The Strange Survivor Of A 12th-Century Civilization

By Debra Kelly on Saturday, February 8, 2014
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“I am as one who is left alone at a banquet, the lights dead and the flowers faded.” β€”Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Last Days of Pompeii

In A Nutshell

The Ghurid dynasty was a flourishing, powerful civilization in 12th- and 13th-century Afghanistan. Little factual evidence about the civilization remains, though, and the location of the dynasty’s capital cities are largely un-excavated. One monument stands, virtually untouched, amid the city’s ruins. The Minaret of Jam is a 65-meter-tall (213 ft) tapering, cylindrical tower that’s intricately carved with Kufric inscriptions, decorated with turquoise tiles, and is amazingly intact.

The Whole Bushel

The monument is miles and miles from any modern town, standing in a valley near the meeting of the Hari-rud and Jam Rivers in Afghanistan. It’s 65 meters (213 feet) tall, and, at first glance, it’s the only man-made structure in the valley. A closer look reveals standing stones nearby, inscribed with Hebrew text. There are also the fallen remains of a few buildings, and what might have once been other towers.

Every inch of the tower’s exterior is decorated with intricate, geometric designs, Kufric script, and turquoise tiles. The script tells the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and it’s taken from the Qur’an. The base of the tower is 9 meters (29.5 feet) across, and the tower itself is made up for four superimposed levels. Inside is a double spiral staircase that rises the height of the tower, past three balconies.

It’s thought that the tower marks the center of what was once a great city called Firuzkuh. The city would have been the capital of an empire that stretched across Afghanistan and into northern India. In the 12th and 13th centuries, this area was ruled by the Ghurid dynasty; what remains of them now are more extravagant legends than actual facts.

Most of those legends come from a court chronicler named Juzjani, who was writing about the Ghurid cities in 1260. According to the stories, the capital city was a luxurious place, home to artists, poets, writers, and philosophers. Orators and scholars were renowned, and the luxuries available were staggering. Jewels, perfumes, leathers, and the finest silks were all readily available, buildings were covered with gold. The city’s riches were distributed among its residents so no one wanted for anything. Armor and weapons were all the finest around, and so were cattle, horses, camels and dogs.

While undoubtedly there’s some exaggeration in the tales, it’s hard to tell. The massive sites around the minaret has been largely untouched by modern archaeologists. Most work done in the area – which hasn’t been much – has been aimed at preserving the still pristine minaret. After more than 800 years the monument has begun to lean, and conservation efforts have gone into stabilizing it first.

Even the purpose of the minaret isn’t known for sure. Hypothesis include a religious significance, as supported by the verses from the Qur’an. It’s not known if it was purely commemorative, though, or if it might have served a practical function like calling the citizens to prayers. It’s also been put forward that the tower was built to commemorate a military victory of some sort.

Inscriptions that have been translated have given archaeologists the construction date—1194. They’ve also referred to the minaret as the Victory Tower, which could be in reference to the contemporary emperor’s 1192 victory in Delhi over the Ghaznavid Empire.

It’s thought that the tower marks the site of a complex that was once the summer home of the emperors. Nearby are the remains of what is thought to be a mosque, but, like most of the rest of the complex, it’s been all but wiped away by the sands of time.

The city of Firuzkuh was destroyed by Mongol invaders in 1222, leaving only this single standing tribute to the powerful leaders that had once ruled a dynasty.

Show Me The Proof

UNESCO: Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam
The Minaret of Jam and the Ghurids

  • Rijul Ballal

    It’s beautiful…

    • Lisa 39

      I agree, i’d like to see more pictures, maybe i’ll google it!

    • Patriotic Dane

      I know right! It’s not really impressive in the inside though, but It’s still pretty beautiful!

      • Lisa 39

        Says the person in school for architecture! I googled it and looked at alot of different and beautiful pics, its really amazing!

        • Patriotic Dane

          Yeah, it really is, to bad it’s the only thing that’s left of the Ghurid Empire’s capital city, it must’ve been amazing back in the day

          • Lisa 39

            I agree, i love all the intricate details on it, i’ll bet the rest of the buildings were as beautiful.

          • Patriotic Dane

            Yeah, it must’ve been extremely beautiful at the time, besides, since it’s obviously a monaret then that.means that it must’ve been part of a larger, grander building nearby, a mosque, since most mosques feature minaret which is often a tall, circular tower which would include stairs on the inside for the muezzin (a person who regularly recites passages from the Koran or something like that during each of the sis Muslim time s of prayer atol the muezzin) to climb up to the top of the minaret. So that means that since the minaret of Jam is a minaret then that means that there are probably some buried ruins of a nearby mosque because you can’t really have a mosque wihtout a minaret. (Confused? You can just look up the word “minaret” on Wikipedia)

          • Lisa 39

            πŸ™‚ i know what a minaret is, thanks for all the info tho, that’s really interesting, i didn’t know about the guy going to the top and why, it would be awesome if they found ruins of a mosque nearby, but i’m always interested in random pieces of history being discovered intact, it gets my imagination going on what life was like back then, i also like the easter egg lists from lv, more random things for the imagination, but it sounds this minaret piqued your architecture interest! Which is good since that’s what you’re going to school for πŸ™‚

          • Patriotic Dane

            Yeah it really would be amazing If they found a magnificent mosque nearby πŸ™‚

          • Lisa 39

            That would be awesome, maybe if its ever safe to travel there more people could go see it!

          • Patriotic Dane

            Yeah but although some parts of Afghanistan are amazingly beautiful, sadly Afghanistan is as violent as shit, besides, that’s why my parents moved to Denmark…

          • Lisa 39

            I don’t blame them, that’s sad tho, your parents are very brave.

          • Patriotic Dane

            Yeah, they had to survive a lot of violent situations there such as shootings and street battles and such until they had enough and moved to Denmark, luckily, I didn’t have to endure violent events like shootings and bombs like my parents did since I was born about 5 years after they moved here so yeah…

          • Lisa 39

            Well i’m glad that they got out safely and that you never had to see that, so tell me about denmark, i know nothing about except where it is on a map lol

          • Patriotic Dane

            I don’t really feel like typing up a long explanation about Denmark right now so I’ll just list a bunch of important facts ok?
            1. Denmark has at least 1,000 years of being an independent nation and the present-day country of Denmark is also estimated to have been found 1,000 years ago
            2. Denmark has the world’s best education system after New Zealand and Finland

          • Lisa 39

            Wow, that’s cool, thanks, i did know that denmark is 1000 years old, yay! Thanks pd πŸ™‚

          • Patriotic Dane

            Wait, i’m not done yet

          • Patriotic Dane

            I wasn’t really done yet but since I finished typing you might want to take look πŸ™‚

          • Lisa 39

            Now that sounds like a beautiful place to grow up, i think you’re a very lucky person to live in such an awesome place, thank you for sharing that πŸ™‚

          • Patriotic Dane

            Yeah, I loved growing up there πŸ™‚

          • Lisa 39

            Good, kids should be happy where they live, so you were born there and you’re a citizen, did your parents become citizens?

          • Patriotic Dane

            Yeah, after they arrived in Copenhagen, they bought a medium-sized house in FΓ₯revejle (It’s a town near Kalundsborg) which also happens to be extremely near Dragsholm Slot (Castle) and quickly received their citizenship, so yeah they’re citizens of Denmark now πŸ™‚

          • Lisa 39

            That’s awesome, i’m very happy for your family, i’m going to google that castle!

          • Patriotic Dane

            No need, I think I already included it in a comment somewhere on Listverse
            http://listverse.com/2014/01/26/10-creepy-ghost-hunt-venues/

    • Exiled Phoenix

      Am I the only one thinking of having sex on it and in it? Wonder if my girlfriend would be up for a screw trip..

      • Lisa 39

        Um exiled, i don’t think that this would be the best time for you and your gf to go on a screw trip to afghanistan πŸ˜‰

  • inconspicuous detective

    incredible. anyone who does not take an interest in history is missing out.

  • Hillyard

    That’s amazing. And it has survived all the wars that have been happening there over the last 20+ years.

    • Patriotic Dane

      Well, that’s because it’s in a remote part of Afghanistan which was virtually unaffected by the Afghan war so…

  • Matiullah Khan Shinwari

    Ghazni was said to be the most beautiful City in all of the world during its peak of power during the Ghazvanid empire however Alla’uddin Jehansuz (literally meaning the world burner) Burned the city of Ghazni.

    • Patriotic Dane

      The Minaret of Jam is said to be located on the sight were Firuzkuh once was, Ghazni is a totally different city in Afghanistan and unlike Firuzkuh, people still live there because the modern-day city of Ghazni has about 141,000 people living in it according to Wikipedia today unlike the site where Firuzkuh (The capital city of the Ghurids until it was completely destroyed) supposedly stood…
      (Google Firuzkuh and Ghazni and you’ll see the difference)

      • Matiullah Khan Shinwari

        I know dude I am from Afghanistan, I just mentioned Ghazni because it was mentioned in the article.