Iran’s Contribution to the World: Agriculture 

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By: Badi Badiozamani

Material presented in this section has been provided to Iran Online by Iranian Cultural Center of Orange County (ICCOC).

Iran has helped the development of agriculture in two ways: first by controlling the forces of nature and domesticating animals and plants existing in the wild state in the plateau, and secondly by inventing ways and means of procuring water and diverting it to the places where it was needed.  According to Professor Ernest Hertzfeld and Sir Arthur Keith, the Caspians i.e. the original inhabitants of the plateau of Iran were the original agriculturists and that their knowledge of agriculture spread from the Caspian plateau to the three adjoining alluvial plains which later became the site of early urban civilizations.  This theory was later corroborated by later excavations in Iran.  The oldest human settlement to be identified on the plain is at Siyalk near the city of Kashan, south of Tehran.  Among the tools used by these early settlers, that were all of stone, one could distinguish flint knife-blades and sickle-blades.  Per Professor Girshman, stockbreeding and cultivation of land followed, and in the fourth millennium B.C. man already used the plough and was cultivating wheat and barley. Charred grains found at the excavated Neolithic village of Geoy Tepe (tappeh) near Lake Oroomieh in the northwestern part of Iran prove that wheat must have been grown there more than 5000 years ago.

Grape Vine and Wine – The laboratory analysis of a 4,500-year-old clay pot excavated in the northwestern part of Iran showed that it was used for storing wine.  To date, this is the oldest wine container found.

The grape-vine, which is indigenous to Iran, was introduced to China by Can K’ien in 128 B.C. at the time of the Chinese Emperor Wu (140-87 B.C.). The introduction of the vine from Iran to China is well attested.  The word for wine the Chinese envoy carried with him to his country was budo, which apparently came from the Persian badeh.

Rose– Clement Hurat and Louis Delaporte in their book “L’Iran Antique” state that the name of rose in Indo-European and Aramean and Arab languages shows its origin to be Iran because in all these languages the word for it is derived from Zand “Varedha“, the perfect plant.  In Persian “Vard” means the rose.  In Syria, the rose is called Vard Juri.  The whole district of Jur, or Firoozabad, in the province of Fars in Iran, was noted for its air (scent) of red roses.  Fars included in its Kharaj (to the Caliph of Baghdad) 30,000 bottles of the essence of rose.  Rose was introduced to Spain in the 7th century A.D. hence it was propagated all over Europe.

Spinach– A. de Candolle believes that it was in Persia where the spinach was first raised as a vegetable.  The Spaniards, who spread it throughout Europe, received it through Arabs from Iran.  Additional evidence is afforded by the very name of the plant which is of Persian origin.  Its name in Persian is aspanah, aspanag or asfinaj; Arabic isfenah or isbenah.  Hence Medieval Latin Spinachium, Spanish espinoca, Italian spinaci…. The Chinese name for it means “Persian vegetable”.

Early Environmentalists!  From ancient times, Persians have shown great respect for flowers, plants, and trees.  From times unknown to the present day, Persians have advocated planting trees, and there is even a special Derakht Kari (tree planting) day when thousands of trees are plated throughout the country.  Another sign of the significance of trees in Persian culture is evidenced in the ruins of Persepolis- the 2,500-year-old Achaemenid palace- where numerous flowers and cypress trees are found in the bas-reliefs throughout the palace.
*Excerpts from “Iran & America: Rekindling a Love Lost” by Badi Badiozamani