The Jabal-i Sang and its lack of decoration

interesting because it is built of stone instead of brick

It is the 24th of March 1934 when Byron visits a quite peculiar monument, located nearby Kerman. It is the Jabal-i Sang. As Byron writes in his travelogue, the most interesting feature of this monument is the material used for its construction: stone.

“a domed octagonal shrine of the twelfth century, interesting because it is built of stone instead of brick.”

IMG08621.jpg
General view. Photo by Robert Byron (archnet).

In fact, little can be said of the Jabal-i Sang: it is a domed octagonal building, a tomb, decorated a little as possible. No inscriptions whatsoever, no ornamental friezes. On the outside, the only decorations are the shallow niches set around the outer facade. In the inside, the walls are covered with plaster.

The lack of inscriptions, make it difficult to determine the exact date of construction: some have suggested that originally it could be a Sasanian fire temple, others have said that its construction is post-Seljuk. Anyway, the most accredited theory is that the monument was built during the Seljuk period, most probably around the 12th century, basing on the construction of the squinched in the transition zone of the dome.

IMG08622.jpg
Interior, detail of the squinches in the transition dome. Photo by Robert Byron (archnet).

As frequently happens with monuments without a self-evident history, myths and legends surround the place. It is said, for instance, that the mortar that was used contained camel’s milk and a special soil, that make the building particularly strong.

Yet, as Byron rightfully wrote, the most interesting feature of the octagonal tomb is the fact that it is made of stone, whereas the other monuments of the period and of the same type are usually made of bricks. The fact that the Jabal-i Sang is made of stone, made it particularly strong and resistant to time and earthquakes.

Sources:

Archnet provides more photos and information over the architecture of the Jabal-i Sang.

Eric Schroeder, “The Seljuq Period”, in Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman (eds.), A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present, Vol. 3 Architecture, Its Ornament, City Plans, Gardens, 3rd ed., Soroush Press, Tehran 1977, pp.  1016-1020.

 

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