The Mil-i Sharq Radkan

It was worth the effort

On the 6th of May 1934, Robert Byron is once again in Mashhad. This time, during his stay in the city, he also takes the chance to visit the surrounding area. He pays a visit to the tomb tower that is situated nearby the city of Radkan, which is about 80 km from Mashhad: the Mil-i Sharq Radkan. 

IMG08649.jpg
General view of the tomb tower. Photo by Robert Byron (archnet).

The tomb tower is perfectly described by Byron himself:

“a massive cylindrical grave-tower with a conical roof, ninety feet high, and dating from the thirteenth century. The outside wall consists of columns two feet thick, which touch one another. Their brickwork, rusty red in colour, is arranged in tweed patterns, which give the building a sort of shine, as of a well-groomed horse. Unlike the Gumbad-i-Kabus, this tower has a staircase in the thickness of the wall.”

As for the decorations, Byron mentions the brickwork but does not indulge in describing the ruined calligraphic band that runs just below the conical roof.

 

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Detail of the epigraphic band. Photo by Ernst Herzfeld (archnet).

Ernst Herzfeld, of course, noticed it. In even if the inscription was badly damaged, he made a couple of considerations based on what remained.  He argued that the tomb tower belongs to Amir Arghun Khan, a residence of Radkan who died in 1274.

In fact, considering the remains and on the architectural and decorative features, it is not possible to determine exactly who was buried in the tomb, and also giving an absolute date is quite hard. It is possible, on the other hand, to agree on a dating between 1280 and 1300 CE, also basing on the glazed terracotta that is used in the inscription and in the upper decorations of the columns that run around the external perimeter.

It was not that easy, for Byron, to go and visit this monument. As he writes, his guide pretended not to know the place:

‘How should I not know it?’ he vociferated indignantly. But he only knew the way to Radkan village, and his anger passed all bounds when we dragged him through those marshes to the tower instead.

But luckily he managed, and we can include the Mil-i Sharq Radkhan in the long list of tomb towers he visited during his long journey.

Sources:

Donald Newton Wilber, The Architecture of Islamic Iran: The Il Khanid Period, Greenwood Press, New York 1969, p.  116.

And Archnet, for more photos and an in-depth architectural description.

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