Medieval Monuments of Central Asia

Qarakhanid Architecture of the 11th and 12th Centuries

Richard P. McClary

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Studies the surviving pre-Mongol monuments of Islamic architecture in Central Asia
  • The first complete overview of the corpus of Qarakhanid monuments, with a detailed overview of the extant Soviet-era literature and a study of the inscriptions
  • Includes archival images from Soviet-era publications showing the buildings prior to loss or reconstruction
  • Integrates the monuments into the wider region, transcending the nationalist approach of much of the earlier scholarship
  • Includes an easy-to-use gazetteer to facilitate finding the monuments
  • Features extensive colour images of many previously unpublished details of the buildings
  • Integrates the extant structures and the extensive but hard-to find archaeological evidence
  • Examines the links between architecture and smaller-scale material culture, especially the epigraphy seen on coins
  • Includes detailed studies of the major Qarakhanid monuments including the Shah Fazl tomb in Safid Buland, the three tombs in Uzgend and the Kalan minaret in Bukhara

This is a comprehensive study of the surviving monuments of the Qarakhanids – an important yet little-known medieval dynasty that ruled much of Central Asia between the late 10th and early 13th centuries. Based on extensive fieldwork and many hard-to-find Russian sources, the book places the surviving monuments into the wider cultural context of the region. Many photographs and new ground-plans are included, as well as detailed studies of individual monuments and the wider architectural aesthetic. These monuments serve as the link between the mostly lost Samanid architecture and the far larger and better-known monuments of the Timurids.

List of Figures

Series Editor’s Forward



Note on Transliteration


CHAPTER 1 Antecedent Structures in the Region

CHAPTER 2 The Earliest Intact Tomb: Shah Fazl at Safid Buland

CHAPTER 3 The Development of a Style: Three Tombs at Uzgend

CHAPTER 4 Bukhara: A Study of Three Structures

CHAPTER 5 Minarets of the Qarakhanids

CHAPTER 6 The Qarakhanid Aesthetic: Structural Methods and Decoration

CHAPTER 7 Epigraphic Styles: The Numismatic and Architectural Evidence

CHAPTER 8 Urban Developments under the Qarakhanids: The Archaeological and Textual Evidence





In his volume, McClary aims to provide as detailed a study as possible of all of the surviving monuments in the Qarakhanid corpus. The book achieves its goal in many ways, especially to document and introduce a dynamic, diverse and innovative architectural repertoire of this medieval dynasty. The volume offers a visually engaging journey through the former Qarakhanid domains, detailing some major monuments located distantly from Balasagun and Uzgend in Kyrgyzstan to Taraz, Kazakhstan and, finally, to Bukhara and Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
Dilrabo Tosheva, The University of Queensland, Central Asian Survey, 2020
An engaging study of a corpus of buildings from a little-known region that combines a close reading of the individual buildings and their materials, technique and decoration with a deep knowledge of the sources.  A model of architectural analysis, it shows how a regional style can flourish despite political turmoil.
Sheila Blair, Boston College
Dr Richard Piran McClary is a Senior Lecturer in Islamic Art and Architecture at the University of York. He received his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in 2015. He has lectured extensively on a range of subjects related to medieval Islamic art and architecture around the world, and has conducted fieldwork in India, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia and across the Middle East. He held a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh from 2015 to 2018, examining the surviving corpus of Qarakhanid architecture in Central Asia. His most recent monograph, Mina’i Ware (Edinburgh University Press, 2024) is the first comprehensive study of polychrome overglaze painted wares, and his second monograph is Medieval Monuments of Central Asia. Qarakhanid Architecture of the 11th and 12th Centuries, (Edinburgh University Press, 2020). His first monograph was Rum Seljuq Architecture 1170-1220. The Patronage of Sultans (Edinburgh University Press, 2017). He has co-edited a volume with Andrew Peacock, entitled Turkish History and Culture in India. Identity, Art and Transregional Connections (Brill, 2020), as well as numerous articles and book chapters on the topic of medieval Islamic architecture and ceramics. He has published articles in numerous journal, including Muqarnas, Iran, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society and Anatolian Studies. He has served as a trustee and the Research Director for the British Institute of Persian Studies, and is managing editor of the Journal of Islamic Art and Architecture.

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