Iran Politics Club      
Website For Thinking Iranians
Back to index  

Ancient Persians Created
The First Operational Windmills


Ancient Persians Created the First Operational Windmills
The Windmill and the Contribution of Persia
Dr. Kaveh Farrokh
July 23, 2017

Ancient Persian Windmills of Nashtifan, Khorasan, Iran
Over 1000 Year Old Windmills and Some are Still Operational
That is called Persian Ingenuity!
Ancient Persian Windmills (6th – 7th Century AD) were of the similar design

The article is based on an excerpt from Kaveh Farrokh’s second text “Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War” (2007, Chapter 19: The Legacy of Persia after the Islamic Conquests, pages 280-281).

Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War

Dr. Kaveh Farrokh Site

Dr. Kaveh Farrokh
Persian Historian, Author, Researcher and Scholar

The first water pumps and grain mills powered by wind-sails originated in modern northwest Iran in (circa) 6th -7th centuries CE during the late Sassanian era.

Ancient Persian Windmill Model: First Operational Windmills in the world
Model of an Iranian windmill housed in the German Museum in Munich

Close Up View of the Ancient Persian Windmills
Ancient Persian Windmills at Nashtifan, Khorasan, Iran
They are Over 1000 Year Old Windmills and Some are Still Operational!

The origins of the first wind-powered machine concept is attributed to Heron (10-70 CE), a Greek inventor who first built this device in his workshop in Roman-ruled Egypt. Heron’s design of the shaft and rotating blades were placed at the horizontal position.

Hero of Alexandria the Greek Windmill Designer (Prototype Only)
Portrait of Heron (Hero) as he appears in a 1688 German book translation of Heron’s “Pneumatics”

Heron of Alexandria

Hero of Alexandria windmill Design
Only Prototype and Never Operational
Notice the horizontal blades (Greek) different than the vertical blades (Persian)

The Heron machine however never advanced beyond the prototype he had designed, as the Romans never exploited this for generating power or for agriculture. The Iranians however knew of this technology, thanks in part to the Sassanian Empire’s efforts to protect and preserve Greek scholarship and knowledge at the Ancient Gondi Shapour University.

Read about the Gondi Shapour University

Gondi Shapour History

Gondi Shapour University

Gondi Shapour


1000 Year Old Operational Windmills
Nashtifan originally “Nish Toofan” (Storm’s Sting) Windmills
Nashtifan is a city in the Central District, Khvaf County, Razavi Khorasan Province, Iran.

Videos of the ancient windmills in Nashtifan, Iran (near Khaf, East Iran) that remains operational to this day. They are simply superb.

These amazing windmills are among the oldest in the world. Located in the Iranian town of Nashtifan, initially named Nish Toofan, or "storm's sting," the windmills have withstood winds of up to 74 miles an hour. With the design thought to have been created in eastern Persia between 500-900 A.D., they have been in use for several centuries.

The windmills in Nashtifan, Iran are believed as the earliest windmill design in the world, and have been used for centuries. The windmills are characterized by the vertical wooden blades and the horizontal rotation. In addition, the place is also famous for the wind that blows 120 days in a year across the region, and supplies the required energy to run the windmills.

Windmills have been used in Iran as early as the 6th to 7th century AD. Some of these are still operational in Nashtifan, near Khaf, northern east of Iran. Enjoy:

1000-Year Old Windmills Still in Use Today - National Geographic

The Old Windmill in Nashifan -  IWCS

The world's oldest windmills in Iran; still working! part 1

The world's oldest windmills in Iran. still working! part 2

By the late Sassanian era the first true windmill had appeared in the northeastern regions of the Sassanian Empire (modern Khorasan and west Afghanistan). Modern scholarship is in agreement that Iranian engineers had completely re-designed Heron’s original machine for applied purposes. They had achieved this by inverting the shaft that held the blades, toward an upright position. The re-designed shaft and rotating blades were installed inside a mud-brick encased tower. This structure in turn had “air ducts” allowing for the air to enter and rotate the blades housed inside of it. The “sails” or “blades” were built of a very strong fabric – there were up to twelve of these inside each of these “towers” or structures. This new technology had been initially designed as a corn-mill.

Ancient Persian Windmill Technology Imported to China
Architecture of the Persian Imported Technology Windmill Constructed in China

Drawing of a Chinese windmill based on technology imported from Persia

The Arabian conquests of the Sassanian Empire soon led the Caliphates to adopt the new windmill technology from the Iranians. By the 9th century CE, this technology had spread throughout the Caliphate’s realms and also eastwards into India, reaching China by the 13th century CE.

The Bidston windmill in Great Britain

The Iranian windmill design appears to have reached Arab-ruled Spain as well, and later the British Isles by 1137 CE. It was the British (not the Dutch as is conventionally assumed), who effected significant changes to the original Iranian design. The British genius was in their combination of both the Greek (Heron) and Iranian (late Sassanian) technologies. The British post-mill had two axes of rotation:

(1) A vertical shaft for horizontal rotation allowing for the entire structure to be now rotated for harnessing the wind

(2) A horizontal shaft for vertical rotation of the sails (based on Heron’s original concept)

A Dutch windmill overlooking tulips

The British adaptation of the Iranian windmill soon spread across continental Europe all the way to Greece and the Aegean Sea. Europeans made other designs such as the smock mill and tower mill. The famous modern-day Dutch windmill can trace its ancestry to English, Iranian and Greek origins.

We recommend these books by Kaveh Farrokh


Back to History Index
Back to Kaveh Farrokh Index

Support IPC
IPC operating since March 30, 2000
          Duplication of contents are allowed, only by naming the source & link to IPC
All rights are protected & reserved by Iran Politics Club © 2000 IPC