The Cultural Landscape of Maymand is located in the Western part of Kerman Province in south-eastern Iran. It is on the southern slopes of Iran’s central mountains and rises up to some 2600m. Because of the difference of altitude in the area which is about 1000m from north to south, in different seasons it has the benefit of diverse climate conditions.
Its unspoiled nature proves the fact that how men and nature have lived in harmony over millennia. Indeed, it is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape, where ‘three-phased’ seasonal and ‘inner’ migration (transhumance) has continued to be practised in the traditional form until today. Therefore, Maymand remains a rare if not unique example still living.
Maymand is a troglodytic village, with cave dwellings, which makes it a perfect winter inhabitation. In past, it was also used as a shelter in case of enemy attack. The livestock in Maymand follows the seasonal movement towards higher or lower altitudes, the traditional lifestyle is still part of the present-day farming and animal husbandry. The thing which has made Maymand quite unique is the fact that it has various elements and man-made structures, representing different stages of their evolution. For examples, the shelters for humans and animals, adapted to the seasonal requirements, such as natural caves, man-made troglodyte villages, mountain villages, gardens (Sar-e-Bagh) and spring-time shelters on the plains (Sar-e-Āghol).
The residential structures are also of great importance, and they are constructed for different purposes. For instance, the animals, systems for water management (wells and Qanats), access routes, means to provide for food, medicine, clothing, tools and objects using locally developed techniques and handicrafts, and based on a thorough knowledge of nature and the ingenious use of natural resources.
Maymand dated initially to the Parthian and early Sassanid periods, ca. 3rd century BC to AD 3rd century. It has also been registered in the list of national heritage in 2001, The troglodyte residences of Maymand illustrate the evolution of such habitat; first, they were natural caves and simple holes dug into the ground (markhaneh, kapar), and then they became more elaborated, man-made troglodyte spaces. They were used for various uses, including residences, forts (dezh), religious spaces (fire temples, mosques, Hosseiniyeh), baths, and schools.
Maymand is an outstanding example of a traditional settlement structure. The human’s interaction with the environment, transhumance, ingenious use of natural resources, the scattered water resources, such as seasonal rivers, qanats and springs, as well as different types of vegetation, such as herbal plants and wild almond trees are some of the examples.
All around the village there are gardens and seasonal rivers. This makes it a uniquely favourable location which provides its residents with both suitable accommodation and convenient access to the surrounding pastures and gardens.
Since earliest times, the village residents, with a deep knowledge of the village’s situation and its surroundings as well as its valuable natural resources such as water, flora and fauna and the soil itself, have learned to value the abundance of natural resources, and to live in such a way so as not to disturb the serenity of nature.
For this reason, after thousands of years of continuous human habitation at the site, the natural environment here has remained pristine. It is this remarkably unspoiled territory that surprises any visitors to the area; the way the locals have learned to make peace with nature, to take whatever necessary from it without causing the slightest trouble to their environment. Such interaction can be found in all aspects of the villagers’ life; inspired by the very nature and soil in which they are born, raised and eventually rest.
People use the trickling seasonal waters as well as spring and Qanat waters for drinking needs of themselves and their animals as well as to water their plants and fruit trees, to bring more green lands to the relatively dry area. It also contributes to the economy of the family. Their main job is still farming and animal husbandry.
The traditional cultural beliefs have come to help in a sage usage of water, too. For instance, Maymand people never throw away any leftovers of unused water; instead they use it to water their plants and trees.
Despite all their wise harmonisation with natural resources of the region, there exists evidence on the deterioration of some of the vegetation in the region especially Beneh or wild pistachio; though the villagers believe the climate change has also a part to play in this. So, they have initiated some creative methods in farming management to improve their living wages and preserve their natural resources. All in all, one can learn more about the social life and unique lifestyle of the ancient residents through careful observation of the natives; the way they make and use water-mills, handcrafts and traditional tools, local food and medicine based on medicinal plants and live in troglodytic constructions.
An example would be appropriate to support the strong bond between the Maymandies beliefs and their relationship to nature. Believing in life after death and wishing happiness for the souls of their beloved dead relatives, Maymandies make water pools to collect rain water for the sake of the dead so that any passer-by using the water would pray benevolently for the happiness of their soul. They also would plant trees for the same reason, so that the comfort offered by the trees’ shade to the living passers-by would reach their loved one in the heavens.
These are some of the beliefs passed from generation to generation since ancient times, and still have a profound influence on people’s lives. It is interesting that in the absence of any written law, they know by instinct how to preserve nature, live in it and use its potentials for everyday life needs without harming it. The reason is that there is a strong bond between their social, cultural and religious beliefs in relation to nature and natural environment.