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Timurid Architecture Research Archive

Identifier: AKDC-2015-0005

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Scope and Content

The Timurid Architecture Collection consists of materials relating to field studies and site visits of Timurid architecture in a number of regions in Central and Western Asia in 1966-1967. There is an extensive range of images, in various formats, of Timurid architecture from former Timurid regions. The bulk of the materials in the collection were created by Lisa Golombek, of the Royal Ontario Museum, during her research in the field, however there are also materials created by Donald Wilber of Princeton University, historian of the Middle East and of Islamic Architecture. Images and notes found in the collection contributed to the two volume scholarly work The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, by Golombek and Wilbur. Images of Timurid architecture in a number of countries include photographs, slides, contact sheets, negatives, architectural drawings, and maps. Extensive field notes also make up a large portion of the collection.

Architecture featured in the collection dates from throughout the era of the Timurid Dynasty (c. 1370-1507). Sites are found in a range of countries which once made up the Timurid Empire, including much of Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Images in the collection include sites constructed during the reigns of prominent Timurid rulers. Sites are found in cities such as Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent, Herat, Isfahan, Yazd, Mashhad, Turbat, and others as well as ancient cities such as Balkh. Structures featured include palaces, shrines, tombs, khanaqahs, madrasahs, and mosques. Particularly prominent sites include Gur-i Amir, the tomb of Timur, Gazar Gah, the tomb of the Sufi saint Khwajah Abdullah Ansari, the Shah-i Zende necropolis, and the Masjid-i Muzaffariya or “Blue Mosque.” Materials date from 1966-1981, with bulk of materials dating from 1966-1967.


  • Creation: 1966 - 1981
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1966 - 1967



The collection is open for research use.

Biography and History

Lisa Golombek is Curator Emeritus of Islamic Art at the Royal Ontario Museum. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1968. Her dissertation focuses on an iconographic interpretation of Timurid architecture, with a focus on the shrine at Gazur Gah. Donald Wilber (1907-1997) was an American writer and historian of the Middle East and Middle Eastern architecture, with a particular focus on Persian history and architecture. Receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton University, Wilber became the first student to receive his doctorate in Architectural history. The bulk of materials in the collection are the product of field studies over the course of several months in 1966. The research expedition covered a number of countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, areas controlled by the Tiumrid Dynasty at various points between the late fourteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The research focused on the Timurid architecture surviving in these regions and was used to contribute to the two-volume work The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, co-authored by Golombek and Wilber.

The Timurid Empire was founded in the mid-to-late-fourteenth century by the Turco-Mongol military leader Timur, also known as Tamerlane. Timur is also the eponymous founder of the Timurid Dynasty, whose dates are roughly parallel to those of the empire of the same name. At different points throughout the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Timur and his descendants conquered territories in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The Timurids were heavily influenced by Middle Eastern language and culture, especially Persian. During the period of Timurid rule, a distinctive architectural style was developed within the sphere of their influence. Characteristics of Timurid-style architecture are exhibited in such prominent buildings as the Gur-i Amir tomb, the Observatory of Ulugh Beg, and the “Blue Mosque” of Tabriz.


18 box(es) (Document boxes: three 5" letter size; nine 2.5" letter size; one 5" legal size; one 5" Tall legal size; and, two single drawer card file boxes; one small CD size box; and one triangular tube for architectural drawings (which measure 63 x 14 x 12 centimetres))

9 Linear Feet

2 folder(s) ( 2 extra large files for architectural drawings/maps)

Language of Materials



Materials in this collection are the creations of Lisa Golombek and Donald Wilber. The collection consists of extensive field notes, photographs, architectural drawings, and slides. Sites featured in the materials are found in a number of Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries, both within modern cities and in rural areas. Sites featured include a wide array of building types such as mosques, madrassas, khanaqahs, and palaces. Some sites are associated with Timurid rulers, while others are associated with religious figures. The majority of the materials in the collection were created during field expeditions in 1966. Images and notes contributed to Golombek and Wilber's two-volume work on the Timurid architecture of Iran and Central Asia.


The collection is physicaly arranged largely according to the creators' original groupings, with the additon of Appendix I. The collection is arranged in four series according to the nature of the materials found in each. Series One consists of files on Timurid monuments and sites. Folders in this series contain notes, images, and drawings of respective sites. Series Two consists of two notebooks and individual folders labeled with the names of specific sites, containing field notes on the respective sites or regions. Series Three consists photographic material in two small cases of photographs, a notebook of negatives, as well as one[?] or two containers of larger format photographs, and a larger box containing color slides, all of Timurid sites, taken by Lisa Golombek and/or Donald Wilber. Series Four contains four large format drawings of Timurid sites as well as two large maps of Samarkand and arrived with the first and majority delivery of the Archive. Please note that folder numbers in brackets in the following list are files which have been numbered after receipt of the archives, they were numbered in the order in which they were found. Appendix I is a list compiled by the repository upon receipt of the second batch of drawings in the archive.

Box 1: Folders 1-52

Box 2: Folders 53-90

Box 3: Folders 91-119

Box 4: Folders 120-166

Box 5: Folders 167-200

Box 6: Folders 201-226

Box 7: Folders 227-259; and folders [260-265] labeled: Balkh Bath [omit][260] to Gazur Gah Photos [265]

Box 8: Folders [266] - [272] labeled: A. Stuckert - Material on Mazar-i Sharif... [266] to Kum Album - Photos [272]

Box 9: Folders [273] - [279] labeled: from Golombek Contact Sheets 1966 [273], to Geometric Figures and Drawings [279]

Box 10: Folders [280] - [290] labeled from Architecture, non-Timurid photos [280], to MAPS for Study [290] letter-sized or smaller size (8.5x11 inches)

Box 11: Folders [291] - [298] labeled Gazur Gah-O.P. Photos [291], to Photos Hamadan Area [298]

Box 12: Field notes (notebook); Film Register; Field notes, in yellow 5 x 7" envelopes labelled by site, alphabetical order.

Box 13 and box 17: Both boxes contain all slides and lists identified in Series 5

Box 14: Single file drawer, cardboard, of small format photographs

Box 15: Single file drawer, metal, of small format photographs (slightly larger than the photos in Box 14

Box 16: Large format photographs in files, Lisa Golombek and Donald Wilber, and other files as labelled

Box 17: please see listed with box 13 above.


There are a number of additional drawings and maps which arrived after the rest of the material in this archive. These include a number of architectural drawings, plans, and maps. They are of varying sizes, many are oversized drawings or maps. They are included in the Appendix I to the finding aid beginning with the 7th physical item described in the list.

Related Materials

Materials related to the collection include:

Golombek, Lisa and Wilber, Donald. The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. Call Number: NA5991.G6 1988, vols. 1 and 2.

Timurid Architecture Collection Original Accession List

Timurid Architecture Collection Current Container List

TImurid Architecture Collection New Accessions List

Index of Slides in Timurid Architecture Collection


Timurid Architecture Research Archive
Under Revision
Wesley Fiorentino, Matthew Young, and Betsy Baldwin
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
This finding aid is in English.
Edition statement
First published edition

Repository Details

Part of the Aga Khan Documentation Center, MIT Libraries Repository

Cambridge US