Afghanistan Archaeological Research – Islamic Period

By | December 16, 2021

Research in the field of Islamic archeology began with a prospection by J. Hackin in 1936 in the Afghan Sīstān during which important remains belonging to buildings and cities partially destroyed by the invasion of Tamerlane in 1384 were reported. on older foundations prior to the Arab invasion. Particularly notable are the ruins of Tar-o Sar, Cigani, and Peshwaran.

The searches were resumed after the war interlude and the French mission focused its efforts on the reconnaissance of Lashkari Bazar: a huge field of ruins located on the banks of the Hilmand, just north of Bust, an abandoned city, which stands at the confluence of the Hilmand with Argand-āb. Lashkari Bazar is made up of a set of castles and palaces all in fair conditions of conservation, in the main of which, the name of which was known from Arab and Persian sources, a foundation of the great sultan Maḥmūd (998-1030), the founder of the greatness of the Ghaznavid empire. The study of this building is of great interest because it allows us in part to fill the gap in our knowledge of Islamic civil architecture, almost unknown to us, for the period between the 9th and the 16th century. For Afghanistan 2007, please check

From the large main iwan also comes a rich series of paintings depicting the Turks of the sultan’s bodyguard dressed in their luxurious clothes and armed with a club. These paintings are practically the only testimony of Islamic painting for the period between the creation of the Abbasid paintings and the first Iranian miniatures. The classification of them is not very easy, even though it can be said that stylistically they are in the Iranian tradition, with influences, which seem moreover only iconographic and typological, of Central Asian painting.

As previously mentioned, the Italian mission began its work in Ghaznī in 1957, initially engaging in the excavation of Islamic ruins. The city is located on the great southern road that leads to India and experienced its maximum flourishing between the end of the 10th century. and the middle of the 12th century, when it became, with the dynasty of Turkish origin, which from Ghaznī was called precisely of the Ghaznavids, the capital of one of the largest empires of eastern Islam. The sources illustrate in great detail the magnificence of the city and the splendor of that court, in which Maḥmūd attracted the most enlightened geniuses of the time and among these the great Firdusi who completed the Shāhnāme there. Of the great Ghaznavid building nothing has remained on the surface (with the except for the two large minaret bases erected by Mas‛ūd III, 1099-1114, and Baharamshah, mid-12th century) after the destruction of Genghiz khān which struck it in 1221 and from which it was never to recover. Work has begun on the ruins of a large sultanial palace, a phase of which is certainly attributable to the reign of Mas‛ūd III, as evidenced by some recovered inscriptions. The architectural layout is similar to the one already seen in Lashkari Bazar. The court, however, was entirely paved in marble and alongside the usual decoration in cut terracotta and stucco, marble played a very important role in the architectural decoration. The use of marble on a large scale is one of the hallmarks of Ghaznavid art, and not only in a purely ornamental function, but also in figurative sculpture. Of this last was a large harvest of material, opening a new chapter in Islamic art. Many of these reliefs have figurations similar to the Laskhari Bazar paintings, other animals or hunting scenes. A characteristic motif of the Ghaznavid ornamentation on the marble crusts that formed high wainscots is a series of continuous stylized and interwoven archings on a background of palmette arabesques bordered at the top by a band with Kufic inscriptions.

Another excavation in Ghaznī has begun to uncover a private house, which has a central courtyard plan. The discovery is of some interest because minor civil architecture was still completely ignored. In the house, whose life was arrested by the Mongol invasion, a lot of pottery was found, much of it contained in two closets, the richest of which included a rich series of vases painted in metallic luster of Persian import.

In the interior of the Afghanistan, east of Herāt, a superb minaret was discovered by the Belgian Afghanistan Maricq in 1957, the Munari Ǧam, 60 meters high, in excellent condition, entirely decorated with inscriptions and geometric intertwining motifs of Seljuk style, which, as the inscription says, is of the sultan Ghiyatal-din Muhammad ibn Sam (1153-1203) of the powerful Ghoride dynasty that in the mid 12th century. he replaced the now dying Ghaznavids. The discovery allowed us, as well as to gain to our knowledge one of the most evocative monuments of Islamic architecture in Afghanistan, also to locate the capital of the Ghorid empire, Firūzkōh, which was not yet known.

Afghanistan Archaeological Research - Islamic Period