The survival of the mudbrick monuments of Merv against all the odds is little short of a miracle. Mudbrick and rammed earth are not building materials famed for their longevity, rather for their economy. However, some buildings of the Merv oasis in the Karakum desert in Turkmenistan have survived for more than seven centuries and some, unbelievably, for a millennium. Mud was the building material of choice, wonderfully flexible and a superb insulator, ideal for the extremes of the Central Asian climate, and one used by the architects of Merv with ingenuity and virtuosity to construct a wide variety of vaults and domes. The survivng monuments include palatial residences, small houses, summer pavilions and watch towers, as well as the earliest examples of tall conical icehouses. Perhaps the most remarkable are the extraordinary corrugated buildings, which, like the icehouses, dominate the flat landscape of the oasis. These are a distinctly Central Asian type of building with a surprising dearth of parallels elsewhere. Merv's key position during the eighth and ninth centuries may suggest that these remarkable buildings originated in the oasis, and they continued to be built through the Seljuk period. They present a unique record of an otherwise lost architechtural heritage and are of such importance that they form a major part of Merv's application to UNESCO for World Heritage Status. Merv was, of course, one of the great cosmopolitan capitals of the day, a centre of learning, industry and of long-distance trade: it was strategically located on the 'Great Silk Road'. The Traditional Buildings of the Karakum is the first of a series of three books recording the outstanding buildings of the oasis, an urgent task because their survival is threatened by the rising water table and intensive agriculture. The other two volumes will cover the mosques and mausolea: these belong to a wider and better-known but less original architectural tradition. The book, published thanks to generous donations by Monument Oil and Gas and Mobil E&P Ventures, examines some 36 buildings, discussing their form, function and methods of construction. It will serve as a major resource for scholars both of Islamic architecture and of the history of architecture.