Kabutarkhana (the nest of pigeon) is one of the prominent Iranian medieval towers whose background refers to the pre-Islamic times (Mirzaie, 2003, p. 132). Kabutarkhana was mainly constructed in plains with mild temperatures beside rivers, canals, and aqueducts. The farther we got from plains, the fewer the number of Kaburakhana were (Muhammadinejad, 2011, pp. 13-14). Kabutarkhanas were also constructed in Yazd and Azarbayejan (ibid, p. 115). In ancient times, breeding pigeons was common in Isfahan and there were special markets to sell different birds like pigeons (Azari Damirchi, 1972, p. 34).
Regarding its economic function, pigeon droppings were used to cultivate the field and so to grow summer crops and vineyards. Farmers constructed Kabutakhana to settle pigeons and use their droppings to fertilize their lands and grow summer crops like melon and watermelon (Chardin, 1927, V. 4, pp. 122-124; Dieulafoy, 1989, pp. 283-284; Kaempfer, 1968, p. 217; Muhammadinejad, 2011, p. 12; Mirzaie, 2007, p. 112). The droppings of towers were gathered once a year and then they were dried in the sunlight (Mahmudian, 2000, p. 60). Moreover, farmers sold these droppings to others not having Kabutarkhana to produce fertilizers (Muhammadinejad, 2011, p. 13).
Architecturally, the structure of Kabutarkhana was so beautiful and coordinated with its function. The towers were mostly constructed as a single cylinder or a combination of several cylinders. There was also some kabutakhana constructed on the basis of the rectangular plan (Mohammadinejad, 2011, p. 13). Without wasting even a part of the wall, all the interior walls were constructed in order to settle pairs of pigeons (Muhammadinejad, 2011, p. 13).
Borjak (the small towers) placed at the top of the towers were the ways through them pigeons enter or exit (ibid., p. 17; Mirzaie, 2007, p. 126; Mirfattah, 1978, p. 38). Occasionally Kabutarkhana had one or two small doors for just one person to enter and gather the droppings. These small doors were sealed not to let other animals like snakes enter towers (Mirzaie, 2007, p. 127).
These striking towers were constructed by anonymous architects living among ordinary people. They were decorated with calligraphy and geometric, arabesques and plant patterns on bricks and plasters (Muhammadinejad, 2011, p. 17).
With its delicate structure and economic function, Kabutarkhana illustrates a chapter of Iranian medieval history. Indicating the close relationship between human beings and nature, Kabutarkhana shows how the medieval ordinary applied architecture to manipulate nature.
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Azari Damirchi, Ala’al-Din, “Kabutar wa Kabutarkhanaha-ye Esfahan”, Honar wa Mardom, 1972, n. 115, pp. 34-37.
Mirfattah, Aliasqar, “Borjha-ye Kabutar”, Kava, 1972, n. 67, pp. 32-38.
Mirzaie, Seyed Ayatollah, “Kawoshi darbare-ye wijegiha-ye Farhangi wa Eqtesadi Kabutarkhanehaya Ostovanaie shekl”, Namaya Insanshenasi, 2003, n. 4, pp. 115-139.
Mirzaie, Seyed Ayatollah, “Moqayese-ye Barkhi Wijegiha wa Karkerdhaya Kabutarkhana-haya Iran and England”, Olum-e Ejtema’i-ye Allama, 2007, n. 37, pp. 109-144.
Muhammadinejad Marjan, “Borj-e Kabutarkhana”, Roshd-e Amuzesh-e Honar, 2011, n. 28, pp. 12-17.