Antiquities of Samarkand. Tomb of the Saint Kusam-ibn-Abbas (Shah-i Zindah) and Adjacent Mausoleums. Mausoleum of Akhmed Khodzha. Tiles on the Facade


These two watercolors of facade details of the Khodzha Akhmed Mausoleum at the Shah-i Zindah necropolis in Samarkand are 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. Shah-i Zindah (Persian for “living king”) is revered as a memorial to Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. The Khodzha Akhmed Mausoleum was built in the 1360s, presumably for a local spiritual leader. Situated at the end of the necropolis passageway in the northern cluster of shrines, the monument displays vibrant polychrome ceramic ornamentation with floral, geometric, and inscriptional patterns. The facade arch--or peshtak--is framed by decorative bands, often of carved, glazed terra-cotta. These sketches show fragments of ornamental motifs, including eight-pointed stars that form strips flanking an inscriptional band in the Thuluth style. Although simplified, such watercolors conveyed color information unavailable in the photography of that period.

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Гробница святаго Куссама ибни Абасса (Шах-Зиндэ) и мавзолеи при ней. Мавзолей Ахмет-Ходжи. Изразцы на фасаде

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : watercolor


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 1, plate 50.

Last updated: September 30, 2016