The Watch

Ghazni Minarets

Ghazni, Afghanistan

2004 World Monuments Watch

Rising out of the barren landscape like sentinels before the snowcapped mountains of the Hindu Kush, the minarets of Ghazni are among the last vestiges of the great Ghaznavid Empire, which ruled an area from the Caspian Sea to the Ganges Delta during the eleventh and twelfth centuries A.D. Commissioned during the reigns of Masud III (A.D. 1099-1115) and Bahram Shah (A.D. 1118-1157), the flanged towers are built of fired mud brick faced with elaborate terracotta decoration, which form sinuous designs and Koranic verses. The towers soar 20 meters above the ground and at one time were even higher; the upper portion of the tower of Masud III was lost in an earthquake in 1902. While the minarets today are structurally sound, the intricate terracotta decoration and Koranic inscriptions are rapidly deteriorating. Exposure to the rain and snow has accelerated this process. Limited conservation had taken place in the past, such as the installation of sheet metal roofs in the 196Os, but continuous war and civil unrest over the past two centuries have prevented regular maintenance. The towers are also adversely affected by the proximity of a road and are subject to periodic flooding. New copper roofing for the minarets will greatly reduce water infiltration and basic security measures will prevent vandalism. The future of the site, however, will hang in the balance as long as Afghanistan remains politically unstable.

Since the Watch

In July 2011, architects from the U.S. National Park Service’s Historic American Building Survey (HABS,) in association with the Cultural Heritage Center of the U.S. Department of State, documented the Ghazni Minarets using laser scanning. The scan data were processed to create architectural drawings in order to provide a record of the existing conditions and a resource for future preservation efforts. This partnership will also provide training in archaeological site management to cultural heritage specialists at the Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan. Public outreach efforts have included a 2013 trilingual exhibition at Kabul’s Timur Shah Mausoleum, which featured historic images along with the drawings and photos created during the documentation project. The exhibition was also on view at the Shrine of Hazrat Ali in Mazari-Sharif in April 2014. Children’s booklets about the Ghazni Minarets were distributed to schools and museums throughout the Ghazni province in 2012. November 2014

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