Capitals – columns from Mizdahkan

Issue #2 • 1787

The settlement of Mizdahkan is located in the south of the high – way “Khodjeili – Kunya – Urgench” in Karakalpakstan. The settlement consists of three parts: antique pre – Mongol town (Gayur – kala), the religious center (Hill of Mazlum – sulu) and significant in its area unfortified city related to the Golden Horde period (the 13th – 14th centuries) (1, p. 566; p. 191). The last one remained in ruins of quarters, streets and small hills containing rich ceramic complexes. In 1985 – 1999, here were excavated dwelling quarters, pottery ovens, diary and grapery workshops.

In 1989 in the eastern quarter № 2 was excavated the house (№ 10) consisting of nine premises and home chapel of 4.55×5.45 m. Walls of the premise, except its low part, are fully built from adobe. Inside the room, along its southern wall, from a level of floor, was installed bench-shaped ledge of 0.60 m in width, 4.45 m in length and 0.45 m in height. In the middle of the ledge there is a deepening – a mikhrab niche of 0.77×045 m. Walls of mikhrab and floor part of the wall are framed by the panel, which at height of 0.40 m from a floor is faced with polished coupled brick with tiles in a style of “bows”, a vegetative ornament of blue enamel of “Khorezm type”. “Bows”, except some ones, repeat forms and patterns of tiles – crosspieces in the mausoleum of Mazlumkhan – sulu (3, p. 71, ill. 3). Front corners of the mikhrab niche on the right and left sides of the entrance are crowned with capitals, to which this article is devoted.

The archeological monuments supply knowledge of a level of architectural decor in Khorezm of the 13th – 14th centuries, which influenced not only on architecture in the steppe cities of Golden Horde, but also adjoined regions of Central Asia and Northern Caucasus. The frontal surface of capitals is entirely covered with a majolica that is typical of Khorezm architecture in the first half of the 14th century. Visual survey gives the opinion, that they are performed in similar technique, have identical colour (dense turquoise enamel) and ornamental motives as well as the sizes that also are identical (23.5×9 cm).

Actually the ornamental composition is different. The left capital is divided ino three ornamental belts, each of which is decorated with relief vegetative and epigraphic ornament. In the top belt on symmetrically located sides there is “harp – shaped” ornament formed by weaved vegetative – flower bines of black color; between them – the finest shading. The general contour of a large vegetative ornament is underlined with a black – and – white strip. The blank space of the top lines, in corners is edged with hollows of a dark blue colour. Under the top line there is a horizontal strip, framed with a black line with white relief points inside. The lower ornamental line is separated by the Arabian inscription in Naskh style that emphasizes the sacral importance of the capital’s decor. A dark blue background accents the white relief inscription. Generally, the ornamental composition of the low lines surrounds a tetrahedral trunk of columns.

The right capital by size and form is the same as the left one. Elements of vegetative harp – shaped ornament are identical, but the composition differed. So, among bound double-leaves, trefoils and stalks, at bines’ joints the flowers form an ornamental chain of sockets. Their background is filled with fine black points. The belt with the Arabian inscription is absent, instead of it – a relief wavy ornament as “soaring cloud”. It reminds a similar pattern on kashin ceramics from Golden Horde’s Khorezm (4, fig. I, 1 – 2). In general, in capitals’ ornament there are all elements, characteristic for the Khorezm school and known on an example of architectural decor of the mausoleums of Khiva, Kunya – Urgench and Mizdahkan dated from the 13th – 14th centuries.

Motives of “Arabian inscriptions”, “harp – shaped” pattern, “soaring clouds “, “relief point”, a chain of “sockets” and trefoils are used also in decor of the mausoleums of Nadjimaddin al Qubro (20 – 30s of the 14th century) and Makhmud Pahlavan (30s of the 14th century). The colour is also typical, a combination of under – enamel black pattern with a relief ornament, use of ultramarine (cobalt), turquoise enamel and white engobe. All these colors are well – known on examples kitchen ceramic utilities of Khorezm dated from the 13th – 14th centuries. In a little changed form the elements of Mizdahkan capitals’ composition find close analogies in masterpieces of Shakhi – Zinda (the Anonymous mausoleum – 1360 – 1361, Turkan – aka mausoleum – 1372, the mosque of Tuman – aka – 1405). Fine “harp – shaped” ornament is performed in a form of the turned arch with T-shaped top. In the special literature various variants of this ornament are called “dauripoiya” (5, p. 76).

Probably, various methods of Khorezm architectural decor came into architecture of Movarounnahr after Khorezm campaigns of Amir Temur in 1372 – 1388. Terracotta capitals were existing in the Central Asian architecture during all Middle Ages and have remained in cult architecture up to nowadays. Early samples of them are known in architecture of Movarounnahr from the 12th century. So, mikhrab niche of the mausoleum of Khakimi at Termizi (the 11th – 15th centuries) is bordered by columns – capitals, but they are faced with tiles in “bows” without enamel (6, p. 69). Small majolica capitals decorate mausoleums of Hodja Akhmad (the middle of the 19th century), Turkan – aka (1372) in the memorial complex of Shakhi – Zinda (5, p. 69) and the mosque of Said Ata (the 18th century) in Khiva (7, p. 139).

Unlike decoration of monumental structures the terracotta capitals of Mizdahkan are a component of the home chapel. Monuments of this sort in Khorezm have not been known yet. Thus, capitals from the chapel allow revealing links and continuity of architectural decor of Khorezm of the 13th – 14th centuries with a group of monuments of the same type in Movarounnahr. They are of significant interest for studying of the Khorezm architectural ceramics and in addition give evidence for wide use of rich architectural decor techniques not only in Urgench, but also in the commercial, craft and religious centers of Khorezm.

Author: Kdirniyazov M.Sh.

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