Anonymous Tomb
Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The unidentified mausoleum known as 'Anonymous I' or the Ustad Alim is located within the Shah-i Zindah funerary complex; mausolea built between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries that form a string of spectacular tilework down the southern slope of the Afrasiyab hill, north of Samarkand.

Popularly named after a craftsman identified in an inscription on the façade, the Ustad Alim is typical of the mausolea within the Shah-i Zindah complex; square in plan, with a pishtaq facing the Shah-i Zindah corridor. The decorative technique employed on the other three façades, polished brick in Central Asian bond with glazed blue plug-ends, is comparable to that of the anonymous mausoleum of 1361, predating the decorative techniques employed elsewhere on the structure. This technique is also found in areas where the later underglazed painted tiles have fallen. The decorative scheme makes extensive use of underglazed painted tiles, employed in high detail to form epigraphic panels.

The sixteen-sided exterior drum originally supported a tall outer dome, which has largely disappeared. A revetment of incised glazed terracotta squares form a framed panel on each face of the drum.

The interior is square, with an octagonal zone of transition with muqarnas squinches. All interior surfaces are clad with underglaze painted tiles.


Brandenburg, Dietrich. Samarkand: Studien zur Islamischen Baukunst in Uzbekistan (Zentralasien), 68-70. Berlin: Bruno Hessling Verlag, 1972.

Golombek, Lisa, and Donald Wilber. The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, 243-245. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.
Shah-i Zinda Funerary Complex, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
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Associated Names
Part of Site
ca. 1385/ca. 787 AH
Style Periods
Variant Names
Maqbara-i 'Ustad 'Alim
Tomb of 'Ustad 'Alim
Building Usages