Minaret of Jam

Minaret of Jam

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The Minaret of Jam is a UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 in western Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

. It is located in the Shahrak District
Shahrak District
Shahrak District is located in the central part of Ghor Province, Afghanistan. The population is 50,900. The district center is Dahan-e Falezak .-Architecture:Near the village of Jam stands the Minaret of Jam, a historic building....

, Ghor Province, by the Hari River. The 65-metre high minaret
Minaret
A minaret مناره , sometimes مئذنه) is a distinctive architectural feature of Islamic mosques, generally a tall spire with an onion-shaped or conical crown, usually either free standing or taller than any associated support structure. The basic form of a minaret includes a base, shaft, and gallery....

, surrounded by mountains that reach up to 2400m, was built in the 1190s, entirely of baked-bricks. It is famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration, which consists of alternating bands of kufic
Kufic
Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts and consists of a modified form of the old Nabataean script. Its name is derived from the city of Kufa, Iraq, although it was known in Mesopotamia at least 100 years before the foundation of Kufa. At the time of the emergence of...

 and naskhi
Naskh (script)
Naskh is a specific calligraphic style for writing in the Arabic alphabet, thought to be invented by the Iranian calligrapher Ibn Muqlah Shirazi . The root of this Arabic term means "to copy". It either refers to the fact that it replaced its predecessor, Kufic script, or that this style allows...

 calligraphy
Calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

, geometric patterns, and verses from the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 (the surat
Surat
Surat , also known as Suryapur, is the commercial capital city of the Indian state of Gujarat. Surat is India's Eighth most populous city and Ninth-most populous urban agglomeration. It is also administrative capital of Surat district and one of the fastest growing cities in India. The city proper...

 Maryam, relating to Mary
Mary (mother of Jesus)
Mary , commonly referred to as "Saint Mary", "Mother Mary", the "Virgin Mary", the "Blessed Virgin Mary", or "Mary, Mother of God", was a Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee...

, the mother of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

).

Site


The circular minaret rests on an octagonal base; it had 2 wooden balconies and was topped by a lantern. It is thought to have been a direct inspiration for the Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar also Qutb Minar, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in Delhi, India. The Qutub Minar is constructed with red sandstone and marble, and is the tallest minaret in India, with a height of 72.5 meters , contains 379 stairs to reach the top, and the diameter of base is 14.3 meters...

 in Delhi, which was also built by the Ghurid Dynasty
Ghurids
The Ghurids or Ghorids were a medieval Muslim dynasty of Iranian origin that ruled during the 12th and 13th centuries in Khorasan. At its zenith, their empire, centred at Ghōr , stretched over an area that included the whole of modern Afghanistan, the eastern parts of Iran and the northern section...

. After the Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar also Qutb Minar, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in Delhi, India. The Qutub Minar is constructed with red sandstone and marble, and is the tallest minaret in India, with a height of 72.5 meters , contains 379 stairs to reach the top, and the diameter of base is 14.3 meters...

 in Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, which it inspired, the Minaret of Jam is the second-tallest brick minaret in the world.

The Minaret of Jam belongs to a group of around 60 minarets and towers built between the 11th and the 13th centuries in Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan, ranging from the Kutlug Timur Minaret in Old Urgench (long considered the tallest of these still in existence) to the tower at Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

. The minarets are thought to have been built as symbols of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

's victory, while other towers were simply landmarks or watchtowers.

The archaeological landscape around Jam also includes the ruins of a 'palace', fortifications, a pottery kiln and a Jewish cemetery, and has been suggested to be the remains of the lost city of Turquoise Mountain
Turquoise Mountain
The Turquoise Mountain is the lost Afghan capital of the Middle Ages. It was reputedly one of the greatest cities of its age, but was destroyed by Ögedei Khan, son of Genghis Khan, in the early 1220s and lost to history. It has been proposed that the magnificent Minaret of Jam, in Shahrak...

.

The archaeological site of Jam was successfully nominated as Afghanistan's first World Heritage site in 2002. It was also inscribed in UNESCO's list of World Heritage in Danger, due to the precarious state of preservation of the minaret, and results of looting at the site.

History


The Minaret of Jam is probably located at the site of the Ghurid Dynasty
Ghurids
The Ghurids or Ghorids were a medieval Muslim dynasty of Iranian origin that ruled during the 12th and 13th centuries in Khorasan. At its zenith, their empire, centred at Ghōr , stretched over an area that included the whole of modern Afghanistan, the eastern parts of Iran and the northern section...

's summer capital, Firuzkuh (Firuz Koh). The 12th and 13th century Ghurids controlled not only Afghanistan, but also parts of eastern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and parts of Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

.

The Arabic inscription dating the minaret is unclear - it could read 1193/4 or, more likely, 1174/5. It could thus commemorate the victory of the Ghurid sultan Ghiyas ud-Din over the Ghaznevids in 1192 in Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

, or the defeat of the Ghuzz Turks at Ghazna in 1173. The assumption is that the Minaret was attached to the Friday Mosque of Firuzkuh, which the Ghurid chronicler Juzjani states was washed away in a flash-flood, some time before the Mongol sieges. Work at Jam by the Minaret of Jam Archaeological Project, has found evidence of a large courtyard building beside the minaret, and evidence of river sediments on top of the baked-brick paving.

The Ghurid Empire's glory waned after the death of Ghiyath ud-Din in 1202, as it was forced to cede territory to the Khwarezm
Khwarezm
Khwarezm, or Chorasmia, is a large oasis region on the Amu Darya river delta in western Central Asia, which borders to the north the Aral Sea, to the east the Kyzylkum desert, to the south the Karakum desert and to the west the Ustyurt Plateau...

 Empire. Juzjani states that Firuzkuh was destroyed by the Mongols
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 in 1222.

The Minaret was little known outside of Afghanistan until Sir Thomas Holdich
Thomas Holdich
Colonel Sir Thomas Hungerford Holdich, KCMG, KCIE, CB was an English geographer and president of the Royal Geographical Society. He is best known as Superintendent of Frontier Surveys in British India and author of numerous books, including The Gates of India, The Countries of the King's Award and...

 reported it in 1886 while working for the Afghan Boundary Commission. It did not come to world attention, however, until 1957 through the work of the French archaeologists André Maricq and Gaston Wiet. Later, Werner Herberg conducted limited surveys around the site in the 1970s, before the Soviet invasion of 1979 once again cut off outside access.

Threats


The Minaret of Jam is currently threatened by erosion, water infiltration and floods, due to its proximity to the Hari and Jam rivers. Another threat are the earthquakes which happen frequently in the region. Looters and illegal excavations have also damaged the archaeological site surrounding the minaret. The tower has started to lean, but stabilisation work is in progress to halt this danger.

Gallery




File:Jam afghanistan ghorprovince islamic architecture.jpg|Minaret of Jam, Decorative inscriptions on the exterior
File:Jamafghanistangrorharirud.jpg|Minaret of Jam, detail view
File:Minar of jam ghor.jpg|Minaret of Jam, part of decorative exterior inscription
Image:Jam_Minaret_decoration.jpg|Decorated exterior of the Minaret of Jam, August 2005
File:Jam afghan architecture inside structure.jpg|Minaret of Jam - interior
File:Jam1.jpg|Minaret of Jam on the bank of Hari Rud River
Image:Paving_near_Jam.jpg|Baked-brick courtyard paving near the Minaret of Jam, August 2005
File:Jam Qasr Zarafshan.jpg|The Minaret of Jam and Qasr Zarafshan, August 2005
File:Ghor Province Afghanistan Jam Village.jpg|Farmstead on the way to the minaret


Further reading

  • Freya Stark
    Freya Stark
    Dame Freya Madeline Stark, Mrs. Perowne, DBE was a British explorer and travel writer. She wrote more than two dozen books on her travels, which were mainly in Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan....

    : The Minaret of Djam, an excursion in Afghanistan, London: John Murray, 1970

External links