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Many scholars including Edward Keall, André Godard, Roman Ghirshman, and Mary Boyce, discuss the invention of the iwan as developing in Mesopotamia, the area around today's Iraq.

Although debate remains among scholars as to how the iwan developed, there is a general consensus that the iwan evolved locally, and was thus not imported from another area.

The term in Old Persian stand for "unprotected" (a-pâd-ana), since the design allows for the structure to be open to the elements on one side, whence the term.

What seems to be a palace courtyard had iwans on each side, which remained a common features well into Islamic times.

The Sasanian Persians also favored the iwan form, and adopted it into much of their architecture; however, they transformed the function.

The Parthian iwan led to other spaces, but its primary function served as a room itself.

Outside Mesopotamia, a number of extant vaulted structures stand, including many examples from Ancient Egypt, Rome, and the Mycenaeans.

For example, the Mycenaean Treasury of Atreus, constructed around 1250 BCE, features a large corbelled dome.

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