What is a yurt? Central Asian architecture

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two white tents in a field: 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 feltedwool 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.

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

ruins of a big building

Bibi Hanum Mosque, Samarkand (1300s AD)

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 Karakorum 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 started to build churches like the ones they had seen in Constantinople.

Central Asian architecture after 1500 AD

Bibliography and further reading about Central Asian architecture:

Islamic architecture
Indian Architecture
Medieval Architecture
Chinese Architecture
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By |2017-10-05T14:52:35+00:00May 31st, 2017|Architecture, Central Asia|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. What is a yurt? Central Asian architecture. Quatr.us Study Guides, May 31, 2017. Web. December 19, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. 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 Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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