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Kepter Khana of Shahryar Ark InformationThe Kepter Khana of Shahriyar Ark is one of a number of such buildings within the Merv landscape. This one is located immediately west of the Palace structure and is upon the same elevated platform as the palace.
Their exact function is unknown: they are long, narrow structures with corrugated walls. “Kepter Khana” translates as “pigeon house”: a name derived from the idea that the numerous square niches lining the interior walls resembled pigeon coupes. The purpose of these niches is in fact unknown; another interpretation being that the buildings were libraries and the niches were shelves for scrolls.
This corrugated building is one of the best-preserved in Merv. It is built on a low mound in the centre of the citadel, 60 metres north-west of the Palace. It is rectangular in plan and oriented north-south. Pilyavsky recorded it as 21.65 x 7.65m; in 1998 it measured 21.40 x 7.40m. It survives to a height of c. 8.0m. It is entered from a low doorway, width 1.05m, in the centre of the east wall, revealed in excavations undertaken by Asilov (1962). Externally the Kepter Khana resembles a köshk. The base of the walls is smooth and slightly battered to a height of 2.80m. The upper section is divided into a series of corrugations, six on the south and eroded north ends, and fifteen on the east and eroded west sides. The top of the walls has not survived: there is an area of collapse at the south east corner, and breaks in both east and west walls at the level of the corrugations. No windows can be observed either in the plinth or between the corrugations.
The corrugations are unique in form: they are semi-circular with a flat vertical rib with a width of 50cm. The corner corrugations are tapered. They rise sharply from the sloping skirt, probably from a course of fired bricks and terminate in another course of fired bricks, which formed the base of a row of squinch arches: all that survives are shadows of these arches on the south and east facades, more visible in Zhukovsky’s photograph.
The interior consists of a single long room, 17.80 x 3.52m, filled to a considerable height with debris from the collapsed roof and from continued use. The internal space is divided into three by four pilasters, which terminate in a string course of fired bricks. This formed the base for transverse arches. Surviving sections of these arches were slightly narrower than the pilasters. Between the pilasters are panels of square niches, arranged in a chequerboard pattern. Traces of the niches survive on the end walls and the edges of the pilasters, although most have broken off. The niches are three bricks high and one brick wide and deep, the bricks measuring 220-250 x 60mm. Pilyavsky recorded the niches as 200 x 300mm and Krikis as 200 x 280mm. Pugachenkova claimed that none of the bricks were bonded to the wall and that they were a later addition (1958, 218). However, the centre brick of the three is bonded to the wall and the niches are probably original.
Two sondages were undertaken by YuTAKE, one by Krikis in 1957 on the south-east and the other by Asilov in 1961 in the entrance. The Krikis sondage was an eight metre square sunk to virgin soil, reached at 4.50m below the current ground surface. The foundations of the kepter khana were near surface and consisted of eleven rows, with a height of 700mm, of fired bricks of various sizes (1302 x 35, 2002 x 35, 2602 x 40, 3002 x 50, 3052 x 50 and 3502 x 50mm), constructed on a layer of compacted soil. Complete bricks were used to face the foundations while the core was filled with reused fragments and half-bricks. Earlier brickwork was found at a depth of 2.10m below the foundations, suggesting earlier occupation. Glazed and unglazed sherds of the eleventh-twelfth to early thirteenth centuries were associated with the kepter khana and of the tenth century with the lower level.
Asilov’s sondage, 6.5 x 1.0m, in the centre of the east side, cleared the entrance. A possible floor level, a thin yellowish layer between 20-50mm thick, was identified level with the eighth row of bricks of the foundations. A fired brick column base was found near the doorway. A tandyr at a higher level would have been from squatter re-use. Numerous Seljuk cut bricks, glazed and unglazed sherds, including fragments of wares typical of post-Mongol production, and fragments of vessels without bases, similar to those from the Kepter Khana in Iskander Kala, were found, as well as peach stones, and grape and watermelon seeds.
Pugachenkova dated the construction of the building to the eleventh-twelfth century and suggested that it was re-used in the fifteenth century, a view supported by Krikis (1958) and Asilov (1962, 21) on the basis of their excavations.
Ref: Herrmann, G., 1999. Monuments of Merv: traditional buildings of the Karakum.. Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. London: Society of Antiquaries of London