Minaret of Jam

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Coordinates: 34°23′48″N 64°30′58″E / 34.39667°N 64.51611°E / 34.39667; 64.51611

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Minaret of jam 2009 ghor.jpg
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, iv
Reference 211
UNESCO region Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 2002 (26th Session)
Endangered 2002–present
Minaret of Jam is located in Afghanistan
Minaret of Jam
Location of Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan.

The Minaret of Jam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Afghanistan. It is located in the Shahrak District, Ghor Province, by the Hari River. The 62-metre high minaret,[1] surrounded by mountains that reach up to 2400m, was built in the 1190s, entirely of baked bricks. It is famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration, which consists of alternating bands of kufic and naskhi calligraphy, geometric patterns, and verses from the Qur'an (the surat Maryam, relating to Mary, the mother of Jesus).


The circular minaret rests on an octagonal base; it had 2 wooden balconies and was topped by a lantern. Its formal presentation has a striking similarity to the minaret built by Masud III in Ghazni.[2] It is thought to have been a direct inspiration for the Qutub Minar in Delhi, which was also built by the Ghurid Dynasty. After the Qutub Minar in Delhi, India, which it inspired, the Minaret of Jam is the second-tallest brick minaret in the world.

The Minaret of Jam belongs to a group of around 60 minarets and towers built between the 11th and the 13th centuries in Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan, ranging from the Kutlug Timur Minaret in Old Urgench (long considered the tallest of these still in existence) to the tower at Ghazni. The minarets are thought to have been built as symbols of Islam's victory, while other towers were simply landmarks or watchtowers.

The archaeological landscape around Jam also includes the ruins of a 'palace', fortifications, a pottery kiln and a Jewish cemetery, and has been suggested to be the remains of the lost city of Turquoise Mountain.

The archaeological site of Jam was successfully nominated as Afghanistan's first World Heritage site in 2002. It was also inscribed in UNESCO's list of World Heritage in Danger, due to the precarious state of preservation of the minaret, and results of looting at the site. [3]


Jam minartet clear white ghorid empire2009.jpg
Timurid conqueror Babur advances through Jam and the mountains to Kabul.

The Minaret of Jam is probably located at the site of the Ghurid Dynasty's summer capital, Firuzkuh (Firuz Koh). During the 12th and 13th century, the Ghurids controlled what is now Afghanistan, but also parts of eastern Iran, Northern India and parts of Pakistan.[3]

The Arabic inscription dating the minaret is unclear - it could read 1193/4 or 1174/5. It could thus commemorate the victory of the Ghurid sultan Ghiyas ud-Din over the Ghaznevids in 1186 in Lahore.[4] However, Ralph Pinder-Wilson, believes the minaret was built for the victory of Mu'izz ad-Din, Ghiyath ud-Din's brother, over Prithviraj Chauhan.[4] The assumption is that the Minaret was attached to the Friday Mosque of Firuzkuh, which the Ghurid chronicler Juzjani states was washed away in a flash-flood, some time before the Mongol sieges. Work at Jam by the Minaret of Jam Archaeological Project, has found evidence of a large courtyard building beside the minaret, and evidence of river sediments on top of the baked-brick paving.

The Ghurid Empire's glory waned after the death of Ghiyath ud-Din in 1202, as it was forced to cede territory to the Khwarezm Empire. Juzjani states that Firuzkuh was destroyed by the Mongols in 1222.

The Minaret was little known outside of Afghanistan until Sir Thomas Holdich reported it in 1886 while working for the Afghan Boundary Commission. It did not come to world attention, however, until 1957 through the work of the French archaeologists André Maricq[5] and Gaston Wiet. Later, Werner Herberg conducted limited surveys around the site in the 1970s, before the Soviet invasion of 1979 once again cut off outside access.

Inscriptional content[edit]

  • The uppermost band consists of the Muslim confession of faith; "I bear witness there is no god but Allah (and that) Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."
  • Below this, are upper two bands that consists of verse 13, surat al-Saff LXI;"Help from Allah and present victory. Give good tidings (O Muhammad) to believers. O ye who believe."
  • The band below this consists of names and titles of Ghiyath ad-Din Muhammad bin Sam
  • Located below this is a band containing an amplified version of Ghiyath ad-Din Muhammad's names and titles in turquoise mosaic tiles.
  • An oblong hexagon with two lines of naskhi underneath, (1)"The work of 'Ali ibn...", (2)undeciphered
  • An inscription, "Abu'l-Fath", heavily damaged, due to being made of stucco.
  • Interlaced bands consisting of surat Maryam XIX.
  • Facing north is a Kufic inscription, "On the date of the year five hundred ninety"(equivalent of 27 December 1193 to 16 December 1194).[6]


The Minaret of Jam is currently threatened by erosion, water infiltration and floods, due to its proximity to the Hari and Jam rivers. Another threat are the earthquakes which happen frequently in the region. Looters and illegal excavations have also damaged the archaeological site surrounding the minaret. The tower has started to lean, but stabilisation work is in progress to halt this danger.


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Ghaznavid and Ghūrid Minarets, Ralph Pinder-Wilson, Iran, Vol. 39, (2001), 167.
  2. ^ Ghaznavid and Ghūrid Minarets, Ralph Pinder-Wilson, Iran, Vol. 39, 169-170.
  3. ^ a b "Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam". UNESCO World Heritage Center. UNESCO. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Ghaznavid and Ghūrid Minarets, Ralph Pinder-Wilson, Iran, Vol. 39, 170.
  5. ^ Ghaznavid and Ghūrid Minarets, Ralph Pinder-Wilson, Iran, 166.
  6. ^ Ghaznavid and Ghūrid Minarets, Ralph Pinder-Wilson, Iran, 168-169.


  • Dan Cruickshank (ed.), Sir Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture, Twentieth edition, Architectural Press 1996, ISBN 0-7506-2267-9
  • Herberg, W. with D. Davary, 1976. Topographische Feldarbeiten in Ghor: Bericht über Forschungen zum Problem Jam-Ferozkoh. Afghanistan Journal 3/2, 57-69.
  • Maricq, A. & G. Wiet, 1959. Le Minaret de Djam: la découverte de la capitale des Sultans Ghurides (XIIe-XIIIe siècles). (Mémoires de la Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan 16). Paris.
  • Sourdel-Thomine, J., 2004. Le minaret Ghouride de Jam. Un chef d'oeuvre du XIIe siècle. Paris: Memoire de l'Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres.
  • Stewart, Rory. 2006. The Places In Between. Harvest Books. ISBN 0-15-603156-6.
  • Thomas, David, 2004. Looting, heritage management and archaeological strategies at Jam, Afghanistan
  • Thomas, D.C., G. Pastori & I. Cucco, 2004. “Excavations at Jam, Afghanistan.” East and West 54 (Nos. 1-4) pp. 87–119.
  • Thomas, D.C., G. Pastori & I. Cucco, 2005. The Minaret of Jam Archaeological Project at Antiquity
  • Thomas, D.C., & A. Gascoigne, in press. Recent Archaeological Investigations of Looting at Jam, Ghur Province, in J. van Krieken (ed.) Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage: its Fall and Survival. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

External links[edit]