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Prestigious Building and Urban Development in Ilkhanid Iran: The Case of the Rabʿ-i Rashīdī in Tabrīz. Resilience and Vulnerability in a Long-Term Perspective

The Ilkhans had their origin in Mongolia and preserved elements of their nomadic culture after moving to the Iranian highlands. The rule of the Ilkhanid dynasty had a deep and longlasting impact on Iranian culture. In 1309 CE (708/709 Hijri) the great vizier Rashid al-Din Fazlallah founded the Rabʿ-i Rashidi (rab’= quarter), a complex (Farsi: vaqf) for education and science in honour of its founder.

This educational centre was located east of the capital Tabriz and comprised several buildings. The complex was a place of learning and teaching and highranking guests were accommodated. Residents studied sciences, the Koran, Islamic law and medicine. Also, the poor and sick were cared for. Residential quarters for the employees and their families existed outside the complex, but in the immediate vicinity. As a GermanIranian
team, we study the Rabʿ-i Rashidi and the cultural environment in which it was built.

The Ilkhans ruled the Iranian highlands in the 13th and 14th centuries CE (6th to 8th cent. Hijri). The influx of a great mass of Mongols and Turks of nomadic background meant a challenge for the conquerors and the conquered alike. Phenomena of resilience and integration can be observed on both sides. Although the Mongol rulers maintained their nomadic lifestyle, they proved to be passionate builders. Together with their Iranian administrators they engaged in projects of urban development. Here, the complex Rabʿ-i Rashidi is an excellent example.

Our excavations at Rabʿ-i Rashidi aim at identifying elements of its original endowment and its later developments. Analysis of textual sources will add information on its function and its urban setting within
the urban context of Tabriz. Information from the site of Ujan/Bustanabad, which is a seasonal Ilkanidian
residence located about 60 km from Rabʿ-i Rashidi, is considered for comparison.

Project Initiators:

Birgitt Hoffmann (Otto-Friedrich-University Bamberg)

Lorenz Korn (Otto-Friedrich-University Bamberg)

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