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Title: Studies in the early mediaeval architecture of Iran and Afghanistan
Author: Shokoohy, Mehrdad
ISNI:       0000 0001 3407 1120
Awarding Body: Heriot-Watt University
Current Institution: Heriot-Watt University
Date of Award: 1978
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Early mediaeval era covers the Sasanian (3rd to 7th cent. A.D.) and early Islamic (7th to 12th cent. A.D.) periods. This era plays an important role in the history of architecture of the world, since many of the building techniques, such as those of squinched domes and pointed arches, were developed during this period. Yet very little of the architectural heritage of this period has survived. Many of the structures were destroyed during the Islamic invasion and many more were destroyed at the time of the Mongols. Whilst many of the surviving buildings of this period are already well known, there are several other structures which are still little known or even unreported . In the present thesis, an attempt has been made to study in depth, some of the sites of the latter category in Iran and Afghanistan. Except one of the sites, "The Jame' of Fahraj," the rest of the structures have never been studied before and some of the sites such as Deyr-e Gachin, the Kohande' of Herat and its monuments and the forts of Därzin.are introduced here for the first time. The monuments have been arranged in a chronological order as follows: 1. Deyr-e Gachin, is a Sasanian caravanserai in the desert between Rey and Qom. It has been mentioned ia several historical sources from the 10th to 19th century, but its present existence has been unknown to scholars. It is a fortified enclosure, square in plan, with six towers and has been built in large Sasanian bricks. The actual Sasanian structure is to be seen in the curtain walls, the towers and the passages roofed with elliptical vaults. In the rest of the structure, the Sasanian foundation stands up to over one metre above the present ground level and the piers and the roofs have been rebuilt during Islamic period. The structure is colossal in size and has forty rooms, sixty six raised niches, used as accommodational chambers, a mosque, a bath and a royal courtyard, all being still in fine condition. 2. Masjed-e Birun stands outside the old city wall of Abarquh. It is oriented about 18 degrees to the south of the correct direction of Mecca and is built with elliptical vaults and earlier forms of arches which could be of either late Sasanian or early Islamic period. The bricks in a pier of the building are set both horizontally and vertically, in alternate courses. Such a method is an old tradition which continued until the 8th century. Moreover, the elan of the structure is similar to that of a fire temple. All these clues suggest that the building has originally been designed for such a purpose. An inscription in the building, datable not later than 15th century, indicates the building of a minaret there, as a significance of Islam. This indication may be a reference to the conversion of the structure to a mosque in this date. 3. Masjed-e Jámet of 'Agdá is situated in an old 'Zoroastrian centre. It is not oriented in the correct direction of Mecca and its plan is typical of a fire temple. It stands on a platform about 240 cms. above the natural ground level. This platform is not a local tradition and in 'Aqdá can only be seen in this particular building. r.11 of these clues prove that the structure has an older origin and probably has been a Zoroastrian fire temple, converted to a mosque after the change of religion in 'Aqdá. The mosque bears an inscription dated 847 H. (1443-44 A.D.). This date falls close to that given by the local historians mentioning the village as°Zoroastrian centre. So it refers to the date of a restoration when the building was finally adapted as an Islamic mosque. 4. The site of the Kohande in Herat and the two shrines located there, are very little known to scholars. The name Kohandei'(old fort) is applied to a number of pre Islamic ruins in kfghanistan and Iran. In Herat, ruins of some of the walls built in stone can still be seen. Though one of the shrines of the site is locally accented as the tomb of Abolgasem Mohammad eba Jafar-e Sddeq, but historical evidence suggests that he did not die in Herat. The plan of the sanctuary of this shrine, with its four niches is indeed very similar in appearance to a chit-táq, the typical plan of a Sasanian fire temnle. A further examination of the structure proved that it is built of stone set in lead and sand cement. This material represents a rare technique of construction practised only during; the Sasanian period. Therefore, the shrine should have been originally a pre-Islamic fire temple and converted to a Muslem shrine during later periods. The other shrine (tomb of `Abdóllah ebn Movavie) is a 15th century structure. 5. The Jima' mosque of Fahraj, in central Iran is now accepted as one of the earliest examples in Islamic Iranian architecture. Yet there is still very little literature published about this monument. This mosque provides new information about architectural development of its period. Fahraj is unique in preserving the vaults, arches and incidental decorations all of which represent the survival of Sasanian methods of construction during the early Islamic period. On the other hand many details of this mosque are similar to those of the 8th century Islamic buildings in Syria. These connections show that during the early Islamic period the technical exchanges involved included the transmission of Iranian motifs to the westward of the Eupherates. In particular the similarity between the decorations of Fahraj and the monuments of the 8th century indicates that it belongs to this century. 6. Därzin, in south -east Iran, is shown by the Persian and Arabic texts to have attained some prominence by the 10th century. The ruins of the three forts, now standing there,have close structural analogies in Umayyad and QAbbasid works of the eighth century A.D. This impression is re- inforced by the use of elliptical vaults and large bricks in these structures. The characteristic form of the entrance at Dárzin - a small gateway flanked with two semi- circular towers - and the plan itself, square with round towers in the corners and an intermediate tower on each face, are also relevant to such a dating. There are also arrowslits at Darzin which have the form of an upright lance. In their minor details they agree exactly with those of al- Ukhatdar. Unce more this similarity supports our dating of the forts at Dárzin to be the 8th century. 7. The monuments of Bost; In 1948 the Delegation Archeologique Francaise en Afghanistan began a large excavation at Lashkari- blkzär, a site near Bost, as a result of which several Ghaznavid sites wee uncovered. The present writer has studied the fort of Bost and all of the standing structures, which had been built, in fired brick i.e. the Arch of Bost, a multistoreyed underground feature known as the well of Bost and the shrine of Sháhzáde Sarbáz. The arch of Bost has already been studied by some other scholars ) but there is very little literature about the other monuments and the fort itself. The shrine of Shähzäde Sarbáz is an octagonal structure enriched with brick and terracotta decoration. on the building methods and the decorations used in the shrine, we. date the building to the Ghaznavid period. The weel of Bost consists of an overground structure and four levels underground. It has a fine ventilation and lighting system. Up to 25 metres below the ground level, it is lighted naturally. Moreover, the structural problems of an underground construction are all finely solved. The form of the arches of this building is more advanced than those of the Ghaznavid period, and the feature is datable as a late 12th or early 13th century. 8. The shrine of Emám-e Kalán is situated at Sar-e Pol in north Afghanistan. It was originally a square chamber with a low dome, and there is an adjoining antechamber which is a later addition. The main chamber is desigied on the old Khorasani tradition of tomb building, having its roots in the form of the pre-Islamic fire temples. In particular it is very similar to the tomb of Esmá'il the Sämánid and that of 'Arab-atá. Its interior is enriched with carved stucco decoration and inscriptions. Whilst the style of the construction of the shrine is similar to that of 10th century, the decoration and inscriptions suggest a later dating - around the mid 11th century.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available