The sites of Shahr-e Zohak, Kakrak and Shahr-e Gholghola are located in the Bamiyan Valley, which until 2001 housed three monumental Buddhas sculpted into the cliff. In view of the difficulty of access and the fragility of the remains in the region, UNESCO requested Iconem to evaluate the state of preservation of these three sites.


Modelling a "taboo city"

Among them, the abandoned city of Shahr-e Gholghola, constructed on a rocky knoll, was without doubt the site that left the strongest impression on members of the Iconem team. 

When observing the city using drones, one is struck by its state of preservation, and it is impossible not to think of the tragic events that froze the site in this condition. Here, time stopped in the year 1221  when, enraged by the death of his grandson, Emperor Genghis Khan invaded the city and massacred every living soul. The city was renamed Shahr-e Gholghola, “the city of screams”, and became a taboo area. The widespread fear of the site, which still persists today, means that few people approached it and no new buildings have ever been constructed. Naturally, since the 13th century the depredations of time have led to the partial collapse of the ancient buildings, the majority of which were constructed from clay. But from the sky it is still easy to make out the outlines of the buildings and the plan of the mediaeval city. This is the only occasion that Iconem has seen war “protect” remains rather than destroying them…


The erosion corroding the tower walls of this fortress is threatening it with destruction. Iconem was commissioned by UNESCO and the Afghan archaeological team to carry out the complete digitisation of the site and to create a 3D map of the fortress. The use of a photographic drone made possible the rapid coverage of areas difficult to access due to erosion. In addition, alignment of the collected data with archive images enabled an evaluation of the speed of deterioration of the remains. A similar process has been implemented on the site of Krakak.