The Minaret of Jam is located at the site of the Ghurid Dynasty’s capital, Firozkoh. 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.
The Minaret was little known outside of Afghanistan until Sir Thomas Holdich reported it in 1886 while working for the Afghan Boundary Commission. 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 Minaret of Jam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Afghanistan.
It is located in a remote and nearly inaccessible region of the Shahrak District, Ghor Province, next to the Hari River. The 62-metre (203 ft) high minaret, was built around 1190 entirely of baked bricks and is famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration, which consists of alternating bands of kufic and naskhi calligraphy and geometric patterns.
The Minaret of Jam is one of the few well-preserved monuments representing the exceptional artistic creativity and mastery of structural engineering of the time. Its architecture and ornamentation are outstanding from the point of view of art history, fusing together elements from earlier developments in the region in an exceptional way and exerting a strong influence on later architecture in the region.
Since the building of the Minaret around eight hundred years ago, no reconstruction or extensive restoration work has ever taken place in the area. The archaeological vestiges were surveyed and recorded in 1957 when the remains were first discovered by archaeologists.
Subsequent surveys and studies have led only to simple precautionary stabilization measures to the base of the Minaret. A group of stones with Hebrew inscriptions on the Kushkak hill between the minaret and the village of Jam, believed to date from the 11th to 12th centuries, probably came from a nearby Jewish cemetery.
The remains of castles and towers of the Ghurid settlement are to be found on the opposite bank of the Hari River, north of the minaret and high on the cliff. There are also the remains of fortifications visible to the east of the minaret, giving the impression that the minaret was surrounded not by a settlement but by a military camp.
The Minaret may have been attached to the Friday Mosque of Firuzkuh, which the Ghurid chronicler Juzjani states 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.
For centuries, the Minaret had been lost and forgotten until rediscovered in 1886 by Sir Thomas Holdich, working for the Afghan Boundary Commission. The work of the French archaeologists André Maricq and Wiet finally brought the minaret to the world’s attention in 1957.
Herberg conducted limited surveys around the site in the 1970s, before the Soviet invasion of 1979 once again cut it off for the outside world.