Monday, October 27, 2014

Burial and Memorial of the Dead

While looking at my pictures from the trip through Central Asia, I was thinking about the many forms of burials and honouring the dead that I had seen.

There were burial mounds, all kinds of graves, sarcophagus, mausoleums, and even more, if you differentiate between certain kind of burial practices. One form is the second burial; after decomposition the bones are put into an ossuarium or small bone coffins. Burial mound are typical for the Neolithic Period and Early Bronze Age; I was able to see some kurgans. And the balbals, and so on.

My first encounter has been watching the pilrims at Seyit Jamal Addin in Anau, Turkmenistan.

Pilgrims praying at Seyit Jamal Addin

Pilgrims walking around the coffin like structure

Please look here for more on Seyit Jamal Addin:

In Khiva I've visited the Sayid Alauddin Mausoleum, which is small and unobtrusive. It dates back to 1310.

The tiles of the sarcophagus are of the 19th century. There is an imam praying on request, who alwqays overlooks the scene, but still people throw money into the closed area for good fortune, which they shouldn't do.

The imam prays or better recites verses from the quran over the bread, which is supposed to absorb the good energy and is eaten later.

As I have seen quite a lot of mausoleums, I won't show all of them. But it would be a shame not to mention the Ismail Samani Mausoleum. It is the oldest building of Bukhara, having been erected in 905. It is made of terracotta and the walls two meters thick at the base. Ismail Samani was the founder of the Samanid dynasty (AD 819-999), who reigned from 892-907. This form of mausoleum is also called türbe. Its' architecture recalls the Zoroastrian fire temple or chanar taq.

Ismail Samani Mausoleum

Exterior details

Interior details

Samarkand has the Shah-i-Zinda, the avenue of mausoleums. It would be worth while to linger on the the different mausoleums as there are lots of stories concerned.

Some details of an entrance 

A view at the more open stretch of the avenue

I couldn't refrain from taking this lady's picture, who seems to have found the right dress matching the tiles.

Details of the magnificent tile work

Tiles have to be constantly replaced - somehow like cells in the human body

Another overview

View of the modern cemetry of Samarkand

And now to something completely different - a cemetry of a German community in Kyrgyzstan. The community used to be Mennonites, but joint the Baptists as the number of people was dwindling after they were allowed to move to Germany.

Some grave of the Mennonite community

Love cries, believe comforts.

Near the Burana tower in Kyrgyzstan (near the small town Tokmok) one can look at the field covered with balbals, totem-like stone markers of graves. Balbal means grandfather or father. These balbals were made around the 6th to 10th century.
In the museum one can see terracotta coffins for bones, also called ossuaries. The Sogsians also had a word for ossuary: tanbar. After decomposition the bones were places in the ossuary and then stored or disinterred.



Terracotta coffin for bones / Ossuary

I also could a mordern graveyard along the road to Karakol at Issyk Kol. You can see more elaborated tombs and yurt-like structures. Tombs are thought to house and protect the dead.You can also see the influence of shamanism despite Islam being the acccepted religion. Shamans still play an important role in the rural/seminomatic communities.

Kyrgyz graveyard

Another gave - the star points to military.

Further along the road I was able to see a kurgan in a lonely region. The Kurgans were a seminomadic pastoralist culture, who buried their dead in deep shafts within artificial burial mounds, also called barrows.


A lonely herdsman approaching

At Tamgaly in Kazakhstan I saw the typical graves, where people have been buried in the fetal position.

Graves at Tamgaly


  1. Wow, vielen Dank für die wunderschönen Fotos von der Architektur und Kunst. Das war sicher eine sehr beeindruckende Reise!

    1. Das kann ich bestätigen. Sehr intensiv! Viele Eindrücke.