Thanks to its geographical position as a prosperous crossroad of Iranian, Central Asian and Indian region, Ghazni represents an evocative synthesis of the cultural achievements in the area. The city became the stronghold of the powerful Ghaznavid dynasty (10th-12th century), whose court was renowned throughout the Iranian world.
During the early Sixties’ (1957-1968), the Italian Archeological Mission in Afghanistan carried out many excavation campaigns and surveys in the area. Civil buildings, mosques, several cemetery areas, mausoleums and tombs were discovered, along with a large amount of valuable finds: marble architectural decorations, pottery, brickwork, stucco, metalwork and glass objects. Mission activities, abruptly ended due to the well-known dramatic political events, resumed in 2002.
The evidence so far collected points to the main feature of the site: an uninterrupted archaeological sequence and settlement continuity from the Buddhist period (2nd-9th century) to the modern age (19th century). Therefore the existing documentation constitutes an invaluable tool for the reconstruction of the Afghan heritage and an absolutely unique archaeological repository witnessing the cultural history of the town.
The Panel aims to offer an overview of the wide artistic production reflecting the cultural background of the city at different historical stages. Our approach is multidisciplinary, focusing on the results and state of research of four different aspects of the collected documentation, and moving from epigraphy and literary sources to the material culture.
The first paper will deal with the use of Persian language in monumental epigraphy, a practice connected to the poetic tradition developed at the Ghaznavid court.
The great number of late funerary monuments collected during the survey around the city, and their related epitaphs written both in Persian and in Arabic language will be discussed in the second paper.
The third paper will focus on the metalwork collection of the Rawza Museum (this Museum of Islamic Arts was set up in 1966 inside a Mausoleum in the area of Ghazni) showing the relationship between this local production and the Iranian tradition.
The last paper will deal with the huge amount of pottery unearthed in Ghazni, which is one of the main archaeological material finds attesting to the settlement continuity of the area.
This paper presents some preliminary analyses concerning Persian epigraphic documentation from Ghazni and its links with the poetic production. Within the large repertoire of Ghaznavid monumental epigraphy, official and religious texts are mostly executed in Arabic, although occurrences dating from the 11th century onwards attest to the epigraphic use of Persian, especially in poetic texts.
The most extraordinary example of this early epigraphic production in the Persian language is the monumental inscription originally located in the Ghaznavid royal palace. It was carved in floriated kufic in the upper part of a marble dado adorning the whole perimeter of the inner courtyard. The surviving sections of the inscription - first studied by Alessio Bombaci in 1966 - allow us to identify a versified poem in Persian (masnavi) praising the majesty of the Ghaznavid rulers, and their support for the Islamic faith. The author of this poem is unknown, but the themes and style are consistent with the tradition of Persian panegyrics developed at the Ghaznavid court from Maḥmūd’s reign onward. My current research compares the form and content of the Palace’s inscription to the poetic production of the same period in order to trace lexical and stylistic similarities between them. The result of this association of the epigraphic text with a particular literary circle could assist in dating the poem’s composition.
Other scattered evidence proves the correlation of the Persian language of this text with poetic texts occurring in 11th-12th centuries’ epigraphic production, such as a poetical epitaph in Persian carved on a tomb from Ghazni, and two versified foundation texts on Qarakhanid monuments in Central Asia. This tradition of adorning palaces and mausoleums with texts in Persian seems to have been established in the Eastern Islamic lands from the 13th century on, with inscriptions mostly executed in cursive script and derived from literary sources.
The attempt of drawing a parallel between Persian inscriptions from Ghazni and the poetry of the time is complicated by the particular nature and function of monumental texts in comparison to literary production proper. Yet this comparative study contributes to the better understanding of the function of Persian inscriptions in civilian buildings and in funerary monuments, as well as to the link between Persian poetry and royal patronage in Medieval Iran. My research would certainly define the Ghaznavid contribution to the development of the literary and artistic traditions in this region.