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(sämär`rä), town, N central Iraq, on the Tigris River. It is on the site of an ancient settlement and has given its name to a type of Neolithic pottery of the 5th millennium B.C. The present town was founded (836) by the AbbasidAbbasid
or Abbaside
, Arab family descended from Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad. The Abbasids held the caliphate from 749 to 1258, but they were recognized neither in Spain nor (after 787) W of Egypt.
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 caliphs. Samarra's 17th-century Askariya mosque complex, sacred to Shiite Muslims as the burial site of the 10th and 11th imams and the site of the disappearance of the 12th ("hidden") imam, was severely damaged by terrorist bombings in 2006–7 but was subsequently rebuilt. There are notable ruins of many palaces, mosques, and other buildings, including the 9th-century great mosque with its spiral minaret. The town was the scene of fierce fighting between Sunni insurgents and U.S. occupation forces in 2004.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in Iraq, on the left bank of the Tigris, in Baghdad Muhafaza (Province). Population, approximately 20,000. Industry is represented by pharmaceutical and cement-production enterprises.

Samarra was founded in 836 on the site of an ancient settlement and became the residence of the Abbasids. After the caliph al-Mutamid (870–892) removed the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate back to Baghdad, Samarra fell into decline.

The German archaeologist E. Herzfeld studied the ruins of the old city from 1911 to 1913. He discovered rectilinearly planned grandiose palaces with gardens and mosques, mausoleums, and dwellings made of fired brick and, more rarely, of adobe. The ruins of the core of the city are located on the left bank of the Tigris; they include the palace of Gausaq, which has a facade with three iwans. South of the palace are the remains of the Great Mosque of Mutawaqqil (846–852), which has a rectangular walled-in courtyard, and the spiraling al-Malwiya minaret.

Farther south in Samarra are the ruins of the square-shaped palace of Balquwara (854–859), built with three large courtyards along its main axis. To the north are the palace of Mutawaqqil and the mosque of Abu Dulaf (860–861) and the octagonal domed mausoleum Qubbat al-Sulaybiyya. Both representational and nonrepresentational murals were also discovered, as well as mosaics, carved stucco, and lustrous and under-glazed fine painted pottery.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.