Antiquities of Samarkand. Tomb of the Saint Kusam-ibn-Abbas (Shah-i Zindah). Mausoleum of Shirin Bika. View of Various Upper Sections of the Entry Niche. Middle


This photograph of the facade of the Shirin Bika Aka Mausoleum at the Shah-i Zindah necropolis in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72, under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire's Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architecture, such as 14th- and 15th-century monuments from the reign of Timur (Tamerlane) and his successors. Of particular note is the Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) ensemble, revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. This mausoleum was built in 1385-86 for Timur’s younger sister and is considered one of the greatest achievements at the Shah-i Zindah complex. Its design centers on a remarkable main arch, or peshtak, which contains the portal and culminates in “stalactite” corners (visible here) supporting a semicircular ribbed vault. This view above the portal shows profuse ceramic tile ornamentation in floral and geometric motifs, as well as remnants of an inscription band with cursive Thuluth letters (beneath the vaulting). The ceramic work includes early examples of composite mosaic panels in colors ranging from orange and red to deep blue.

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia


Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Гробница святаго Куссама ибни Абасса (Шах-Зиндэ). Мавзолей Ширин-Бека. Вид разных частеи входной ниши фасада (верняя часть). Средняя щека

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : albumen


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 66.

Last updated: September 30, 2016