"Each part of the world recapitulates, shares in and experiences the history of the world as a whole"
Fernand Braudel

Marble tomb

datation
first half of 11th century
provenance
Ghazni
area
period
materials
themes
The tomb is composed of two monolithic elements in white marble, a base and a crested top element. The base features two socles: the lower one (showing a considerable crack) is two-stepped, while the upper one is a trapezoidal prism. The crested top element is a rectangular parallelepiped molded in the lower and upper section and broken in two perfectly matching halves. The epitaph, in Arabic, is carved in relief on both sides of the longitudinal crowning, as well as on the four faces of the prismatic socle and the two longer sides of the latter’s upper surface. The text of the crowning is executed in cursive script and contains verses 18 and 19 of the third sura. The six epigraphic bands of the socle are carved in Kufic script: on the sides we find another Quranic verse (II. 255, the verse ‘of the throne’); the upper surface features the name of the deceased, followed by a prayer to God to prolong his existence, a quite unusual formula in a funerary context. The morphology of the two elements is typical of the funerary monuments of the Ghaznavid era, of which there are about 100 examples documented mainly by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Ghazni between 1957 and late 1970s. The oldest examples are the tomb of Sebuktegin (d. 998, the founder of the Ghaznavid dynasty), located in a small domed pavilion on the Dasht-i Manara plain, and that of his son Mahmud (d. 1030), located in a mausoleum in Rawza, north-east of the town. The tomb of Mahmud, in pink alabaster, seems to be unique in the funerary architecture of the area, a circumstance which is less surprising when the importance and prestige of the personage are taken into consideration. Sebuktegin’s tomb, composed of superimposed and scaled-down elements forming a truncated pyramid, represents instead the prototype of a funerary monument which was significantly widespread in Ghazni until the first half of the 13th century and to whose tradition the tomb presented here can be ascribed. This same model, although in a plainer, less refined style, is also adopted in the numerous other tombs of the town that can be dated to the 16th-19th centuries (see No. 8). Many of the Ghaznavid and Ghurid tombs have been found out of context and often lack some elements that originally composed them, a phenomenon largely due to the absence of binders. Also frequently attested are cases in which the tombs were made by assembling elements belonging to different graves, sometimes even coeval ones. We cannot exclude the possibility that the tomb we present here is an example of this kind of aggregation. Based on the evidence of a variety of morphological, decorative and epigraphic features, the latest possible dating for the lower element seems to be the first half of the 11th century. In particular, we refer here to the combination of steps with a prism, the distribution of the epitaph, the presence of the name of the deceased (usually carved on the crested top element), and the inscription made in a kind of plain, sober Kufic, completely devoid of ornamental elements. Moreover, the position of the chevrons filling, at regular intervals, the empty spaces in the upper half of the epigraphic field interestingly compares with the inscriptions of Sebuktegin’s tomb. The shape of the top element and the cursive style of the inscription carved on its two faces can be compared instead to specimens that can be ascribed to the second half of the 11th century or to the early years of following century. However, any attribution to the Ghurid era can be excluded, since the top element of the tombs dating from the second half of the 12th century to the early 13th century have a slightly trapezoidal shape and are often characterized by the presence of the statement of belief (shahada) repeated on each of the longitudinal sides.

see also