BUKHARA v. Archeology and Monuments



v. Archeology and Monuments

According to new archeological data, the earliest settlement levels at Bukhara can be dated to the 5th-2nd centuries B.C. (Askarov and Usmanova, p. 10; Mukhamedzhanov, p. 39). During this period Bukhara consisted of a citadel (arg; ca. 2ha) on a hill and a large, sprawling settlement across a wide ditch to the east. In about the 3rd century B.C. the citadel was reinforced with walls up to 6-7 m thick. At the end of the 1st millennium B.C. and in the immediately succeeding centuries Bukhara was an autonomous territory within the domain of the K’ang-chü dynasty; its rulers bore the Aramaic title MRʾY “sovereign” and minted coins on the model of the tetradrachms of the Bactrian king Euthydemos (d. ca. 189 B.C.; Tarn, pp. 82-83), with gradual evolution of both image and inscription (Rtve­ladze and Musakaeva, pp. 35-38).

Probably at the time of the Boḵārḵodāt Bīdūn (d. ca. 61/680; Balāḏorī, Fotūḥ, p. 413) the citadel, which had long been in ruins, was enlarged to cover an area of about a hectare; new outer walls were constructed, and the earlier walls were incorporated into a platform 16-­18 m high; a new, inner wall was built on this platform, with only a narrow ledge around its base. There were two gates connected by a street: the Ḡūrīān and Rīgestān gates, on the eastern and western sides respectively. The latter took its name from the large open square in front of it. Bīdūn’s palace, which was among the most important constructions in the citadel, was built on seven stone piers arranged in the same pattern as the stars in the constellation of the Great Bear (Naršaḵī, pp. 33-34; Naršaḵī, tr. Frye, p. 24; Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 100); there was also a pagan temple. The Boḵārḵodāts had another palace on the Rīgestān, apparently still in their possession in the 2nd/8th century (Naršaḵī, pp. 36, 89; tr. Frye, pp. 25, 65).

The city (šahrestān) had grown up east of the citadel. In the 5th-6th centuries it had consisted of two inde­pendent walled sections, separated by a dried-up river­bed, which served as a defensive ditch; the northern section covered an area 8-11 ha, the southern 7-8 ha (Mukhamedzhanov and Mirzaakhmedov, pp. 101-02). At the beginning of the 8th century the two parts were gradually merged and the ditch replaced by a main street. The result was a rectangular walled town (30-35 ha), which was divided into quarters by two main cross streets (ibid., pp. 101-02, fig. 1). There were seven gates in the fortified wall (see Naršaḵī, pp. 73-91, who names only six; Naršaḵī, tr. Frye, pp. 54-58; Eṣṭaḵrī, p. 306; cf. Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 101; Belenitskiĭ et al., pp. 233-­34 and 237 plan): ʿAṭṭārān (Bāzār; Eṣṭaḵrī: Madīna “city”), Banū Saʿd, Banū Asad (Mohra), Kandīz (Es­áṭaḵrī: Qohandez; in some Naršaḵī manuscripts: Gabrīya “Magians,” tr. Frye, p. 55 n.), Ḥadīd “iron” (Eṣṭaḵrī, omitted in Naršaḵī), Ḥaqra (Ḥofra), Now (Nūn, Nūr). Within the town stood the fire temple, the Māḵ bāzār, where idols were sold (Naršaḵī, p. 29; Naršaḵī, tr. Frye, pp. 20-21), and the residences of the nobility. Under an agreement with Qotayba b. Moslem (49-96/669-715) the inhabitants of Bukhara were forced to cede half the houses in the walled city to the Arab conquerors (Naršaḵī, p. 73; Naršaḵī, tr. Frye, p. 53). To the north­east of the city, at a place called Kūšk-e Moḡān rich merchants erected 700 castles with living quarters for servants (Barthold, 1965, p. 384). There were fire temples there also, and at the beginning of the 9th century the Ḵarqān bāzār was constructed (Naršaḵī, pp. 43, 79).

During the reign of the Samanids (263-395/875-­1005), Bukhara developed into a large town, consisting of the citadel, the walled city, and an inner and an outer suburb (rabaż; Belenitskiĭ et al., pp. 240-53; Barthold, 1965, pp. 380-81). The area of the citadel was 3.5 ha (not 9.2 ha, as in EI 1, s.v. Bukhārā, pp. 809-16, and EI 2, pp. 1293-96). Inside it there were a castle (qalʿa) contain­ing the governor’s palace, a prison, administrative offices, and the treasury (Moqaddasī, p. 280; Barthold, 1965, p. 381). In this period most commercial and admin­istrative functions were transferred from the walled city to the rabażes. The southern part of the inner rabaż was entirely occupied by bāzārs. The great mosque, the Samanid palace, and all the court dīvāns were located between the walled city and the Rīgestān. In the outer rabaż there were many castles, villas, and gardens. According to Eṣṭaḵrī, the area of the outer rabaż of Bukhara was approximately one square farsaḵ (p. 305). Scholars disagree about the dating of the walls of the rabażes. Some consider the inner wall to be from the time of Abū Moslem (fl. between 128/745-46 and 136/753-54) and the outer wall from the reign of the Taherids (235/849-50), but others date the inner wall to the Taherids and believe the outer wall to have been built over a long period of time and completed under the Samanids. The wall of the outer rabaż had eleven gates: Maydān, Ebrāhīm, Rīū (Rīv), Mardaqaša (Mardḵān), Kallābāḏ, Nowbahār, Samarqand, Faḡāskūn, Rāmīṯanīya (Rāmīṯān), Ḥadšarūn, and Ḡošaj (Ḡošendis). The inner wall had twelve gates: the Iron gate, Ḥossān bridge gate, two gates at the Māḵ mosque, Roḵna gate, a gate by the Kenānī castle, Fārjek gate, Darvāzja gate, a gate at the street of the Magians, the inner Samarkand gate, Maʿābed (sanctuaries) gate, and the gate at the Sowayqa bridge (Eṣṭaḵrī, pp. 306-07; Moqaddasī, p. 280; Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 483-84, tr. Kramers, pp. 464-65).

Qotayba built the first great mosque in the citadel in 95/713, on the site of the old pagan temple. The wooden doors, which were taken from castles of local feudal lords, bore traces of sculptural decoration that had been destroyed. In 154/770 a new congregational mosque with a minaret was erected outside the citadel; it was repeatedly rebuilt and enlarged after destruction by fire and earthquake up to the 5th/11th century. In the Samanid period two more mosques were built (in 290/902 and 340/951), and in the 4th/10th century madrasas are known to have existed at Bukhara (one, the Fārjek madrasa, was mentioned in connection with a fire in 325/937). Memorial structures were also built near the graves of eminent shaikhs, for example, beside the hill where Abū Ḥafṣ was buried, “where many mosques and cells stood” (Naršaḵī, p. 80; tr. Frye, p. 58). One of the earliest known secular mausoleums, the dynastic tomb of the Samanids, was built near Bukhara at about the turn of the 4th/10th century and is still preserved. Its structure is austere but expressive, a simple cube with a hemispherical dome and four identical facades, each with a central arched entrance and engaged columns at the corners. Both exterior and interior are dominated by brick patterns. In this monument the structural and decorative potential of baked brick was fully exploited for the first time in central Asian architecture (Pugachenkova and Rempel’, pp. 65-67; Pugachenkova, pp. 120-23).

After the Qarakhanids captured Samarkand and Bukhara (389/999; Bartold, Turkestan3, p. 268), Bu­khara seems to have undergone a period of stagnation, but a revival is discernible toward the end of the 5th/11th century. In the first half of the 6th/12th century Bukhara was for a time the center of the semi-­independent, quasi-theocratic state founded by the ṣadrs (Hanafite legal scholars) Āl-e Borhān. In 535/1141 the city was captured by the Qarā Ḵetāy, but the ṣadrs continued to play an important role. During this century the walls of the inner rabaż and the citadel were repaired, and in 560/1164-65 the wall of the outer rabaż and portions of the citadel walls and towers were riveted with baked brick. In 515/1121-22 a new great mosque was built, incorporating some of the woodwork from the old mosque (Naršaḵī, pp. 70-71; tr. Frye, p. 51). The adjacent minaret very soon collapsed, however, destroying two-thirds of this mosque. The sanctuary was rebuilt, and in 521/1127 a new minaret, Menār-e Kalān (Kalyan), was erected. Its sharply tapering circular shaft (48 m) is patterned with bands of ornamental brick and topped by a lantern; it still dominates the skyline of Bukhara (Nil’sen, pp. 183-91; Pugachenkova and Rem­pel’, pp. 67-70). In 513/1129 a small open prayer hall (namāzgāh) was built on the site of the old Šamsābād garden. The surface of its long brick qebla wall was patterned with geometric designs highlighted with carved terracotta; the central meḥrāb was redecorated with glazed tiles in the 8th/15th century; in the 10th/16th century a facade with arched entrances was added (Nil’sen, pp. 61-70). Aside from the Kalyan minaret the only preserved element of the 6th/12th-century mosques in Bukhara is the facade of the small Maḡak-e ʿAṭṭārī mosque. Its arched portal, flanked by engaged quarter­-columns, is faced with ornamental brickwork; the in­scription was carved from blue-glazed terracotta (Nil’sen, pp. 70-83). The interior of this mosque was completely rebuilt in the 10th/16th century under the Shaibanid ruler ʿAbd-Allāh I (see below).

New palaces are mentioned in various sources; for example, at Šamsābād near the Ebrāhīm gate “there were many splendid buildings,” including a walled park containing a palace, a pigeon house, and a zoological garden (Naršaḵī, pp. 40-41; tr. Frye, p. 29). The governor’s palace was near Jūybār, and two others were located in the (A)bū Layṯ district and beside the Saʿdābād gate respectively. Splendid royal baths and madrasas are also mentioned (Naršaḵī, pp. 40-42; tr. Frye, pp. 29-30).

In 604/1207 Bukhara fell to the Ḵᵛārazmšāh Mo­ḥammad b. Takaš, who repaired the citadel and erected new buildings there. In 616/1220 the city was destroyed by the Mongols. It began to revive only in the second half of the 7th/13th century, when, for example, two large madrasas were built, the Masʿūdīya and the Ḵānīya. The former was destroyed in 671/1273 but was apparently later rebuilt; neither building has survived.

Two monuments survive from the Chaghatayid period (624-771/1227-1370): the mausoleum complex of Boyānqolī Khan (one of the last Chaghatayid khans of Transoxania; d. after 760/1358) and Sayf-al-Dīn Bāḵarzī (second half of the 8th/14th century, facade rebuilt in the 9-10th/15-16th centuries), on the outskirts of the city. It is a variant of the two-chamber mausoleum with portal; in the earlier tomb chamber panels of richly carved glazed terracotta decoration have been preserved (Pugachen­kova and Rempel’, pp. 72-75).

In 781/1380 Tīmūr built the Ùašma-ye Ayyūb mausoleum, a complex structure dominated by a tall, conical dome (ibid., p. 75). The only known building of the later Timurids at Bukhara is the madrasa of Oloḡ Beg (built 819/1417), the first of three such buildings that he commissioned and the oldest preserved in Central Asia. The madrasa, which was built by the architect Esmāʿīl b. Ṭāher Eṣfahānī, is of the traditional courtyard type with two facing ayvānon the longitudinal axis. The sides of the courtyard consist of two stories of domed chambers (ḥojras), with a classroom (dars-ḵāna) and a mosque in the corners. The facade is characterized by a tall framed portal (pīštāq) and small corner towers. This madrasa was restored in 993/1585, and there is also glazed-tile decoration from the 11th/17th century (ibid., pp. 76-78).

Under the Shaibanids (905-1007/1500-98) and the Janids (1007-1199/1599-1785) there was an expansion of trade between Bukhara and Russia. It was a period of active building, in which especially bāzārs, caravansaries, and underground reservoirs (sardābas) prolifer­ated. There was a čārsū in the center of Bukhara already in the 10th/16th century (Boldyrev, p. 134). Sayyed Mīr ʿAbd-Allāh, the Sufi shaikh known as Mīr-e ʿArab, had come to Bukhara from Esfijāb (Sayram) sometime after 921/1515. In 942/1535-36 he constructed the madrasa that bears his name across from the Masjed-e Kalān, the main congregational mosque of Bukhara (see above); by 947/1539 the mosque itself had been completely rebuilt, with six piers, stone columns, and 289 vaulted bays. The two buildings and the Menār-e Kalān thus formed a unified group, known as Pā-ye Kalān (Pugachenkova and Rempel’s, pp. 79-82). Under ʿAbd-Allāh Khan (r. 991-1006/1583-98) the western wall of Bukhara was extended to bring within the city boundary lands owned by the influential Jūybāri shaikhs; the main avenue (ḵīābān) of the city started from there. Among the other public building erected in Bukhara under the Shaibanids, the most prominent were the Qūš Madrasa, a complex including Mādar-e Ḵān madrasa, built by ʿAbd-Allāh Khan’s mother in 974/1566-67, and facing it the madrasa of ʿAbd-Allāh Khan himself, built in 998/1589-90; the madrasa built by Qol Bābā Kūkeldāš, an amir of ʿAbd-­Allāh Khan, in 986/1578-79, three domed structures (ṭāq, or čārsū) at the intersections of the main commercial streets, as well as Tīm-e ʿAbd-Allāh Khan, a domed caravansary for textile merchants (all four usually dated 995/1586-87; cf. McChesney, who argues that the caravansary and one of the ṭāqs were probably built ten years earlier); Ùār Bakr (966-76/1559-69), a complex including a madrasa, mosque, and ḵānaqāh about four miles west of Bukhara, in the Sumītan district, that belonged to the Jūybāri shaikhs; and the ḵānaqāh of Fayżabād (1007/1598-99) outside the eastern city wall (Pugachenkova and Rempel’s, pp. 91-93). Several mosques (e.g., in Baland) and kòānaqāhs (Sufi monas­teries), like those of Zayn-al-Dīn and Bahāʾ-al-Dīn, also survive from this period.

The Janid ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz Khan (q.v.; r. 1057-91/1647-­80) rebuilt the walls of the rabaż. Many monumental structures survive from this period (ibid., pp. 78-79, 93-­95). They are characterized by a consistent typology of plan and spatial composition, a rich array of domes and vaults, and colorful tile decoration. Public buildings, domed bāzārs, and baths are particularly noteworthy, as are such large religious and memorial complexes as Lab-e Ḥawż, which includes a ḵānaqāh, a madrasa, and a reservoir (ḥawż), built by Nadr (or Naḏr) Dīvānbegī Arlāt in 1029-32/1619-23; and the madrasa of ʿAbd-al­ʿAzīz Khan himself, built in 1062/1651-52 opposite the madrasa of Oloḡ Beg (see above).

After the city came under the control of the Manḡït dynasty (1170-1338/1757-1920) a fortified wall 12 km long with twenty-six towers was built around Bukhara, but its line did not take account of existing building rights and privately owned lands. There were eleven gates flanked by towers: Tāl-e Pač, Og¡lān, Ḥażrat-e Emām, and Samarkand in the north; Mazār and Kavola in the east; Salla-ḵāna-ye Ebrāhīm (Namāzgāh), and Shaikh Jalāl in the south; and Karakol and Šīrgarān in the west (see Sukhareva, 1958).

Modern Bukhara is one of the most attractive foci of international tourism. The historic center of the city has been declared a state reserve; its architectural monu­ments are under government protection and are being restored. Traditional handicrafts—stucco and wood carving, repousse‚ work in metal, gold embroidery and other needlework, and modeling of terracotta figurines—are also practiced there.



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(G. A. Pugachenkova and E. V. Rtveladze)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: January 1, 2000

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 5, pp. 525-527