The Grave that Keeps Growing

One thing that could always be said about death and burial was that the act was rather final. There was no going back once your body was in the ground, and you certainly, absolutely, unquestionably didn’t get any taller.

Daniel’s Tomb via Wikimedia Commons

However, a tomb in Samarkand, Uzbekistan is able to boast the unusual claim of housing not only a prophet, but a prophet that just keeps getting bigger in death. The grand tomb at Samarkand is said to be the grave of Daniel (the prophet known for his loyalty and righteousness, whose godliness saved him from a pit of lions), although as with so many biblical figures, there are a handful of other potential burial sites around the middle east. But none of them are as long, so let’s stay in Uzbekistan.

Daniel’s Tomb. Image via Central Asia Travel.

When Daniel was reportedly laid to rest in Uzbekistan, his body continued to grow after death. To cater for this, the tomb was continually extended to accommodate the prophet’s body and currently measures in at about 18 metres long.

But how did Daniel’s remains get to Samarkand in the first place? According to legend, a Turco-Mongol leader called Timur (Tamerlane) tried to conquer modern day Syria, but believed that he was thwarted by the power of Daniel. Therefore, when he finally succeeded, he decided to disinter Daniel’s remains and bring them back to Samarkand for good luck.

Timur/Tamerlane

Yet once the remains were in place, the prophet’s body continued to grow at a rate of approximately 5cms a year. Granted, this is not consistent growth over 2500 years, as if this were the case, the tomb would have to be extended beyond 125 metres, not the meagre 18 metres to which it now extends.

The Tomb. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

However, another popular – and likely – theory is that after Timur became aware of thieves operating in the area, he extended the prophet’s tomb to make it difficult for grave robbers to take their pick of his remains.

But growth was not Daniel’s only party trick. Immediately after his remains were placed within the tomb, a natural spring sprouted nearby, a spring that is – naturally – said to have potent healing powers.

The Spring. Image via Uzbekistan Travel.

We can’t be sure if Daniel’s remains are in the tomb at all, or in Uzbekistan at all. As an Old Testament figure, he is revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike (although only Christians regard him as a prophet), so any purported place of interment is popular and protected across several cultures. Other potential sites for Daniel’s bones are mainly in and around Iraq and Iran. Which, considering Daniel’s home of Babylon is located in modern day Iraq, isn’t too great a stretch. However, the tomb in Uzbekistan is the only one still growing, looking more and more like a holy crash barrier than a grave each day.

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Sources/Further Reading:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/tomb-daniel-samarkand

https://www.advantour.com/uzbekistan/samarkand/daniil.htm

https://uzbekistan.travel/en/o/prophet-daniel-and-the-legend-about-his-mausoleum-in-samarkand/

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