The Helmand Sistan Project
Key Sites

Shahr-i Gholghola: Mosque and Bazaar

Latitude: 30.57893266   Longitude: 62.09031513

Map Number: 24  Go to the MAP

A large mosque 51 m square was located inside the north gate of the Circular Wall, which we partially excavated in 1972. The mosque has a baked brick qibla wall and mihrab on its westside, an iwan on the east, and a central courtyard surrounded by 2-3 rows of columns on all sides. Behindand attached to the qibla wall is a tall façade with windows. A minbar staircase and platform made of baked bricks sits to the east of the mihrab. Decoration on the qibla wall and elsewhere in the mosque consists of baked bricks set on end. A large pile of baked bricks just west of the building are what we believe to be the location of a collapsed minaret.

The south entrance to the mosque was rebuilt several times and opened to a commercial street that contained a bazaar area. A large drain was constructed underneath the street. A caravanserai was found across the street from the mosque.

The mosque was almost certainly destroyed in the attack by the armies of Genghiz Khan in 1222 CE based upon historical records and supported by two pieces of evidence we found. We discovered several caches of coins hidden in the mosque walls with the latest coins showing that date. The large Kufic decorative inscription that once graced the qibla wall was shattered into hundreds of pieces and scattered around the mosque and adjacent buildings. But the mosque itself was not destroyed by the invaders and parts still stand 8 m in height.

The Mosque at the beginning of excavation looking south. The top of a 10 m high qibla wall is at the far right. Some of the columns surrounding the central courtyard rise above ground level.
The qibla wall of the Mosque with a mihrab inset in the center. A tall minaret likely stood behind the building, now only a large pile of bricks.
The baked brick facing of the qibla wall of the Mosque with mihrab at left and the minbar steps constructed against it at the right. The mihrab was reconstructed with its corners rounded, as can be seen by the angled baked bricks.
Steps from staircases built at two different times leading to the minbar platform at the edge of the qibla wall. The minbar steps were built upon a layer of vertically stacked bricks.
Decorative brick work on the walls of the Mosque included vertically stacked baked bricks, including some facing flat.
Excavating one of the columns that surrounded the courtyard at the center of the Mosque.
Like the Lower Palace, the square Mosque was built against the Circular Wall. When it appeared that the northeast corner would run into the line of the Circular Wall, the angle of that corner was modified so it would fit.
Bordering the Mosque was a commercial bazaar street with a large drain beneath it that led to the north gate through the Circular Wall. The outer wall of a caravanserai across the street from the Mosque is visible at top center.
Over 100 small fragments of a Kufic inscription that once adorned the Mosque were found in the rubble, suggesting the inscription was torn from the wall and smashed into pieces, likely by Genghiz Khan’s armies.


Circular Enclosure

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