The historical landscape of Qutb Shahi Heritage Park and the adjacent Golconda Fort has been witness to many historical events from the 16th century onwards. Many significant layers of history lie buried and thus unknown.

In order to better understand the Tomb complex and inform the master-plan for the ongoing conservation and landscape restoration effort, the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Govt of Telangana and Aga Khan Trust for Culture carried out the excavation work at Quli Qutb Shahi Heritage Park with financial assistance of the U.S Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation during 2014-16.

The excavations have revealed unexpected and spectacular discoveries such as the 16th century enclosure walls of Sultan Quli’s garden-tomb or the tiles that once adorned the facade of Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah’s Tomb. Who knew that simple and innocuous references in 17th century texts would lead to spectacular discoveries! The excavation programme was also used as an opportunity to provide trainings to students of history and archaeology.

Panoramic view indicating location of major monuments
Panoramic view indicating location of major monuments © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Discovery of the Enclosure Wall
Discovery of the Enclosure Wall: In the Gulzar-I-Asafi text there is a mention of a garden, Bagh-I-Faiz Asar, within which stood the tomb of Sultan Quli – the founder of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. However, the general belief thus far has been that unlike the garden-tombs of the Mughal dynasty, the Qutb Shahi tombs were not set within gardens. To the south-east corner of Sultan Quli’s Tomb stands a stretch of an arcaded wall. Excavations in continuity of this stretch revealed the southern stretch of the enclosure wall, built in fine ashlar masonry and nine feet of which was below ground. On continuing excavations on the northern and western sides the wall was similarly discovered though in large sections the ashlar masonry had been stripped. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Sultan Quli’s Garden-Tomb: Landscape Restoration
Sultan Quli’s Garden-Tomb: Landscape Restoration: The southern enclosure wall was buried 9 feet below ground when the tomb of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah was built south of the enclosure. In turn the arcaded enclosure wall of Ibrahim’s garden-tomb now forms the southern boundary of the tomb complex. The landscape restoration presently underway at the garden enclosure is based on the archaeological evidence and will include revealing the enclosure wall to the extent and depth possible on all four sides are reconstruct portions of the missing arcade on all four sides to restore the sense of an enclosure. The garden levels to the south of the tomb enclosure have been sensitively graded in a manner that both reveals the enclosure wall and does not disturb the geometry of Ibrahim’s garden-tomb enclosure. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Southern Gateway to the Tombs
Southern Gateway to the Tombs: It is commonly believed that for burial at the tomb complex the body was brought from Golconda through an underground passage. The excavations at a depression found south of Ibrahim’s Tomb revealed an arched gateway within the enclosure wall that stands less than 500 m from the Golconda fortifications and would no doubt have been the referred entry to the tombs during burial ceremonies. The fact that the northern entrance of Sultan Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah’s Tomb, southern gate of the boundary wall of the tombs and the Patancheru gate of the Golconda Fort are more or less in the same alignment, further establishes the significance of this gateway over which stands a striking mosque. The fallen small angular stones excavated from the floor level of the pathway, suggest that a longer stretch of the pathway would have been covered with a vaulted roof. To the east of Sultan Ibrahim’s Tomb, another retaining wall with steps centrally alligned with the rear wall of the Idgah were discovered, suggesting the presence of a wider platform for the Idgah in the 16th century. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Mosque & Water Features: North of Hamaam
Mosque & Water Features: North of Hamaam: The area north of Hammam (mortuary bath) had been excavated by the Department of Archaeology and Museums during 1969 – 1972. The present excavations of a wider area after a forty five years gap exposed three structural complexes, one of which was provided with sleeping chambers, store rooms, fountains and remnants of toilets. The fountains and toilets were supplied with terracotta pipes for the supply of running water. The fact that one of the residential complexes was both a mosque and a residential area suggests that the structure might have been occupied by people who had the maintenance charge of the monuments though the water features – tanks, baths, fountains – are very elaborate and numerous. The second complex has rooms on three sides of the quadrangle with a fountain and what appears to be a small char-bagh – the latter possibly a later alteration suggesting continued use of the area. A third complex has a number of rooms with water tanks connected with terracotta water pipes and an underground chamber known as Zir-IZamin or Tai khana. In the extreme summer seasons such underground rooms were often resorted, to escape from the sweltering heat. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Antiquities: The excavations have yielded antiquities such as stone elements, cannon balls, pestle and mortar, fragments of ceramic glazed tiles and lamps with multiple tongues to hold oil and wicks. It appears these lamps were used in the tombs on festive days and on the occasion of the Urs of the deceased etc. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Sample of stone objects, terracotta pottery, in-situ fragments and Chinese porcelain discovered during excavation
Sample of stone objects, terracotta pottery, in-situ fragments and Chinese porcelain discovered during excavation: Blue & White Porcelain: Amongst the antiquities are a few blue and white Chinese pottery pieces belonging to the Wanli period (1573–1620 AD) in China and subsequent periods. The rule of Chinese Emperor Wan li roughly coincides with the period of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah (1580-1611 AD). After the entry of Europeans in to the trade of Chinese pottery, Masulipatnam became an important centre for supplying the ware to later Qutb Shahi kings and Nizams. Celadon: Also found were fragments of Celadon-ware known in China as Qinci (greenish pottery) is popular in Asian countries as poison plates, as it was widely believed to possess the quality to detect poison in food either by changing its colour or splitting it into two. This attributed quality made it one of the most trusted and sought after item. On the basis of various colour and shades, the pottery has been categorised in to olive green, grass green, and sea green. Tiles: During scientific trenching at the site, several pieces of glazed tiles were found of colours like blue, turquoise, yellow, green, orange, grey and brown. Several tombs and monuments during the Qutb Shahi dynasty were covered with tiles, like the famous Badshahi Ashurkhana, tomb of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah and tomb of Mohd. Qutb Shah. But several tiles on these monuments have now gone missing. Tile samples were tested at the universities of Oxford and Turin to understand the tile composition and glaze providing better understanding of tile production process. Glazed Pottery: Glazed pottery coated with a thin layer of film glaze has been reported from Qutb Shahi Tombs. The pottery is divided into two on the basis of the materials by which it was made. The first group was made of sandy friable materials of whitish colour with moderate cohesive strength. The second variety is known as terracotta glazed ware in which the body is made of ordinary earthen ware and then dipped into a glaze solution so that the entire earthen body is covered with glaze. Noteworthy shapes reported are dishes, bowls, vases, trays, surahis and jars. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
3D Laser Scanning
3D Laser Scanning: Before the commencement of any conservation works, a rigorous process of archival research and documentation is followed. One of the key aspects of documentation works is exhaustive high resolution photography of all stages of conservation works, prior to commencement of works. Laser Scanning is used for accurate architectural documentation and condition mapping and detailed 3D representations of the monument. Laser beams are bounced off the building to create an accurate and complex data set which is used to create solid 3D models and accurate 2D drawings. 3D Laser Scanning is presently being undertaken on the monuments in the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Documentation: Scientific documentation of the excavated remains was essential both as a record of the findings and to enable further research by scholars. State-of-art technique of High definition survey using 3D laser scanning equipment was used to document the entire archaeological discoveries. 3D laser scanning uses laser beams and measures the distances from the points of reflection, subsequently mapping the historic surfaces with the utmost accuracy. The data that was gathered from this technique employed at the archaeological site was highly accurate, up to a precision of 2 mm. It also helped in creating a true-sized digital 3-D model of the entire site. This was preceded with a topographical survey using a total station at site. Total station survey of excavation site produced a comprehensive layout of the structures found along with the existing ground levels at the site. Aerial photography was also undertaken to supplement the extent of the evidence found and document the changes seen over time. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Conservation: Excavation becomes destruction, if the structures revealed are not immediately conserved. Also, in order to help interpret archaeological findings to visitors, consolidation or building up on remains is occasionally required. Conservation, using traditional materials and carried out by master craftsmen, followed the archaeological excavations to ensure long term preservation of the site. The terracotta pipes, being very fragile were covered with geo textiles and sand in order to ensure its safety. © Aga Khan Trust for Culture