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

Marble tomb

12 rajab 1100 / 2 May 1689
About two hundred tombs dating to the post-Mongol era were found in Ghazni by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Afghanistan during the excavations and surveys carried out in the graveyard area of the town between the 1950s and 1970s. These funerary monuments can be ascribed to a period comprised between the 16th and 20th century and are a clear testimony of the time when the city acquired new religious significance. The oldest tombs of this group, in fact, date back to the time when Ghazni was in the sphere of influence of the Safavids, who had laid the foundations of their theocracy and imposed Shiism as the state religion. Although the content of the epigraphic inscriptions of these tombs remains strongly connected to the orthodox Sunni repertoire of the Ghaznavid tradition, they might also be the reflection of this cultural climate in which the pilgrimage to particularly venerated burial sites gained new vigor. These tombs were often found within ziyarat arising around the graves of famous people, some of the latter having lived in the Ghaznavid period, and thus witness to the long phase of dwelling in the area. From a morphological point of view, the tombs, all in marble, represent a simplified version of a model whose prototype is traced in the tomb of the founder of the Ghaznavid dynasty, Sebuktegin (see. also No. 7), and also show the influence of funerary monuments of the Timurid era (14th- early 16th centuries), the latter being considerably widespread in Afghanistan, but apparently absent from Ghazni. They almost invariably consist of two superimposed monolithic elements: a base, shaped as a rectangular parallelepiped with a trapezoidal section, and a top crowning element in the shape of a rectangular parallelepiped with a molded or squared edge. The tomb presented here belongs to the latter type. The epitaph is in Arabic, with the presence of some words in Persian, and is developed along a single horizontal line, with words split across multiple levels within cartouches of various shapes. It is dedicated to a woman whose name, along with the date (2 rajab 1100 H. / May 2, 1689 CE), is featured on the crowning element. A series of adjectives, among the most documented in the epigraphic repertoire devoted to women in the area, precedes the name of the deceased, a native of Bukhara, and describes her as devout, pious and chaste. The text of the inscription carved in the lower element features verse 255 of the second Quranic sura (the verse ‘of the throne’) and a verbal expression addressed to God, inspired by the first part of verse 5 in the first Quranic sura. The decoration covering the entire surface of the two elements is rich and varied, with a prevalence of sinusoidal vines – engraved, bejeweled, foliated – shooting three-, four-, or five-lobed flowers. The most characteristic decoration, lending a peculiar elegance to the monument, is contained in the band running along the four sides of the lower section of the top element, and is composed of a sequence of alternate palmettes and trilobed flowers held at the base by a scalloped branch. A prototype of this decorative motif can be traced in some Ghaznavid and Ghurid tombs. This tomb was discovered by the Italian Archaeological Mission in the cemetery north of the minaret of the Ghaznavid Sultan Bahram Shah and is part of the limited number of funerary monuments from Ghazni exhibited at the Museum of Oriental Art ‘G. Tucci’ in Rome. It is one of the few tombs of which we have both the base and the top element.

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