AN archaeological analysis of Afghanistan's last great indigenous empire remarkably integrates the traditional and the technological.

Archaeology is a reliable source material in building up historical narratives and the monograph titled :

''The Ebb and Flow of the Ghurid Empire,'' by David C Thomas is much more than simply an account of the iconic minarets of Jam, located on the remote Shahrak District of the Ghur province in Afghanistan.

Standing in an isolated valley at the intersection of the Jam and Hari - or Herat rivers, the minaret is surrounded by barren mountains.

Also known as the last monument of the Lost City of the Turquoise Mountain [Firozkoh], this only surviving testament to the Ghurid era - Afghanistan's last great indigenous empire - remains as an enduring legacy of a period in which Muslims, Christian, and Jews lived side by side in harmony, united by their commonalities rather than divided by their differences.

Firozkoh, or the Turquoise Mountain, was the legendary Afghan summer capital of the semi-nomadic Ghurid rulers in the Middle Ages.

Reputedly one of the greatest cities of its age, the prosperous multicultural centre was believed to also be the home of Jewish trading community - as evidenced from inscriptions on  tombstones  found in the 1950s.

The city was destroyed by Ogedei Khan, son of the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, in the early 1220s.

Built on an octagonal base measuring eight metres in diameter - singularly small for such a soaring construction - and consisting of four cylindrical shifts resting on top of one another, the 64-metre-tall  minaret of Jam becomes progressively slimmer the higher it gets.

It is made of fired brick and lime mortar, with two wooden balconies and a lantern at the top.

A double spiral staircase runs though it, while the exterior is decorated in exquisite detail, featring stucco and glazed turquoise tiles decorated with geometric patterns and intricate Kufic and Nakshi caalligraphy of verses from the Holy Quran.

It is difficult to determine the reason the minaret was erected - the Arabic dates on it could read either 1193-4 or 1174-5 - but it may have been built to commemorate the Ghurid sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din's victory in 1186 over the Ghaznavids in Lahore.

In the  1970s, however, Dr. Ralph Pinder-Wilson, director of the British Institute of Afghan Studies, conducted a major study which concluded that the minaret was built to commemorate Mueez-ud-Din's victory over Prithviraj Chauhan.

According to an article by Rory Stewart in The New York Times, the minaret of Jam was first visited by a foreigner in 1957.

In 1961, Italian architect Andrea Bruno conducted the first survey of the tower and additional surveys were done through the proceeding decade, but the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 brought all conservation projects regarding the minaret to a halt.

The honor and serving of the latest research and writings on Afghanistan and Past, continues. The World Students Society thanks review author Dr. Asma Ibrahim.


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