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Medieval Islamic Architecture on the Frontiers: Synthesis, Innovation & Change - HOA00098M

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Richard McClary
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

Through a close study of a number of sites on the frontiers of the medieval Islamic world, focused on the period spanning the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, students will gain an insight into some of the most innovative, syncretic and dynamic areas of architectural synthesis.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

The interaction of established forms with new materials, and the complex cultural milieu, that saw Muslim rulers with Christian wives, and Muslim patrons employing indigenous non-Muslim craftsmen to try and deliver their wishes resulted in a  range of fascinating, unique, yet for the most part very poorly studied, structures across Anatolia, northern India, and Central Asia.

The exchange of forms and motifs between the stone tradition of Armenian architecture and the brick and glazed tile style of Iran can be seen in Anatolia. Innovative use of unglazed terracotta and brick under the Qarakhanids in Central Asia laid the foundations for the grand Timurid monuments of the following centuries. In India, the synthesis of pre-existing Islamic architectural ideas developed in Iran and Central Asia with the lithic and trabeate indigenous Indic forms saw the emergence of perhaps the most distinctive tradition of building, one that eventually led to the apotheosis of the tradition with the Taj Mahal half a millennium later.

By developing skills in the comparison of related, but geographically separate, architectural traditions in the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, students will gain an understanding of a wide area and the long-distance transmission of forms and motifs, as well as the resulting emergence of local and regional styles and techniques. The material covers a wide range of styles, and draws on a number of different disciplines. In addition, the cited scholarship was created in a variety of different academic environments, from the rigid formalism of the Soviet Union to the nationalist paradigms of states such as Turkey and Uzbekistan, along with more contemporary research produced by scholars in Europe and the USA. Such a diverse array of materials will allow student to learn how to interrogate such different sources critically and effectively.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

  • The scope of the newly expanding frontiers of the Islamic world in the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries
  • The distinctive styles of building that emerged in the period of study in Anatolia, Northern India and Central Asia
  • The specific construction techniques employed by craftsmen erecting the subject structures
  • The nature of the relationships between the building traditions of the different frontier dynasties and their neighbours

Academic and graduate skills

  • How to conduct a close reading of medieval architectural monuments
  • How to synthesise large amount of material in order to develop an understanding of the key core concepts
  • Determine the nature of the different scholarly approaches to the subject over time, and in different scholarly contexts, such as Europe, the Soviet Union, Turkey, and India

Other learning outcomes

  • Interdisciplinary and trans-regional approaches to research

Indicative assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Indicative reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

We aim to provide feedback on summative assessment within 20 working days.

Indicative reading

  • Barthold, W. 1968. Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion, London
  • Biran, M. 2005. The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World, Cambridge
  • Cohn-Weiner, E. 1939. “A Turanic Monument of the Twelfth Century A.D.”, Ars Islamica 6.1, pp. 88-91
  • Flood, F. B. 2007. “Lost in Translation: Architecture, Taxonomy and the Eastern “Turks”.” Muqarnas 24. Pp. 79-115
  • Flood, F. B. (ed). 2008. Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque. Delhi
  • Flood, F. B. 2009. Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu-Muslim” Encounter. Princeton / Oxford
  • Hansen, E., Najemi, A. W. and Christensen, C. 2015. The Ghurid Portal of the Friday Mosque of Herat, Afghanistan, Aarhus
  • Hillenbrand, R. 1994. “The Mausoleum of ‘A’isha Bibi and the Central Asian Tradition of Funerary Architecture”, Journal of Turkish Studies 18, pp. 111-120
  • Hillenbrand, R. 1988. “Political Symbolism in Early Indo-Islamic Mosque Architecture: The Case of Ajmir.” Iran 26, pp. 105-118
  • Horovitz, J. 1911-12. “The Inscriptions of Mu¿ammad Ibn Sam, Qutbuddin Aibeg and Iltutmish”, Epigraphica Indo-Moslemica, pp. 12-34
  • Karev, Y. 2005. “Qarakhanid Wall Paintings in the Citadel of Samarqand: First Report and Preliminary Observations”, Muqarnas 22, pp. 45-84
  • Lev, G. and Lev, Y. 2003. “Politics, Education and Medicine in Eleventh Century Samarkand. A Waqf Study”, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 93, pp. 119-145
  • Makovicky, E. 1989. “Ornamental Brickwork: Theoretical and Applied Symmetrology and Classification of Patterns”, Computers & Mathematics with Applications 17.4-6, pp. 955-999
  • McClary, R. P.  2018. “On a Holy Mountain? Remote and Elevated Funerary Monuments in Medieval Islam”, in Giese, F., Thome, M. and Pawlak, A.  (eds.), Grab, Erinnerung, Raum.     Repräsentationskonzepte in der christlichen und islamischen Kunst der Vormoderne / Tomb, Memory, Space. Concepts of Representation in Premodern Christian and Islamic Art, Ghent, pp. 13-24 
  • McClary, R. P. 2017. Rum Seljuq Architecture, 1170-1220: The Patronage of Sultans. Edinburgh
  • McClary, R. P. 2015. “The Re-use of Byzantine Spolia in Rum Saljuq Architecture.” Copy – Paste. The Reuse of Material and Visual Culture in Architecture, Bfo-Journal 1, pp. 14-22.
  • McClary, R. P. 2018. “Architecture of the Wider Persian World: From Central Asia to Western Anatolia in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries.” In Yuka Kadoi (ed). Persian Art: Image Making in Eurasia. Edinburgh, 2018, 37-59
  • Meister, M. W. 2008. “Indian Islam’s Lotus Throne: Kaman and Khatu Kalan.” In Finbar Barry Flood (ed), Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque. New Delhi, pp. 225-262
  • Merklinger, E. S. 2005. Sultanate Architecture of Pre-Mughal India. New Delhi
  • Naqvi, S. A. A. 1947. “Sul¿an Ghari, Delhi.” Ancient India 3, pp. 4-10
  • O’Kane, B. 2009. The Appearance of Persian on Islamic Art, New York, NY
  • Pancaroglu, O. 2013. “The House of Mengüjek in Divrigi: Constructions of Dynastic Identity in the Late Twelfth Century.” In A. C. S. Peacock and Sara Nur Yildiz (eds). The Seljuks of Anatolia: Court and Society in the Medieval Middle East. London, pp. 25-67
  • Patel, A. 2004. Building Communities in Gujarat: Architecture and Society during the Twelfth through Fourteenth Centuries. Leiden / Boston
  • Patel, A. 2004. “Architectural Histories Entwinned: The Rudra-Mahalaya / Congregational Mosque of Siddhpur, Gujarat.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 63/2, pp. 144-163
  • Pinder-Wilson, R. 2001. “Ghaznavid and Ghurid Minarets”, Iran 39, pp. 155-186
  • Pugachenkova, G. A. 1999. “The role of Bukhara in the Creation of the Architectural Typology of the Former Mausoleums of Mavarannahr”, in Petruccioli, A. (ed.), Bukhara; The Myth and the Architecture, Cambridge, MS, pp. 139-143
  • Redford, S. 1993. “The Seljuqs of Rum and the Antique.” Muqarnas 10, pp. 148-156
  • Rogers, J. M. 1973. “The 11th Century – A Turning Point in the Architecture of the Mashriq?”, in Richards, D. S. (ed.), Islamic Civilization 950-1150, Papers on Islamic History III, Oxford, pp. 211-49
  • Sala, R. 2010. “The Medieval Urbanisation of Semirechie”, in Watanabe, M. and Kubota, J. (eds), Reconceptualizing cultural and environmental change in Central Asia, Kyoto, pp. 117-149
  • Shukurov, R. 2013. “Harem Christianity: The Byzantine Identity of Seljuk Princes.” In A. C. S. Peacock and Sara Nur Yildiz (eds). The Seljuks of Anatolia: Court and Society in the Medieval Middle East. London, pp. 115-150
  • Siméon, P. 2012. “Hulbuk: Architecture and Material Culture of the Capital of the Banijurids in Central Asia (Ninth-Eleventh Centuries)”, Muqarnas 29, pp. 385-421
  • Tor, D. G. 2009. “The Islamization of Central Asia in the Samanid Era and the Reshaping of the Muslim World”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 72.2, pp. 279-299

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University constantly explores ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary. In some instances it may be appropriate for the University to notify and consult with affected students about module changes in accordance with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.