiti and to write slogans defending the human rights in Iran.
Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD
REFERENCES Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, CAIS (2005): Online Article on “Gorgan Home to Asia’s Second Great Wall”. Gorgani, T. (2007): Online Article on “Gorgan Defense Wall”. Saadat Noury, M. (2007): Online Article on Great Wall of Gorgan as the First Iranian Defensive Wall. Tabeshian, M. (2006): Online Article on “Great Wall of Gorgan to be nominated for UNESCO Status”. Totty, P. (2004): The World’s Most Notable Walls through the Ages, ed., ISSN 1538-893X. Various Sources (2007): Online Notes on “Great Wall of Los Angeles”. Visual Utopia (2007): Online Note on “What is a great wall”? Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2010): Online Articles on “List of Walls” and “Hephthalites”.