What is a yurt? Central Asian architecture
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What is a yurt?

Yurts
Yurts- the houses of Central Asia

The nomadic people of Central Asia generally lived in yurts, portable houses made of a foldable wood frame with felted wool coverings over it. (This is actually a lot like our houses, which are also wood frame and sometimes use felt for insulation). These are some yurts.

Bibi Hanum Mosque
Bibi Hanum Mosque, Samarkand (1300s AD)

Other people, who mainly lived in Russia, lived in small houses built from wood, like American log cabins. This was originally a Scandinavian idea, and the Vikings may have brought it to Russia.

By the Early Middle Ages, as Central Asian people got richer and stronger from the Silk Road, they built stone palaces for their leaders. At Kara Balgasun about 700 AD, the Uighurs had a strong mud wall with watch towers around their city. The Khitan also built big mud walls around their cities in the 900s, and Buddhist stupas like the earlier ones in India. At Karakorum, the Mongols built a stone palace that resembles Chinese palaces; in the 1200s the town had paved streets, temples, mosques, a church, and walls all around it.

Other bigger buildings that people built in Central Asia were mosques and churches. People usually built mosques and churches out of stone.


A mosque in Uzbekistan from the 1100s AD, under Seljuk rule

The Samanids built large stone buildings in Central Asia, like the tomb of their rulers in what is now Uzbekistan, built about 900 AD. This tomb has some of the earliest pointed arches in the world, probably inspired by Islamic architecture further west. The Seljuk Turks built more mosques in Central Asia about 1000 AD. Soon after that, many people in Russia converted to Christianity and began to build churches like the ones they had seen in Constantinople.

Central Asian architecture after 1500 AD

Bibliography and further reading:

Islamic architecture
Indian Architecture
Medieval Architecture
Chinese Architecture
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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