Afghanistan’s Ancient and Beautiful Archaeological Wonder

Archaeological Wonder of the 12th Century
Archaeological Wonder of the 12th Century in Afghanistan – All Images by Claudio Margottini From UNESCO Archives

Intro

The world is full of wonders. Some wonders are better known than others. But the Earth holds many hidden and beautiful gems that we are still unfamiliar with.

One of the masterpieces of the Islamic World is the Minaret of Jam, a site noteworthy for the quality of its architecture. This is a true example of engineers and labourers coming together to build one of the most beautiful sites still standing in the world today.

Islam Victory Tower - Afghanistan
Islam Victory Tower – Afghanistan

What Is the Minaret of Jam?

The Minaret of Jam is a Victory Tower located in western Afghanistan. It was built more than 800 years ago in the year 1190 or 1194. The discrepancy in dates comes from the conversion to Gregorian dates.

It is 205 feet (65 meters) high and has a 9-meter diameter octagonal base. It was built entirely with burnt or fire bricks and a type of plaster known as stucco. The tower is beautifully decorated with Islamic calligraphy, verses of the Qur’an, and many mysterious and intricate geometric designs.

Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam - UNESCO World Heritage Site in Afghanistan
Close-up of the Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam – UNESCO World Heritage Site in Afghanistan

Some of the inscriptions consist of titles from the Ghurid Dynasty, dates and Muslim confessions of faith, such as “I bear witness there is no god but Allah (and that) Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

Archaeological Wonder of the 12th Century

The Minaret Tower was built in 1190-1194 by the Ghurid sultan Ghiyas-Uddin (also known as Ghiyath al-Din Ghori and Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad) to commemorate a powerful victory that allowed Islam to spread to the northern Indian subcontinent. According to various scholars, Victory Towers were built in the early Islamic traditions to proclaim conquering powers.

Close up of the Islam Victory Tower from the Ghurid Dynasty
Close-up of the Islam Victory Tower from the Ghurid Dynasty in Afghanistan

It is located in Ghur Province, Central Afghanistan, at the confluence of the Jamrud and Hari Rud rivers, about 215 kilometres east of Herat, at an elevation of 1,904 meters, and at the confluence of the river Hari Rud with its tributary, Jam Rud. The Ghurid Dynasty Tower is located in the remote, almost unreachable area of the Shahrak district of the Ghor Province, near the Hari River.

Map Of Afghanistan Displaying Location of Minaret of Jam Islamic Victory Tower
Map Of Afghanistan Displaying Location of Minaret of Jam Islamic Victory Tower

The Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam represent the artistic creativity and skill of structural engineering from the Ghurid Civilization (1000-1220). The Ghurid Dynasty Tower is part of a collection of some 60 minarets and towers built from the 11th-13th centuries across central Asia, Iran, and Afghanistan, which ranges from the Kutlug Timur Minaret at Old Urgench (long considered to be the tallest still standing) to the towers at Ghazni.

Discovery

The Islamic Victory Tower was largely unknown outside of Afghanistan until 1886 when British Colonel Sir Thomas Hungerford Holdich first reported on it while working in the region. It was mostly ignored until 1958 when it was rediscovered again by French explorers.

Close-up of the Victory Tower from the Ghurid Dynasty in Afghanistan
Victory Tower from the Ghurid Dynasty in Afghanistan

Since the 1970s onwards, a lot of effort has been put into it to restore it, since the area is prone to frequent floods, humidity and water filtration. Earthquakes are also common and many scientific studies have been conducted to slow the decay process.

Minaret of Jam: A World Heritage Site By UNESCO

The Minaret of Jam was registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002. UNESCO recognized the Islamic Victory Tower as a World Heritage Site in 2002, but archaeologists were not allowed to visit the area or carry out research until several years later.

Inside View of Archaeological Wonder of Minaret Tower in Afghanistan
Inside View of the Archaeological Wonder of the Ghurid Dynasty Tower in Afghanistan

UNESCO listed the site as a World Heritage Site under threat by the unstable condition of preservation and the results of looting on the site. The widespread looting of antiquities from surrounding areas, and bricks from The Minarets themselves, is another reason why it is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites at Risk List and was considered one of the greatest threats to the site in 2002.

The Ghurid Dynasty Tower is also one of only two World Heritage Sites of UNESCO’s designation for Afghanistan. The other one is the Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley that houses the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

In 2020, the Ghurid Dynasty Tower was listed among the cultural heritage sites of the Islamic World by the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO).

Islam Victory Tower - Afghanistan UNESCO
Islam Victory Tower of the Ghurid Dynasty -Afghanistan UNESCO

For the past two decades, UNESCO and ALIPH (International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas) have been working hard to protect this incredible monument of the history of the Islamic World.

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