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The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project 


Nuh Gunbad stucco decoration, possibly Abbasid era. Photo by Arezou Azad.Nuh Gunbad stucco decoration, possibly Abbasid era. Photo by Arezou Azad.Key Research Questions

There are important questions to be asked of the material and textual evidence from medieval Balkh, among them the following:

I. Topography and Human Settlement of the City and its Oasis

I.1. Where on the site was the earliest Muslim settlement? Did the Muslims occupy the great fortified enclosure known as the Bala Hisar (cf. Samarqand) or did they establish a new quarter outside the fortifications of the old settlement (cf. Merv)?

I.2. Can we trace and date the city's water supply?

I.3. In what ways did the Mongol conquest affect the city? Is there evidence for destruction at this time (cf. Merv)? If so was the city reconstructed on the same site (cf. Bukhara) or moved to an adjacent site (cf. Samarqand) or a more distant one (cf. Merv)?

I.4. Is there evidence of a Timurid reconstruction or was the pattern one of continuing occupation?

I.5. Can we trace changes in the settlement pattern in the wider Balkh oasis?

I.6. Can we identify the character and function of specific buildings and sites that are surviving from this period?

II. Politics and Administration

II.1. Was there a governor's palace (Dar al-Imara) in the city?

II.2. What evidence is there for continuity of minting coins, and of what sort in Balkh in the medieval Islamic period?

II.3. What can we say about the location and development of the city's walls, gates and towers?

II.4. Was the city (re)fortified during the period of Seljuq rule (cf Merv)?

II.5. What specific roles did women play?

III. Sacred Landscape

III.1. How long did the Buddhist temples remain in use?

III.2. Where was the Great Mosque described in textual sources? Was it within the Bala Hisar?

III.3. Is there evidence of other sacred sites, such as, shrines?

III.4. Can we relate the current names attached to archaeological sites with textual sites?

Banner Image: Tepe Rustam of Balkh, thought to be the old Buddhist temple site of Naw Bahar. Photo by Arezou Azad