The Minaret of Jam – Last Monument of the Lost City of Turquoise Mountain

The Minaret of Jam – Last Monument of the Lost City of Turquoise Mountain

(Read the article on one page)

The Minaret of Jam is a 12 th century tower located where the Hari River meets the River Jam in the Sharhrak district of Afghanistan. Standing 65 meters above the valley, it is the only surviving monument of the 12 th century Ghurid Empire, Afghanistan’s last great indigenous empire, now known as the Lost City of Turquoise Mountain. It remains as a lasting legacy of a period in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived side-by-side in harmony, united by their commonalities rather than divided by their differences.

The Turquoise Mountain (Firozkoh) is the legendary lost Afghan capital of the Middle Ages. Reputedly a prospering multicultural centre and one of the greatest cities of its age, it is also believed the ancient city was the home of a Jewish trading community, documented by inscriptions on tombstones found in the 1950s. Ögedei Khan, son of Genghis Khan, destroyed the capital in the early 1220s, marking its loss to history.  

The Minaret of Jam rests on an octagonal base and consists of four cylindrical shafts resting on top of one another, and getting progressively smaller as they get higher. It is made of fired brick and lime mortar, with two wooden balconies and a lantern at the top. Its exterior is decorated in exquisite detail, covered with brick, stucco, and glazed tiles, which contain intricate inscriptions of alternating bands of kufic and naskhi calligraphy, geometric patterns, and verses from the Qur'an.

The Minaret of Jam, Afghanistan

The Minaret of Jam, Afghanistan (Public Domain)

The actual dating of the minaret is unclear. Written in Arabic, it could read 1193/4 or 1174/5. The unclear dating makes it difficult to determine the reason that the minaret was erected. It could have been built to commemorate the Ghurid sultan Ghiyas ud-Din’s victory over the Ghaznevids in 1186 in Lahor. However, in the 1970s, British Archeologist and Director of the British Institute of Afghan Studies Dr. Ralph Pinder-Wilson conducted a major study of the minaret, concluding that it was built to commemorate the victory of Mu'izz ad-Din, over Prithviraj Chauhan.

Timurid conqueror Babur

Timurid conqueror Babur advancing through the mountains to Kabul, 1502. The Minaret of Jam can be seen in the background. Image source: Wikipedia

It has been speculated that the minaret was once attached to a mosque that was washed away in a flash flood, prior to the Mongol sieges. Archaeologists have found physical evidence that a large courtyard building once existed beside the minaret. In Central Asia, it was common to build single, massive towers as a sign of political power. It is said that the minaret is both strikingly large and visible due to its size, yet mostly concealed from the world, due to its location within the valley.

The minaret was actually forgotten for many centuries. It was rediscovered in 1886 by Sir Thomas Holdich, forgotten again, and rediscovered in 1957. The religious aspects of the minaret are very apparent. One visitor notes: “This chapter, called Maryam, tells of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, both venerated in Islam, and of prophets such as Abraham and Isaac. It's a text that emphasises what Judaism, Christianity and Islam have in common, rather than their differences. It seems the Ghorids placed the text here to appeal for harmony and tolerance in the land, a message that is more relevant now than ever.”

Visitors to the Minaret of Jam can ascend to the top using a set of stairs shaped like a double-helix. The steps first end in an open chamber, where visitors can look out over the rivers and nearby scenery. A second set of stairs can be taken to the top to view the lantern gallery. However, very few visitors ever make it to the minaret, as it is a long, difficult journey, filled with many dangers and threats, including local bandits, abduction, or execution by insurgents. In Afghanistan, the Minaret of Jam is certainly located in the middle of a very dangerous area of today’s world.

Inside the minaret

Inside the minaret is a set of stairs shaped like a double-helix. Image source: Bestourism

The Minaret of Jam was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. It is currently threatened by seepage from the waters of the rivers on which it stands, erosion, vibrations from road-construction nearby, threats of intentional destruction, and the continuation of illegal archeological digs. With no extensive restoration taking place since the minaret was constructed, and little funding to conduct any repairs, it is unsure whether the minaret can be preserved, or if it’s doomed to crumble.

Comments

Let it remain untouched, as mans violent past, Still today sustains. It's inscriptions are largely ignored, greed, war and ignorance continue, man is always quick to judge and slow to change. But this monument is a true test If his created Stone, will outlast him; or will man outgrow his, inner most demons ?
I sincerely hope terrorists of any kind, don't get to it and raise it :(
Remaining untouched, it seems it has, everlasting luck ! So far, And it has made it into Ancientness :)
If only it's builders could see it now...

Looks like an ancient rocket, which never got to launch :(

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Human Origins

Was the Heretic Pharaoh Akhenaton in Fact the Father of Modern Monotheism?
This passage may read like a passage from the Old Testament of the Bible; but, this is a quote from the Hymn of Aten, a work by Pharaoh Amenhotep IV better known as Akhenaton. This so-called heretic king was the only known Pharaoh in Egyptian history who believed in a monotheistic doctrine when most of the ancient world adhered to polytheism.

Ancient Technology

Left side view of the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan.
Teotihuacan’s Lost Kings, a television special, took an hour long look at the great city, its inhabitants, and the excavation of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, (also known as the Feathered Serpent Pyramid.) The program revealed evidence of advanced engineering built into a tunnel system, and placed directly underneath the Pyramid.

Ancient Places

Entrance from above to the Loltun Cave complex
On the 3rd of January 1931, an article appeared in the Modesto News-Herald entitled ‘Mystery of the Loltun Cave hermit’. The article recounted the encounter between a man by the name of Robert Stacy-Judd and an old Mayan hermit, when the former got lost whilst exploring the Loltun Cave with several native guides.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article