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Fernand Braudel

Upper part of a small marble arch bearing the name of Mas‘ud III

early 12th century, probably 505 H. / 1112 CE
Marble slab with arch (lower left section missing), carved in low bas-relief with vegetal motifs and epigraphic bands on the front face and on the right lateral face. The object was assembled with other marble pieces composing a free-standing structure. The arch, surmounted by a small fleur-de-lis, is pointed and has a polylobated inner outline. The cursive inscription framing the arch contains part of verse 255 from sura II of the Quran, proclaiming God’s supremacy. The spandrels are ornamented with a vegetal motif composed of a lanceolated fleur-de-lis encircled by two scrolls springing out of semi-palmettes. The object is surmounted by a high projecting epigraphic panel in a more elaborated cursive script, showing rolling budded scrolls, above which is a small, further projecting, plain cornice. This inscription bears the name and the titles of the Ghaznavid sovereign Mas‘ud III (r. 1099-1115). The execution of the bas-relief, carved low with slightly rounded edges, is very regular. The inscription bearing the name of the sovereign is made prominent thanks to the panel’s position, height and projection, as well as the finer elaboration of the script and the precision in the carving: the letters are narrower and the scrolls are carefully placed in order to fill the remaining field and give dynamism to the composition. A peculiar decorative element, made of a knot-like motif and a chevron, most likely a connotative sign, crowns the name Mas‘ud. The Italian archaeologists found this artefact in 1958 in the ziyara Sultan Ibrahim, a small modern mausoleum that stands on top of the area once occupied by the western eyvān of Mas‘ud III’s palace excavated in Ghazni (for the description of the plan of the palace, see No. 2). Allegedly, it had been unearthed nearby some years before by the guardian of the site, and only afterwards brought into the small mausoleum, where it was inserted in a niche and employed as a mihrab – the use of spolia in religious and funerary constructions being very common in Ghazni (see also No. 1), especially with regard to marble artefacts, also attested in the last years on more recent tombs. Despite its faint archaeological provenance within the palace, this arch is nevertheless evidence of the attribution of this building to the Ghaznavid sovereign Mas‘ud III, being also supported by further epigraphic evidence represented by two balustrades, dated in the year of his reign 505 H. / 1112 CE (see No. 4), and by a fragmentary well curb bearing his name and part of his patronymic.

see also