Amordad News

Gavmishan bridge: a structure thousands of years old

Historical bridges (No. 11)

Who knows? Maybe bridges are built to remove separation and distances. Maybe there are structures built to overcome resentments that create distance between people. The bridges turn those distances into friendship and closeness. But, a bridge is not a place to stay; it is a place to pass by. The nature of a bridge is to pass over it; from one place to another. That is why human beings are connected to bridges, and consider these structures to be part of their collective identity.  Conflicts that rise from arguments over ownership of lands on two sides of a bridge stem from this same sense of collective identity. An example is the Gavmishan Bridge built on the border of two expanses.

In Ilam province, in the ancient city of Dareh shahr, two rivers meet; one is Kashkan and the other Seimareh. The natives call it “Cham Mehr”. Nearly one kilometer away from Cham Mehr, we reach the very old and amazing Gavmishan Bridge. The remnants of this structure still have the color and features that tell about its glorious historical past.  This bridge was built 1500 years ago. The architecture of the bridge is Sassanid and taken from the art of masters of those times. However, in the centuries closer to our time, the bridge has been rebuilt and rebuilt. We can see this from the inscriptions found in the eastern part of the bridge; though the fracture in the stone makes its writing very difficult to read. What archaeologists were able to find out from the inscription were a few words that indicate that this structure was built in the 4th century (lunar calendar) and during the reign of the Hasanavieh dynasty in western Iran, by order of Badr Hasanavieh. The inscription is Kufic script. There are signs of reconstruction of the bridge in the Safavid and Qajar periods. We also know that about 170 years ago, one of the governors of Lorestan rebuilt the Gavmishan Bridge.

Features of the Gavmishan Bridge

Archeologists believe that the Gavmishan Bridge is built with such complexity, skill and professional hands that it still remains a marvel. How in ancient times, Sassanid architects were able to construct such a complex structure is a mystery.

The foundations of the bridge, which were undoubtedly built during the Sassanid era, are very strong. The columns are circular. This characteristic has a clear effect on the strength of the bridge. The foundations are made of rubble and gypsum mortar. The stone slabs are large enough to be able to support the brick arch of the bridge. The bed of the river is 8 meters lower than the spans of the bridge. One of the important features of this structure is its passages, each of which had a special use and different functions. One of them gave the passers by a view of the beautiful surroundings and the other was used as a resting place for caravans crossing the bridge.

Stone, brick and mortar were used in construction of this bridge.  The stones are cut into cubic shapes and all the same size.  It is believed that the work was done with such accuracy so as to give a beautiful look to the bridge.  At the time of its glory the length of Gavmishan Bridge was 227 m, though some consider it to be 230 m. The width of the structure is eight meters. The number of openings reaches 12, of which eight openings are larger. The highest span is 24 meters, and the other spans are 14 meters. The openings in this bridge are the largest openings among the historic bridges of Iran. In any case, those numbers and figures show what a magnificent and amazing structure we are looking it. Alas, the passage of centuries and nature’s destruction have only left ruins of the bridge. The destruction of one of the spans of the bridge dates back to when the Iranian army in the war against the Arabs had to retreat and destroy the span of the bridge in the last years of Sassanid rule to gain time. The spring flood of a few years ago, in 1397, also caused other damage to the Gavmishan Bridge and part of the side of the structure collapsed following this flood.

Gavmishan Bridge was registered in the list of national monuments of Iran in Esfand 1377. It is worth mentioning that the name of the bridge is derived from the native dialect of the area. They call the place of raising cattle “Govmishe.”

In which province are the borders of the Gavmishan Bridge?

Gavmishan Bridge is 10 km away from Darehshahr (Seimareh) city in Ilam province and is between the borders of Ilam and Lorestan provinces. This ancient structure was known and registered as a historical monument in Ilam province for a long time. But the people of Poldokhtar, in Lorestan province, had a different belief and considered their Gavmishan Bridge within the borders of their city and province and wanted to register it as Lorestan province. This duality sparked controversy. This dispute even reached the point where archeological excavations and structural restoration in 1388 remained unfinished because both provinces considered themselves the supervisors of the excavations.

The historic Gavmishan Bridge is indeed located on the border between the two provinces of Ilam and Lorestan. The people of both provinces may want to register it in their name. Nevertheless, like any other historic structure, or monument or any other work in this land, this structure is a valuable heritage. It belongs to all Iranians and is part of the proud and praiseworthy architecture of this borderland.

* Using the book “Bridges of Iran” (Manouchehr Ehteshami, 1386); Hamshahri Online and Wikipedia websites.

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