Skip to main content

ELD 036 — Remains of a former Fortification in Naratu

Sepia-toned photo-lithograph of a wash sketch, showing the remains of a former fortification standing on a hilltop. Near the overgrown brink an Afghan in traditional dress, explaining the view to a British soldier or officer of the ABC. In the background a few horses and men are visible.

Sketch, recto:] NARATU / E D / 85 // Photographed by the Survey of India Department. // NARATU.
[Lumsden Album:] About 90 miles N.E of Herat – A stone fort of unknown age. Encircling crest of a hill whose scarps are quite perpendicular all round for several hundred feet, it has 2 water reservoirs hewn out of the lime rock.
[List:] (35) “Naratu” about 90 miles North East of Herat stone fort of unknown age, encircling crest of a hill whose scarps are quite perpendicular all round for several hundred feet, it has 2 reservoirs hewn out of the lime rock.

  • Maitland, P.J. (1888): Records of Intelligence Party ABC, Vol. 1, pp. 322-323 (June 16, 1884): detailed description of Naratu, the ruins and its history, “Ascended Naratu. Road up south-east side. From the point where the hill begins to rise steeply, to the top of the ascent, near the gateway, the rise is 520 feet [160 m] by aneroid. The path runs diagonally along the side of the hill, and is perhaps half a mile in length. It is better than might be expected, and is constantly traversed by men on horseback as well as on foot. I rode up with half-a-dozen sowars. This is the ancient, and only regular, approach to the summit of the hill. Arrived at the top of the ascent, the road turns to the right, under the rocky scarp, for about 30 yards, when it arrives at the old gateway, under which it ascends to the interior. In shape, the top of the hill is that of an irregular elongated pear, lying east and west. Its length from the gateway to the extreme west end is 900 yards (paced), and its greatest breadth 350 yards. […] The rock scarp which surrounds the whole summit of Naratu is fully 150 feet high, and inaccessible for at least four-fifth of the circumference. Only towards the extreme eastern end does it seem possible to escalade it. […] The whole circumference of Naratu has been anciently surrounded with a high stone wall and towers. This has altogether disappeared in many places; in a few others the wall is tolerably perfect, and the remains of arches and transverse walls in the interior show that buildings were placed against them. The only other remains of buildings of any consequence are near the centre of the south side. Here there is what may have been the residence of a chief, or prince, of former times. […] Near the centre of the interior is the ziarat of Imam Asghar, who is shown by a Persian inscription in verse to have been a son of Ali, the ‘Lion of God.’ It is a small stone building, into which I did not care to penetrate, as it is considered to be of great sanctity. […] Local tradition affirms Naratu to have been originally fortified by Sam and Nariman, the father and grandfather of Rustam. […] When Griesbach visited Naratu (in December last), he was accompanied by Resaldar-Major Muhammad Husen, who takes considerable interest in archaeological remains; and that officer hunted up a date from some tombstone within, or just outside, the ziarat, which he declares to be 125 of the Hijra (A.D. 747). […]”; f.p. 324: a sketch of Naratu by Captain Maitland.
  • Yate, C.E. (1888): Northern Afghanistan or Letters from the Afghan Boundary Commission, pp. 6-7: “[…] Naratu itself is a scarped hill, precipitous on all sides except at one narrow point on the east, connecting it with a long low ridge, which forms the only entrance. The sides are everywhere so steep that it is most difficult to get up and although the path to the one entrance wound all round the south-eastern side of the hill, even then it was too steep for our horses, and we had to dismount and lead them up. […] The only tradition concerning it is that it was built by Naraiman; but who Naraiman was in not known, […].”; p. 11: “Our time at Tagou Robat was pleasantly occupied, by some in long afternoon rides over the hills, and by others fishing and in proposals for picnics to Naratu and other places in the neighbourhood, never destined to come off. One party, consisting of Major Meiklejohn, Captain Durand, and Dr Charles, did indeed make good their visit to Naratu on the 10th [July 1885] […].”
  • Niedermayer; O.; Diez, E. (1924): Afganistan, plates 238-241.
  • Adamec, L.W. (1975): Herat and north-western Afghanistan, p. 317: Naratu or Naraman, “Elevation 7,750 feet. A flat-topped hill in the south of the Kala Nao district 8 ½ miles northeast of the Kashka Kotal, crowned by an ancient fortress, with a scarp […] The entire circuit of the top has been surrounded by lofty walls and towers, of which considerable remains are still standing. Looking from below (half-way up the hill) they appear to be of burnt brick, but a great part of them are of stone. Maitland ascended it from the south-east side. He says it is practicable for horse and footmen but apparently quite impossible for guns, the slope for the last half mile from the top being as much as 1 in 5.”
  • Ball, W. (1981): Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan, p. 192: Nariman or Naratu, “Forteresse d’environ 900 x 220m. Elle occupe la totalité d’un plateau rocheux orienté Est-Ouest séparé d’un massif montagneux par un col étroit. Les faces Nord et Sud sont en grande partie à pic et donc imprenables. L’accès se fait par une rampe en lacets située à l’angle Sud-Est, immédiatement après le passage du col, conduisant à une porte qui existe encore. Elle est formée par un arc brisé fait de claveaux de grès de faible épaisseur, surmonté d’un second arc en décharge, brisé et légèrement outrepassé, construit en briques et noyé dans une maçonnerie de blocs de pierre liés au mortier de chaux. […]”
Image No.
ELD 036
Afghan Boundary Commission 1884-86
ABC 4, ELD Sketches 001 to 053
Original watercolour sketch, whereabouts unknown Lithograph in the Lumsden Album 454/327 mm
Place, date
Naratu, July 10, 1885
  • 1.57 Pictures of Landscapes, Cities
  • 1.64 Travel Books before 1914
  • 2.123 Herat and NW-Afghanistan
  • 3.711 Academic Painting
  • 4.365 Abdur Rahman Khan (1880-1901)
  • 4.416 GB Relations with Great Britain
  • 4.85 Civil use of the Military
  • 6.29 Foreign Research in/on Afghan.
  • Latitude / Longitude34.708617 / 62.949254
    Google Earth34°42ʹ33ʺ N / 62°56ʹ58ʺ E / 2100 m
    Survey of India MapSheet 29, Herat (1916): Kala Naratu, not mentioned, P 98

    You know more about this picture?

    Write to us!