Pul’band-i Shadurvan is the remains of an ancient bridge that
crossed the Karun River at Shustar in the Iranian province of Khuzistan. The
bridge’s name indicates its dual function as a bridge (pul) and weir (band)
that raised the level of the river upstream so that water could be directed
into irrigation canals. The word shadurvan can also signify a dam or weir, and may refer in this case to the stone paving in the riverbed above the bridge, a feat of engineering that was completed with the bridge's construction.
The bridge was initially constructed during the Sasanian period, possibly as early as
the reign of Shapur I (r. 242-272 CE). Arab and Persian historians suggest that
Shapur I enlisted members of the Roman army captured at the battle of Edessa in
260 CE, including Emperor Valerian I, to construct this bridge.1 Its other
common name, Band-i Qaysar (Caesar’s Dam), reflects this idea. The bridge was
likely part of a larger campaign that the Sasanian emperors engineered to
improve infrastructure in the alluvial plains around Susa through the
construction of bridges, canals and weirs.2
The bridge spans the river after its course bends sharply to the
west above the town of Shushtar before turning southwest again. The length of
the bridge was nearly 550 m. It followed an irregular course from the southern
(left) bank of the Karun to its northern (right) bank, making several bends
along the way.
The foundations of the bridge are broad piers composed of locally
quarried sandstone blocks. Surmounting these are a number of broad arches in
baked brick that carry the roadway. Between these arches are smaller
arch-shaped vents that would have eased pressure on the structure should the
water level have risen. In his 1908 survey of hydraulic works in Khuzistan,
Graadt van Roggen counted 35 arches remaining on the bridge and estimated at
least five more in a section that had crumbled for a total of at least 40
Two of the canals fed by the bridge-dam’s waters
originate in tunnels under the citadel just east of the bridge. A second is the
large Ab-i Gargar, a displacement canal that runs through the east of Shushtar
and powered a number of mills.
Tabari, History, 30-31 and note 94.
Graadt van Roggen, “Travaux Hydrauliques,” 168.
Graadt van Roggen, “Travaux Hydrauliques,” 176.
van Roggen, D. L. “Notice sur les anciens travaux hydrauliques en Susiane.” In Mémoires
de la Mission archéologique de Perse. Mémories de la Délégation en Perse,
Tome 7: Recherches archéologiques. Duxieme série: 167–207. Paris: Ernest
Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir. The History of Al-Ṭabarī
Translated by Clifford Edmund Bosworth. Vol. 5: The Sāsānids, the Byzantines,
the Lakhmids, and Yemen. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999.