Safeguarding the leaning Minaret of Jam (Afghanistan) in a conflict scenario: State of the art and further needs
The Minaret of Jam is located in the centre of Afghanistan, some 200 km east of Herat at 1,904 m above sea level and at the confluence of the river Hari Rud with its tributary the Jam Rud. The minaret was probably built between 1163 and 1203 and is composed of four tapering cylindrical shafts. In 2002, UNESCO declared Jam Afghanistan’s first World Heritage Site. The minaret, 65 m high, is presently affected by an important change of verticality, of about 3.4°. The reason for this lean is not very clear but is likely to be due to the undercutting excavation of the foundation produced by the nearby Hari Rud and its related flood effects. In order to develop a long-term conservation plan, seismic, geological, geomorphological, geotechnical and geophysical investigations were performed between 2003 and 2005. Some initial restoration works were also performed in the period 2005–2009, to reduce the structural degradation of the masonry and to enhance protection from the river, specifically after a powerful flood in 2007. Based on the available information, knowledge of the site and the professional expertise of the authors, some short-term emergency interventions have also been proposed. Future investigation and restoration works have been recommended and these should involve proper field investigations and monitoring. In conflict areas such as this, where it is essential to preserve the heritage from disappearance, there is not the time nor the technology for consolidated procedures. In these situations, recourse to the professional judgement of the various experts involved is the main operational approach, as has been demonstrated in many UNESCO case studies. This is also the case for the Jam minaret, with hope that the recent peace in Afghanistan will also allow the shift from emergency interventions to medium- and long-term planning.