KYZYLKUM DESERT AREA OF KAZAKHSTAN

KYZYLKUM DESERT

Kyzylkum Desert is a large desert that covers the western two thirds of Uzbekistan and much of southern Kazakhstan and part of Turkmenistan. Covering an area is about 300,000 square kilometers ((115,000 square miles), it is mostly flat, barren and shrubby and embraces gravel plains, stretches of sand and dry steppe. Kyzyl-Kum means “Red Sand” in Turkic languages. The Kara-Kum in Turkmenistan and the Kyzyl-Kum deserts merge, and together form the forth largest desert in the world.

By itself The Kyzylkum Desert is the 15th largest desert in the world. Its name means. It is located in between the rivers Amu Darya and Syr Darya, a region historically known as Transoxania or Sogdiana.. Most of the desert lies on an extensive plain at an altitude up to 300 meters (980 ft) above sea level and embraces depressions, saline type lowlands, and highlands. Much of the area is covered with dunes (barchans). In in the northwest large areas are covered with long and wide takirs (places where the clay soil is cracked under the influence of the scorching sun). There are also some oases and sandy hillocks that sometimes reach a height of 40 meters There are irrigated agricultural settlements along the rivers and in the oases. Temperatures can be alarming high during the summer, which runs from mid-May to mid-September. Kerki, a town on the banks of the Amu Darya River, recorded 52 degrees C (126 degrees F) in July 1983. It can also be quite cold in the winter, especially in the Kazakhstan part of the desert. In spring, after rains, sometimes there are mass bloomings of desert flowers, bringing the reddish sand alive with different colors.

Desert animals include the Russian tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) and a large lizard known as the Transcaspian or desert monitor (Varanus griseus), which can reach lengths of 1.6 meters (5.2 feet). The saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) occasionally migrates through the northern part of the desert but is usually seen in steppe environments. In the sands one sometimes sees saksaul (Haloxylon). The saksaul jay nests in the branches of saksaul tree). Other animals found in the desert, where they can find something to eat, include Bactrian deer (Cervus elaphus bactrianus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetus), goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii), Turkmenian kulan (Equus hemionus kulan) and MacQueen's bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii).

Aksu-Zhbaghly Nature Reserve

Aksu-Zhbaghly Nature Reserve (accessible from Zhabaghly, which is 100 kilometers west of Taraz and 70 kilometers east of Shymkent) is a 750-square-kilometer park near the Kyrgyzstan border, encompassing 4,000-meter-high peaks of the Talassky Alatau spur of the Tien Shan. Among its attraction are dramatic mountain scenery, rare Archa pine trees and wild tulips. Wildlife found here includes snow leopards, Himalayan brown bear, the Tien Shan argali (a restaurant goat), the Indian crested porcupine, Menzbier's marmot, ibex, lynxes, wolves, foxes, ermine, stone martens and a variety of birds of prey. Visiting the reserve on your own is difficult. You generally need to go with a tour group based in Shymkent, Taraz or Tashkent.

Aksu-Zhbaghly (also spelled Aksu-Djabagly) is the oldest nature reserve in Kazakhstan, as well as the first in Central Asia. Located at an altitude of 1000 to 4280 meters, it was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The reserve territory is representative for Western Tien Shan province, landscapes of which, as against eastern regions of Tien Shan, more similar to the countries of Middle Asia and Mediterranean. Ridges of the reserve are characterized by predominance of hillside, deeply splitted relief which had been developed in Paleozoic soils; chalkstones, shales and quartzites are widespread here. River valleys are narrow and deep, very often in the form of canyons. The feature of vertical zonality is total absence of spruce forests: the girdle of softwood forest is represented by tall archas, specific for mountains of Pamir and Altai. [Source: UNESCO]

“Permanent snow line in mountains of the reserve is located at the altitude of 3300 meters above sea level. Above this horizontal boreal declines of mountains are covered by snowfields, and in hollows glaciers lie, upwards the rivers Dzhabagly and Kshi-Aksu there are 49 glaciers with the square of 12.5 square kilometers. (Vilesov, 1976). All glaciers of the reserve are pendulous, some of them form beautiful ice cascades — for example, upwards the river Dzhabagly.

The canyon of Aksu is one of the most picturesque places in Aksu-Zhabagly. Considered one of the greatest and deepest canyons in Central Asia, it extends more than 30 kilometers and has a depth that fluctuates between 300 to 500 meters and a width of up to 800 meters. Descent into the canyon is difficult. Steep river banks in many areas make much of the canyon basically impassable. Rocks well warmed up by the sun and the mountain river providing humidity create a microclimate like natural greenhouse in a canyon, making it possible for horsetails, ferns, and relic plants that predate humans to thrive. The canyon can only be crossed in the southern part of the reserve by walking over a narrow pedestrian bridge.

The park contains four ecological zones: 1) low-mountainous zone of ephemeral semidesert — up to 1300 meters above sea level; 2) medium-mountainous zone of Turan cereal motley grass steppes (semi-savannah) — from 1300 to 2000 meters; 3) alpestrine — 2200 to 2800 meters; and 4) Alpine above 2800 meters. The high-altitude gallery of petroglyphs in the mountain valley of Kaskabulak is of especial interest. Here at an altitude of more than 3000 meters. above sea level are about 2,000 figures, mainly animals and the stages of hunting.

Turkistan

Turkistan (180 kilometers north of Shymkent) is home to Kazakhstan’s most important historical and religious site — the Mausoleum of Kozha Akhmed Yasawi. Home to about 170,000 people, double what it was in the Soviet era, Turkistan (formerly Turkestan) is set among desert, cotton fields and former agricultural land contaminated by salt. Other sights in the town include a fine replica of the 15th century Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum; the Hal-wat Mosque, with an underground chamber with a completely black underground cavity that you can crawl and a 15th century bathhouse; and a mausoleum of the great-granddaughter of Timur — Rabiya Sultan Begim.

Turkestan is an ancient Silk Road city and such a popular pilgrimage destination it is said to be like a second Mecca for Muslims of Central Asia. The city attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims. According to a regional tradition, three pilgrimages to Turkistan are equivalent to one hajj to Mecca. The attachment to of Kozha Akhmed Yasawi has been important in shaping the spiritual identity of Muslims in Kazakhstan. The whole city is a historical and cultural reservation of Khazret Sultan. In Turkistan you can visit the khilvet, where the great Saint used to live.

Getting to Turkestan The nearest airport to Turkestan is in Shymkent, which is about 180 kilometers away from Turkestan. A taxi, a bus or a train can be used to get from Shymkent to Turkestan. Some people take the train. The 1,700 kilometer trip from Astana takes about 27 hours. The distance between Almaty and Turkestan is about 900 kilometers. Trains and buses to Turkestan, with or without a change in Shymkent are available. The bus trip takes about 20 hours. The train trip is longer.

Yassy: Ancient Turkistan

Yassy ancient Turkistan was a settlement that dates back to the beginning of the A.D. first millennium and was occupied over the centuries by the Otrar-karatau culture, Sogdians, Turks and Kazakhs. Located in the center of the modern city of Turkistan, 350 meters to the south of Khodzha Ahmed Yassaui khanak. It is part of the Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The citadel of the ancient settlement with mausoleum of Hodzha Akhmed Yassaui is located in its northwest part. This is a pentagonal hillock in the plan with the following sides: southeast side is 130 meters, northeast side is 90 meters, and northwest side is 130 meters, southwest – 200 meters. There is a wall with towers around the citadel that was made from mudbricks. Now the walls and gate are reconstructed. The western wall of the ancient settlement remained in a good condition; its length is about 350 meters. As to number of gates — there were four of them. The city was crossed by three main streets connecting the four gates. The caravanserai was situated in a southern part and the market was situated close to it from the external side of the wall.[Source: UNESCO]

“The site of ancient settlement with its late-medieval sizes, probably, repeats the sizes of pre-Mongolian cities of Yassy. The findings of materials of 7th-12th century at the whole area of the ancient settlement testify it. In the boundaries of the “big city” are also included earlier monuments and among them the largest one is Kultobe.

“Historical reference: It was identified that the name Yassy as the name of the city where Hodzha Akhmed lived was rapped out on coins of khoresm-shah Mohammed Tekesh issued in the beginning of the second decade of 13th century. During an epoch of the late Middle Ages the city was a stay place for Timurid, and then for Shaybanid deputies. In addition, the Kazakh khans have selected the city as their capital. They approved the role of a city as of the centre of a Muslim spiritual life of all lands subject to them.

“Yassy (Turkestan) was large trade centre. Ruzbikhan noted that trading ways of Steppe, Central Asia, China and places where merchants brought the different goods converged here: “From outside of Uzbek (the Kazakh lands) which are in essence the North side, and by ways leading to Andizhan, to borders of China … transport in Yasy the goods and rare things (nafais). Here there is a trade (of these). This is a transshipment post for merchants (from various countries), a place for travelers from (different) countries”. Turkestan was also the big agricultural area.”

Mausoleum of Kozha Akhmed Yasawi

Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi (in Turkistan) was built at the time of Timur (Tamerlane), from 1389 to 1405 and is now a UNESCO, World Heritage Site. Khoja Ahmed Yasawi (also spelled Yasaui) was a great 12th century Sufi holyman who lived most of his life in Turkistan and founded the influential Yasawi Sufi order. The grand mausoleum is huge and was built beginning in 1390 under Tamerlane but was not competed. Built around Yasawi’s original tomb and restored with funds supplied by the Turkish government, it has the largest intact dome in Central Asia and colorfully-tiled tiles walls

Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi somewhat resembles the mosques and madrasahs found in Samarkand and Bukhara. The dome is 39 meters high and 18.2 meters wide. It has been completely restored but work continues on the 35 smaller rooms in the mausoleum. In the center of the chamber is 4,500-pound goblet that once was used to hold holy water but now is used to hold donations.

According to UNESCO: “In this partly unfinished building, Persian master builders experimented with architectural and structural solutions later used in the construction of Samarkand, the capital of the Timurid Empire. Today, it is one of the largest and best-preserved constructions of the Timurid period. The property, burials and remains of the old town offer significant testimony to the history of Central Asia. The mausoleum is closely associated with the diffusion of Islam in this region with the help of Sufi orders, and with the political ideology of Timur. [Source: UNESCO, World Heritage Site, 2003 \=/]

“The Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yaswi, a distinguished Sufi master of the 12th century, is situated in southern Kazakhstan, in the northeastern section of the city of Turkestan (Yasi). Built between 1389 and 1405, by order of Timur (Tamerlane), the ruler of Central Asia, it replaced a smaller 12th century mausoleum. Construction of the building was halted in 1405, with the death of Timur, and was never completed. The property (0.55 hectares) is limited to the mausoleum, which stands within a former citadel and the archaeological area of the medieval town of Yasi; the latter serves as the buffer zone (88.15 hectares) for the property. \=/

“Rectangular in plan and 38.7 meters in height, the mausoleum is one of the largest and best-preserved examples of Timurid construction. Timur, himself, is reported to have participated in its construction and skilled Persian craftsmen were employed to work on the project. Its innovative spatial arrangements, vaults, domes, and decoration were prototypes that served as models for other major buildings of the Timurid period, in particular in Samarkand. It was left unfinished, providing documented evidence of the construction methods at that time and by having a unique architectural image. \=/

“Considered to be an outstanding example of Timurid design that contributed to the development of Islamic religious architecture, the mausoleum is constructed of fired brick and contains thirty-five rooms that accommodate a range of functions. It is a multifunctional structure of the khanaqa type, with functions of a mausoleum and a mosque. A conic-spherical dome, the largest in Central Asia, sits above the Main Hall (Kazandyk). Other notable attributes include fragments of original wall paintings in the mosque, alabaster stalactites (muqarnas) in the intrados of the domes, glazed tiles featuring geometric patterns with epigraphic ornaments on the exterior and interior walls, fine Kufic and Suls inscriptions on the walls, and texts from the Qu’ran on the drums of the domes. The principal entrance and parts of the interior were left unfinished, providing exceptional evidence of the construction methods of the period.” \=/

Khoja Akhmet Yassawy: the Man and Saint

The Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi was built in honor of the famous Turkic poet and Sufi mystic Khoja Ahmed Yasawi.(1093–1166). The word “Yassawi” originates from “Yassy” (ancient name of Turkestan) and means “from Yassy”. [Source: visitkazakhstan.kz]

Khoja Alhmet Yassawy is a founder of Sufism, thinker, poet and a preacher, an early mystic who exerted a powerful influence on the development of mystical orders throughout the Turkic-speaking world. His father Shaikh Ibrahim had already been renowned in that region for performing countless feats and many legends were told of him. Consequently, it was recognized that, with respect to his lineage as well, this quiet and unassuming young boy, who always listened to his elder sister, held a spiritually important position.

Yassawi was born to Sheykh Ibrahim and at age seven, when he was orphaned by the loss of his father, Yassawi was raised by another spiritual father, Arslan Baba. By age seven, Ahmed Yasawi had already advanced through a series of high spiritual stages and then, under the direction of Arslan Baba, the young Ahmed reached a high level of maturity and slowly began to win fame from every quarter. The formation of Akhmed Yassawy as an individual was in the city of Yassy, where he arrived at the age of 17 after the death of his teacher. At this age the young man started to write poems in Arabic, Shagatai, Pharsi and Turk languages. He was interested in the Eastern poetry and literature. Later on he visited Bukhara, where he was taught by Yusuf Hamdani.

After he got the status of the expert of Sufism, he returned to the city of Yassy and continued the tradition left by Arystan-Bab. He founded the Order of “Yassawy”. Khoja Akhmet Yassawy calls people to asceticism, renunciation of external life and patience, because this is what guarantees the felicity in the afterlife. He calls people upon the justice, truth and kindness. Owing to him, the Turk language was brought in the literary use. The people’s preachers named “baba” spread the teaching of Yassawy in Turkestan, Azerbayjan, Small Asia, in regions of Volga, Khorasan etc.

Yassawy has defined the development of people’s impetus of the new islamic civilization of Turk people. He united the new religious ideology with mass perception, which was mainly based on tengrian-shaman and zoroastrianism belief. The Yassawy movement played an important role in this process. This movement which has invoked the echo in the hearts of Turkic people, stimulated the justice, spiritual and moral purification. If before the teaching of Yassawy Turkic people were worshiping Tengri, he called them to worship one God, Allah. With the help of Sufism, Turkic people become acquainted with the eastern philosophy, the philosophy of world religion. The son of Arystan-Bab named Mansur has become a follower of him. He received the big number of admirer and pilgrims. When he reached the year of 63, he lived until the end of his life in the dungeon. Yassaui explained: "I have reached the age of the prophet, sixty-three years, for me this is enough, no need to live beyond the time allotted to prophet. There are various data on life expectancy of Ahmet Yassaui. According to one data, he lived 73 years, according to other — up to 85 years or even 125 years. By preaching the ideas of Sufism, Ahmet Yassaui strictly followed them by himself and has lived in poverty. The moral authority of Ahmet Yassaui was high among the population of Syr Daryan steppes, and far beyond. After the death of Ahmet Yassaui, around his name were created legends, the tomb became a place of pilgrimage.

Construction of the Mausoleum of Khoja Akhmet Yassawy

Folk legends tell us about the great respect of the Emir Timur to the sanctuaries of Turkestan. On his orders, more than two centuries after the death of Ahmet Yassawy in place of a small gravestones one of the great monuments of world architecture was built, which entered the UNESCO World Heritage List. The official history of Timur the "Book of victories" ( "Zafar-name") narrates about the construction of the building of year of 1397, when Timur solemnly committed ziarat (worship) at the tomb of Ahmed Yassaui. [Source: visitkazakhstan.kz]

According to the “Book of victories”, it was during his stay in the town of Yassy, whenTimur gave order to build here, on the outskirts of his possessions, the grand structure devoted to decent memory of Ahmet Yassaui. It had to was to glorify Islam and promote its further dissemination, to facilitate the board extensive margin.

In 14th century by instructions of Emir Timur the architectural monument was build. There is a local legend concerning this occasion. When they began to build the walls of the mausoleum, a strong storm destroyed them. After the second construction the history has repeated itself. Then Timur saw an old man who gives him an advice to build the first mazar Arystan-Bab as teacher and mentor of Ahmed. Emir Timur did what he said. Then began what was intended. The significance of Arystan-Bab can be seen from the tradition when the pilgrims were required to spend the night in Otrar near the Arystan-Bab mausoleum, and only then, they could come to Ahmed Yassawy.

Timur identified the main dimensions of the building by himself. In particular, the large diameter of the dome was supposed to be equal to 30 gyaz (the unit of measure of length which is equal to 60.6 cm). This module (gyaz) were determined by the size of all other parts of the structure. In the special literacy (Waqf-name) listed ditches and land alienated in favor of the monument. Income from these holdings and donations of believers had to be used for building repairs and maintenance of state servants.

Well-preserved inscription above the entrance to the building says: "This sacred place was built by command of the ruler, beloved by Allah, Emir Timur guragana... – May Allah prolong his command for centuries!"

Architecture of the Mausoleum of Khoja Akhmet Yassawy

The unfinished state of the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, especially at the entrance portal and sections of the interior, allow for the better architectural scrutiny of how the monument was designed and constructed. The structure is rectangular in plan, measuring 45.8 x 62.7 meters (150.3 x 205.7 ft), and is 38.7 meters (127.0 ft) high. It is oriented from the southeast to the northwest. The primary material used for the building is ganch — fired brick mixed with mortar, gypsum and clay — which was made in a plant located in Sauran.

Layers of clay reaching a depth of 1.5 meters (4.9 ft), to prevent the water penetration, were used for the original foundation. These were replaced with reinforced concrete in modern restoration works. The main entrance to the mausoleum is from the southeast, through which visitors are ushered into the 18.2 x 18.2-m (59.7 x 59.7-ft) Main Hall, known as Kazandyk (the “copper room”). The section is covered by the largest existing brick dome in Central Asia, also measuring 18.2 meters (59.7 ft) in diameter. At the center of the Kazandyk is a bronze cauldron, used for religious purposes.

The tomb of Yasawi is situated on the central axis at the end of the building in the northwest, with the sarcophagus located exactly at the center of the section, which has a double dome ribbed roof — the inner dome being 17.0 meters (55.8 ft) high and the outer dome being 28.0 meters (91.9 ft) high. The dome exterior is covered with hexagonal green glazed tiles with gold patterns. The interior is adorned with alabaster stalactites, known as muqarnas. Additional rooms in the structure, totaling more than 35, include meeting rooms, a refectory, a library, and a mosque, which had light blue geometric and floral ornaments on its walls. The mausoleum’s exterior walls are covered in glazed tiles constituting geometric patterns with Kufic and Suls epigraphic ornaments derived from the Qur'an. Initial plans also called for the addition of two minarets, but this was not realized when construction was halted in 1405

Sidak Ancient Settlement

Sidak Ancient Settlement (18 kilometers to the west from a city of Turkestan) dates to the A.D. 1st to 8th centuries. Occupied by the Otrar-karatau culture, Oghuz Turks and Sogdians, it is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Topographically the settlement is referred to the type of so-called “tobe with ground”. Total area of the main hill of the settlement has quadrangle shape with rounded angles is 340x180 meters. The long axle is oriented to the side of northeast-southwest direction. Average height of the ground is 7-9 meters. In the central part there is a huge hill of the citadel in height of 12 meters. The ground is from the both sides – from the south and east. To the north from the citadel there is one more ground – “northern”. The citadel and southern ground is represented by typical “tobe with ground”. If the slope of the citadel to the “southern ground” is gentle, then to the northern one it is sharp and it is separated from the hill of the citadel by wide hollow. Northern ground is a construction complex structurally separated from the settlement. The existence of such an extraordinary part of the settlement (northern ground) complicates the traditional topography of such types of the monuments. [Source: UNESCO]

“Sidak ancient settlement is a unique monument of the early Middle Ages on the territory of Southern Kazakhstan. It is the temple-communal center of fire worshippers; the city itself was formed on the basis of a temple complex. The city stood on the Silk Road. The artifacts that were found at the monuments confirm its communications with cities of Central Asia, Iran, probably India, and also with the Eastern Europe. This is evidenced by findings of amber and a cowry bowl, and also of Sasanidian gem. Findings of Sasanidian and Khorezm coins are indicative of wide economic relations of Sidak.

“According to its topographical signs the ancient settlement relates to so-called type of “tobe with a ground”. The top building horizon of the ancient settlement relates to 7th — first half of 8th century. The temple complex was revealed at the citadel of the ancient settlement and the stratigraphic researches were initiated. Explorations of the necropolis which has been found 800 meters to the west from the ancient settlement were conducted at the same time. In May-July of 2004 the excavations have been continued under the program of “Cultural heritage”. Works were conducted with several objects. Prospect hole on a citadel with depth of 30-32 stages has revealed the early layers under a citadel which can be dated based on a small complex of the received ceramics, by A.D. 1st and 2nd centuries. A.D. Four consecutive building horizons lying down above were revealed with the help of prospect hole, they had a good safety of architectural designs.

“In the western part of a citadel the site of a housing estate consisting of four tens of premises united in housing estates was revealed, it has the area of 1200 square meters and the level from the top building horizon. Dwellings are close to each other, having common walls and form the massives of continuous building divided by narrow small streets. The presence of the floor open centers in the center of premises and sufas along the walls is typical for their lay-out; besides, there is a small adjacent premise-pantry. Building is dated by 7th-8th centuries. The inhabited areas have separate premises serving as storehouses for stocks of grain and other products. They share common walls with premises but the entries are from the intra-quarter small streets. Many pieces of broken tare ceramics (houmas, humchi, jugs) were excavated from them. The foodstuffs stocks contained in such storehouses surpass the average consumable quantity of one family. Probably, the part of these foodstuffs in these storehouses was intended for sale. Otherwise, the settlement on Sidaka citadel was a point of warehousing of seed grain for the whole district. Presence of a temple complex in this horizon allows viewing these warehouses as temple storehouses of the community.

“Ceramics collections: jugs, bowls, mugs, houmas, humchi, pots, coppers were gathered. Bronze buckles and decorative belt overlays were found also. Findings of armor-clad plates were typical. The collection of findings has a fragment of a dagger and a spear tip (or a dart tip). Floors of premises provided the whole series of tips of arrows, but generally they were greatly destroyed by corrosion. The bone saddle buckle, a fragment of a tail overlay for bow and two-hole “psaliy” were found in one of the premises. The buckle has the size of 3.5x7.5 centimeters and has two through cuts.

“The figure of “idol” was found at the level of 4th stage. The standing man with the hands lowered along his body is depicted; his feet were broken off at the level of hips. The height of the remained part of a figure is 9.5 centimeters. His head has a thick neck; it is shaped by two symmetric “flattenings”. However, his face possesses some kind of pronounced cheekbones, and the head has got a slight cone-shape. Probably, it was the intended way of transferring some certain anthropological lines of this character. The nose is made of extended stuck small twisted strip; eyes are shown as balls with a point-puncture in the center of them (there are three eyes). The third eye is smaller and it is on a forehead, more precisely, directly over the top end of a nose on the nose bridge. The neck has a big coin stuck with the marked round medallion in the center. The surface of coin and medallion is covered by points-pierces, possibly, representing incrustation. There is another massive medallion in the breast center under the medallion. The belt as well as coin, is also stuck and has a shape of a wide tape with pierces and a convex buckle.

“The obtained new data and observations specify the chronology and stratigraphy of the buildings of a temple court yard. Findings of cult attributes — voluminous terracotta figures give the additional grounds for the justified reconstruction of pre-Islamic ideological views of a society. Complexes of products from ceramics, bronze and bones were received during the excavation works characterizing material culture of period of 5th-8th centuries. The collection of terracotta products has replenished with a head of anthropomorphous small sculpture, with a ceramic support, possibly a figure of some animal. The set of forms of censers was increased. Sets of necklaces (from semiprecious stones, glass and glass paste, bowls a cowry, amber), a bronze pin for a hairdress, fragments of gold heterochromatic suspension pendants, a various kinds of amulets, Sasanidian gems have been found.”

Sauran Ancient Settlement

Sauran Ancient Settlement(40 kilometers northeast of Turkestan) was occupied by Oghuz Turks, Kipchaks and Kazakhs. The early Sauran city history is related to Karatobe ancient settlement located three kilometers to the south of late-medieval fortress and having cultural layers dated by the middle of 1st millennium of B.C. to the A.D. 13th century. Sauran Ancient Settlement is part of the Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “It represents an oval ground in the plan surrounded by a wall with remained slid down parts with the height from 3 to 6 meters. It extends from the northeast to the southwest for about 800 meters and from the northwest on the southeast for about 500 meters. The area of a site of ancient settlement towers over surrounding district for 2-2.5 meters. The wall of the ancient settlement is built on stylobate with height of 2-3 meters. Detailed visual inspection of the total length of the walls, especially of the well remained rests has shown that the fortification has experienced at least two periods of building. [Source: UNESCO]

“Two gates lead inside the ancient settlement. The main gates are in the northeast part of a wall and represent a powerful fortifying construction, flanked with two projecting towers which had two floors. The entry represents a twenty-meter corridor-shaped pass formed by the projecting pieces of a wall. The street paved with a stone begins from it. The ditch with depth to 3 meters and width of 15-20 meters has been dug out outside the wall.

“The central street that is two meters from the northeast gate leads to a city square with the size of about 120 х40 meters. When coming to the square the street widens to 16 meters. More than the two-meter hills covered with fragments of a brick are on the right and at the left sides. The area has rectangular outlines and is located with a long axis across the direction of the main street. The area perimeter has massive hills of ruins of the buildings made, apparently, from square burnt bricks. The abundance of fragments of a brick on these hills evidences this. There are lots of them at the northwest and northeast sides of the square.

“The basic components of the Sauran archaeological complex were investigated, described, fixed in different degree at the area. One of components is the Sauran ancient settlement with adjoining suburban territory and a necropolis. Actually the ancient settlement (or Sauran fortress) is a territory inside the fortifications which has a traditional quarter development with a network of the streets mixed with sections of public constructions. A zone of an ancient necropolis (a city cemetery) with a mosque-namazgoh to the east both from city walls and to the southeast, with the fenced “khazira” area, possibly, with burials in the open-air. The zone of suburban farmstead building covers an ancient settlement from all sides.

It is the unique irrigation monument for medieval culture of Kazakhstan, including “karez” irrigation (underground irrigation water channels with vertical tunnels). Presence karez system of water supply in the city provides an additional uniqueness to Sauran archaeological complex. It was determined that the medieval city of Sauran was located in the bottom deltoid part of three small mountain rivers originating in Karatau mountains– Tastaksay, Aksay and Maydantal. The concentration of remains of “karez” was revealed along the mouths of these rivers. Excavations of the Sauran ancient settlement revealed two mosques inside a city have, a country mosque – “namazgokh”, medrese, hanaka and an interesting system of fortifying constructions. All of them are unique monuments of architecture. It was the unique medieval city on a line of the Silk Road, the center of an ancient and medieval civilization.”

Petroglyphs of Arpa-Uzen

Petroglyphs of Arpa-Uzen (60 kilometers southwest of Turkistan, 25 kilometers west of Chulak-Korgan village) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998 According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Arpa-Uzen is a naturally circumscribed area, a gorge limited by the Karatau mountains in the South, and protected from the northern winds by hills. Because its favorable climate and landscape, the many suitable rock surfaces, and its position on a corridor of ancient migrations, it has been chosen by ancient inhabitants as a main place for petroglyphs. It houses more than 3500 images, the largest collection In S Kazakhstan.”

“It constitutes the most important testimony of the culture and way of life of the people inhabiting and crossing the steppes and semi-deserts of the region during the Late Bronze and Early Iron epochs. Their stylistic analysis, compared with the one of other sites, gives information on the centers of formation and ways of diffusion of the pastoralist cultures of the steppes, and on their interchanges with the settled centers of the southern regions. Images of animals peculiar of steppe shepherds (domestication, harness and sacrifice of camels; horses with fringes analogous to the representations of the Seismino-Tubino bronze castings, etc.) can be detected, together with southern influences from Transoxiana, Zagros mountains and Mesopotamia.”

“Furthermore, the fact that the petroglyphs of the Iron epoch have been engraved with organic attention on the same surfaces of the Bronze epoch ones, the Saka animal style covering the early styles in such a way to form an indivisible composition and palimpsest, that fact permits the study of the successive unbroken inheritance of the sanctuary, and gives information about the genesis and formation of the culture and arts of the Saka tribes as rooted in the early epochs.”

Sygnak Ancient Settlement

Sygnak Ancient Settlement (20 kilometers to the northwest of Tyumen-aryk railway station, 1.5 kilometers from the Turkestan- Kyzylorda border) dates to the A.D. 6th-14th centuries. Occupied by Oghuz Turks, Kipchaks and Kazakhs, it was part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “It has a shape of a wrong pentagon in the plan. Shakhristan with a citadel located in a southeast part can be seen in its topography. The sizes of the sides of shakhristan are the following: North side – 250 meters, western – 360 meters, southern – 250 meters and southeast – 450 meters, northeast – 350 meters. The total area of the ancient settlement makes about 20 hectares. The shaft height which in the past had functions of the wall is about 6-7 meters. Building traces – manors, the rests of irrigated fields, channels can be observed around the central ruins in radius to two kilometers. [Source: UNESCO]

“The Sygnak city for the first time was mentioned in sources of the 10th century, and in 11th century it was named by Mahmud Kashgar among cities of “Oguz”. In the 12th century Sygnak becomes a capital of Kipchak state association and remains in that role until the beginning of the 13th century.

“Dzhuvejni historian describes the defeat of a city by Mongols in 1220. Despite destructions, the city has been built up and in the middle of 13th century Sygnak is mentioned among the routes of Getuma Armenian tsar. Gradually the city becomes a large political and economic center on Syr-Darya. In 13th century Sygnak becomes a capital of Ak-Horde; mosques, baths, other public constructions are being constructed inside of it. Located on a brisk line of the Silk Road, the city prospered because of trade and crafts up to 16th century. Sygnalk as well as the others Syr-Darya cities in 15th — 16th centuries became an arena of fierce struggle between possessors of the states of Central Asia and the Kazakh khans.”

At “the beginning of 16th century according to Ruzbihan, Sygnak experienced a decline – reduction in number of inhabitants whereas in the ancient time it “was a prospering, was surrounded by big constructions and the processed fields and was filled with various products and was a trading point for the Kazakh people. Merchants of areas of Turkestan, Maverannahr and from the East to boundaries of Kashgar, Hotana bring the goods of these countries to Sygnak and make commercial transactions and an exchange with people of Deshta. At this time Sygnak was known for architectural monuments and first of because of Kok-kesene mausoleum. The city has eventually become desolated, as well as many other Syr-Darya cities in the middle of 19th century.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Kazakhstan Tourism website, Kazakhstan government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

KYZYLORDA REGION

Kyzylorda Region(Oblast) is located in southern Kazakhstan. It borders the Kazakhstan regions of South Kazakhstan to the east, Karaganda to the north and Aktobe to the northwest. The Aral Sea to the west and Uzbekistan is to the south. The landscape of Kyzylorda is diverse but mostly occupied by desert and steppe. The Syr Darya — one of the great rivers of Central Asia — runs roughly southeast to northwest through the middle of Kyzylorda Region on its way from the Tian Shan mountains to the Aral Sea. The Soviets intensively irrigated the Syr Darya, mainly to grow cotton. . Very hot in the summer and cold in the winter, the Kyzylorda Region covers 226,000 square kilometers. It is sparsely populated and home to only 800,000 people. Its population density is only about five people per square kilometers (12 people per square mile). The overwhelming majority of the population is made up of Kazakhs, followed by Russians, then Koreans, Tatars and Ukrainians. There are also a few Jews and Caucasus peoples such as Chechens, Ingush and Armenians. The population is mostly urban. The rural population is mainly engaged in rasing livestock and growing of rice, fruits and vegetables. It is in the countryside preserved many folk customs, traditions and ceremonies.

The capital of Kyzylorda Region is Kyzylorda City, with a population of 235,000. Other notable cities and town include Aral, Kazaly (Kazalinsk) and the Russian-administered Baikonur, the home of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. In the south of Kyzylorda Region is the Karatau mountain range. The southeast is dominated by Kyzyl Kum desert, one of the world’s largest deserts. The Aral Sea was once a bountiful fishing ground that provided a good life for those who lived around it. But the settlements around the sea have died as the Aral Sea has dried up.

There are many ancient and medieval monuments, many of them linked with the Silk Road. Among these are the ruined towns and of Jend, Sauran and Yangikent. Jend was founded by the Oghuz Turks. From the 11th century until the Mongol invasion in the 13th century it was a major Central Asian city on the banks of the Syr Darya. Well-known figures of the Muslim world lived here. According to the medieval opus of Jihan Nam, in the 12th century, the Aral Sea was called Jend Sea.

Kyzylorda City

Kyzylorda(300 kilometers northwest of Turkistan) it a city with 235,000 people. It was the capital of the Kazakh SSR from 1925 to 1927 but was abandoned in favor of Almaty, which had a more pleasant climate and was on the Transib Railway. The train station is the most impressive piece of architecture in the town. Kyzylorda City is the capital of Kyzylorda Region. It is a jumping off point to ancient cities and places associated with the Silk Road.

Kyzylorda was founded in 1818 when the Kokand Khanate established the fortress of Akmechet there after the conquest of the lower Syr Darya River to Karmakchi. The fortress was built by more than 10,000 Kazakhs from surrounding villages and was established on along the caravan routes between Bukhara and Khiva in present-day Uzbekistan and central and northern Kazakhstan. In 1853 fortress Akmechet was captured by the Russians and the fortress and the town was renamed Perovsk. The Orenburg-Tashkent railway was built through the town and after it was completed in 1906 the population grew. In 1925 around the time the Kazakh and Kyrgyz republics were established in the Soviet Union, Perovsk was renamed Kyzlorda. .

Among the sights in the town are the Memorial Complex in Honour of Korkyt Ata, an 8th century Sufi saint who devoted his life to searching for the immortality of human soul; and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, the only one active Russian Orthodox church in Kyzylorda and Kyzylorda region of Kazakhstan. The Mosque of Aitbai was built in 1878 on the orders of a local rich man named Aitbai. Located in the center of the city, the mosque is shaped like an elongated rectangle and is built of baked bricks and has a roof made of iron.

The Local History Museum has valuable exhibits of batyr armor, cannon barrels, which were used in the capture of Ak-Mosque fortress, a collection of coins that were in circulation on the Silk Road. There are artifacts from excavations from Zhetyasar, Altynasar, Uigarak and the Bestam, Syganak, Jent and Zhankent archaeological sites.

Petroglyph Site of Sauyskandyk

Petroglyph Site of Sauyskandyk (on the Syr Darya River in southeast Kyzylorda, 50 kilometers north of the village of Enbekshi) contains images that date from the 18th century B.C. to the A.D. 3rd century. It was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2016. According to a report submitted to UNESCO by the National Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan: “Petroglyph Site of Sauyskandyk is situated on the lower reaches of the Syr Darya River on the territory of the Shielinskiy District of Kyzylorda Region... 3.5 kilometers from the route between the villages of Shieli and Taykonyr on the western end of the Karatau Mountains. The site is situated on both sides of the little mountain river of Bala Sauyskankyk between Ulken Sauyskankyk and Bala Sauyskankyk. [Source: UNESCO]

“Karatau Mountains has multiple water sources. Due to this factor the region was always a favorable area for different communication roads between Margiana and Bactria, Northern Iran, Western and Central Kazakhstan, and Ural Region. These multiple contacts have left numerous traces on the material culture of the region. One of the regional particularities of the site is the close connection between archaeological sites of different periods on the territory of the Ulken Karatau Mountains and The Syr Darya River valley. From the Neolithic period to modern days the fertile lands of ancient and modern deltas of The Syr Darya River were situated on the west and were populated by numerous communities.

“The site of Sauyskankyk forms an important cultural complex or the system of different archaeological sites such as necropolises, petroglyphs or rock carvings, cult constructions etc., which had the same territorial and functional characteristics, and which were related to different aspects of social and cultural life of local communities from the Bronze Age to the beginning of 20th century. Ancient individual and group burial sites have formed one of the main types of archaeological sites on the territory of Sauyskankyk complex. Kurums (ground-based constructions with stonework, burial chambers with or sometimes without dromos), and kurgans with the earth-embankment above the burial chamber are the two construction types of burial sites, which can be identified on this territory. Kurums are normally situated on the saddles and on the summits of local mountains. Similar constructions were dated by the first half of the first millennium AC.

“Petroglyphs are the most valuable and numerous types of archaeological sites of Sauyskandyk. All petroglyphs of Sauyskandyk site were made by picketage technique and engraving with the use of metal and stone instruments. Sauyskandyk petroglyphs can be separated in 9 groups, which belong to different historical periods from the 2nd millennium B.C. to the beginning of the XXth century: Early Bronze Age, middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age, transit (Early Saka) period, Early Iron (Saka and Wusun) Age, Middle Ages (Early Turkic period), and Modern (Kazakh) period.”

Chirik-Rabad Ancient Settlement

Chirik-Rabad Ancient Settlement (300 kilometers to the southwest of Kyzylorda, in the Kyzyl Kum Desert on an ancient channel of the Zhanadarya) has been dated to the 5th century B.C. to A.D. 4th century and, according to S.P.Tolstov, was a capital of the Scythian territory Saks-Apasiaks. .The site is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Chirik-Rabad Ancient Settlement “is fortified with two rows of walls with towers and a ditch. The monument occupies all territory of a natural hill with the area of 850х600 meters., extended from the north to the south. The site of ancient settlement is fortified by powerful fortification system. The site of ancient settlement is surrounded by a ditch with width of 40 meters and depth of 4.5 meters. The ditch in width to 40 meters. was dug at the hill basis with depth to 4.5 meters. There is a thick external shaft made of ditch discharge, the height is to 3 meters, width at the basis is about 8-10 meters. There is another shaft on the internal perimeter of a ditch. Besides, the top of a hill is surrounded by the third row of the roll. [Source: UNESCO]

“The external wall is fortified with towers of rectangular shapes which projected from a wall plane to 6 meters. The fortification wall is cut with arrow-shaped loopholes. Thus, fortification system of the ancient settlement is an obvious imitation of Khoresm samples. At first, Chirik-Rabat most probably was the fortified ancient settlement — refuge for local tribes. Internal lines of fortifications could have appeared a bit later, when the constant settlement was formed on the territory of the ancient settlement. A huge ancient settlement of Chirik-Rabat is a unique monument and is the most ancient monument of this region. Historical reference: In the settlement lived Sak tribes bearers of Chirik Rabad culture, who had cultural and historical relations with Khorezm, Sogdiana and Achaemenid Iran.

“The site was found in 1946 by the Khorezm archaeological expedition, under the direction of S.P.Tolstov. The necropolis made of six burial mounds (one of which is dug out) is located on the territory of the ancient settlement. The burial mound is dated by 5th-IV centuries B.C.. Two mausoleums – monumental constructions from mudbrick also have been located on territory of the ancient settlement. Excavation of the first funeral building provided various material dating monument by 4th-3rd centuries B.C.. During excavations of the second funeral building crafts made of gold, fragments of a bronze mirror, green beads from glass and the Egyptian paste, a bead from agate have been found in a sepulchral hole. Burial is dated by 4th-II centuries B.C..

“In 2004-2006 within the limits of the program “Cultural heritage” the South Kazakhstan complex archaeological expedition of Institute of archeology of the Ministry of Education and Science of Republic Kazakhstan conducted the further excavation on a site of ancient settlement. Two funeral designs and the big ring-shaped construction in diameter about 80 meters. were dug out on necropolis territory, and one house was explored on the territory of a site of ancient settlement.

“The studied burials look like superficial cavities in diameter of 15 meters. It was found out during excavations that funeral chambers as catacombs were constructed in a rectangular sepulchral hole, from east or from west side, sometimes from both simultaneously. Entries into chambers were laid with mudbricks. Three skeletons were revealed in one of the funeral chambers. One of them was buried wearing rich clothes with gold ornaments and with a long iron sword. Other two were laid close to each other on a wooden stretcher. a ceramic flask and a censer were found near them, a vessel from a pumpkin and other things. A brand of the master and an inscription made of five signs are cut on a flask. Apparently, they belonged to a family of the nobility of a society. Burial is dated by 4th-II centuries B.C..

“The site of ancient settlement of Chirik-Rabat represents an important historical and cultural centre which is on one of sectors of the Silk Road. There are no analogues in a world history to Chirikrabadsky culture – culture of nomads and farmers” and traders. “During excavation of a site of ancient settlement and a necropolis of Chirik-rabat, a set of crafts from different regions of Eurasia have been collected: The Baltic amber and Badakhshan lazurite, ceramic vessels, the Egyptian beads from glass and paste, the rests of cotton fabrics, presumably from Khoresm, inscriptions on vessels (Greek and Khorezm the alphabet) allow saying that the population of Chirik-rabat had trading and cultural contact with the next Khoresm and Akhemenidian Iran.

“The topography of a site of ancient settlement, fortifying constructions, its chronology are characteristic for sites of ancient settlement of the neighboring Khoresm. However, the fortification and architecture elements, in particular, the first false dome on the mausoleums make this monument unique among others, and the site of ancient settlement can be included into the List of the World heritage.

Babish-Mullah Ancient Settlement

The site of ancient settlement and the mausoleum the Babish-mullah ( 40 kilometers northeast of Chirik-Rabad and 250 kilometers south of Kyzylorda,) dates to the 4th to 2nd centuries II B.C. and was occupied Chirikrabarat culture and Saks (Scythians). It is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Babish-mullah settlement is fortified town which has irregular form and it is much less in the sizes than Chirik-rabad. There is a citadel of the square shape in its northern part made of “pahksa” walls with small roundish towers on corners and in the middle of east wall. The square building is located in a citadel which had received the name of “Big house”. Walls of a citadel and of “the Big house” are cut with threefold arrow-shaped dispersing loopholes of characteristic type for Khoresm. Ruins of one more large building conditionally called “donzhon” adjoin the southwest corner of a citadel from outer side which walls have remained with the height of 4-5 meters. From the south “donzhon” is attached by the city territory with a thick wall with semicircular towers the walls of which are made of mudbrick.

reference: Babish-mulla settlement can be considered as Satrap residence in the northern region of “Saks that are behinf the Sogd” of the Achaemenid empire. Inside the city the development can be seen mainly in a southwest part. The remains of constructions with post designs have been found out here. During excavations not burned fragments of female figurines of archaic shape have been found in them.”

Balandy Ancient Settlement

Balandy Settlement (100 kilometers east of Kyzlkorda) is an archaeological complex used by Chirikrabarat culture and dated on the basis of archaeological data found at the site the 3rd to 2nd century B.C. There are reasons to believe that the mausoleum of the Balandy 2 was constructed in 4th century B.C.. Geographical location: The monument is the centre of the small agricultural oasis which based on the highway channel, allotted from one of the widest channel of Inkardarya. It is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The monument is the center of a small agricultural oasis, which was based on the main channel, set from one of the wide Inkardarya’s inflows. Rectangular monument is surrounded by 80x130 meter defensive wall and oriented to the angles. Near to settlement there is a mausoleum of the Balandy 2. The mausoleum is a round in the plan construction in diameter about 16 meters. The height of walls makes 4.5 meters. The monument represents the low cylinder decorated with a decor in the form of processed twenty five shovels forming sides. [Source: UNESCO]

“The central part of a building occupies a round premise in diameter of 5,5 meters, blocked by a dome. Mausoleum walls, as well as a dome, are covered by a layer of “saman” putties. A floor of a round building is made of earth. The external ring wall of a building stands far from an internal wall on 2.3 meters. Seven premises located between them are divided by radial walls. One of the premises, adjoining to an input, played a lobby role where its four walls had arch doorways.

“The presence of rectangular raw bricks dating back to the 2nd period of the life of the monument, and ceramic forms in the bottom allows us to date the time of its construction by mid-4th century B.C. Since the beginning of the 3rd throughout the Central Asia, dominates the square format of the raw bricks. Cylindric shape of vessels in the 3rd is no longer met. Apart from this the early date of settlement is evidenced by a long history of fortifications. This mansion, of course, was the center of deconcentrated settlement, place of residence of the village community. This mansion could serve as a community store, and, if necessary, the shelter-fortress.

“During excavation some valuable findings were made. Among them, it is necessary to mention the carved bone plates, graceful bronze hand-made articles in the form of leaves of antique shape, fragments of glass vessels of the Syrian manufacture, decorated with a leaf, the stylized stone figure of a camel. Traces of plaster with polychrome leaf have been fixed on the walls of premises. On the basis of the received data the conclusion has been made that Balandy 1 is the big strengthened house in which the housing estate of some gala premises have been dug out. According to archaeological materials, the monument has been dated by III-II centuries B.C..

“Presence of rectangular mud brick relating to 2 period of life of a monument, and ceramic forms with strut in a benthonic part allow to date time of its building as not later than the middle of 4th B.C.. Already from the beginning of 3rd century A.D. in all territory of Central Asia undividedly the square shape of mudbrick dominates. Cylinder-conic shapes of vessels in 3rd century have not been seen any more. Besides, the early date of appearance of settlement is evidenced by the long history of creation of defensive constructions. This manor, certainly, was the center of the dispersed settlement, the place of residence of a rural community. Such manor could carry out functions of communal storehouse and, at necessity, act as a refuge fortress. During the excavation of the Balandy 2 scraps of the leather product decorated with gold and fragments of color thin cotton fabrics, the handle from a carved bone are found.

“The analysis of designs of the Balandy 2, in particular of its domes leads to interesting results. The false dome existed for a long time in the east and in the Mediterranean. Such tic of the dome construction which have been found out on the Balandy, continued to exist in Central Asia and Kazakhstan up to the recent past. The form of a dome of the Balandy 2 appears only in some centuries in 6th-8th centuries in the Afrigid state of the Berkutkalinsky oasis.”

Zhankala Ancient Settlement

Zhankala Ancient Settlement (southern bank of Zhanadarya, approximately 300 kilometers to northwest of Kyzylorda city) was occupied from the A.D. 5th to 17th centuries by in order of succession Kanguyu, Oghuz Turks and Kipchaks. It is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The “settlement is located 6 kilometers east from the Zhanadarya riverbed. Like most of medieval towns it has citadel, shahristan and rabad. The Citadel is represented by several elements — a palace, surrounding it outer wall and the northeastern corner tower. The outer wall of the citadel of 1 meters in width surrounds the palace, and forms the interior of the citadel in size of 75x75 meters. Central building, tentatively called the Palace, has a size of 37x28 meters and, finally, an octagonal tower with a diameter of 8 meters, arranged in the northeast corner of the outer citadel. The outer wall is surrounded by a moat, which width varies from 20 meters in the western part, where there is an original reservoir dug out, to a width of 4 meters, that is well fixed from the northern side. [Source: UNESCO]

“Shakhristan of the settlement is surrounded by a wall with width of 5 meters. It is destroyed, its height varies from 0.2 to 3 meters. Shakhristan covers an area of 23 hectares. Directions of shakhristan walls repeat directions of the walls of the citadel. From the south, east and west sides the walls of shakhristan are direct and the shape in general resembles a rectangle. On the territory of shakhristan there are several major objects. Among them, two can be interpreted as a caravanserai. Dimensions of the first caravanserai is 19x19 meters, the second is 17x17 meters.

“In its southern part, revealed two large buildings put of burnt bricks. In the same part of the settlement was erected a large rectangle form building of 38x38 meters, made of burnt brick. It is connected with the southern part of the outer wall of shakhristan and arranged in its center. Perhaps the construction is related fortifications of the town.

“Rabad of the settlement is extensive. Through the west-east of its territory stretches to 1800 meters and in the northwest to 1500 meters. Rabad buildings is not regular. Here there are also significant areas of fields and canals with numerous branches, religious buildings, residential estates, facilities for public use, the small house. Many buildings are fixed at the surface only at low elevations and concentrations of ceramics. From the buildings of considerable size and good preservation in the settlement can be identified rabad caravanserai, a central building which has a size of 30x25 meters.

“In the southwestern part of the settlement there is, apparently, a country residence of the governor. Functional area is defined by the presence of a central huge building — 37x26 meters, built of mud and burnt brick. The whole territory of the country residence was surrounded by a wall with width of 1 meters, in the eastern part there is an entry arranged in the form of portal peshtak.

“A similar park and garden area, enclosed, but without internal structures, with an area of 45,000 square meters, was constructed in the northern part of rabad. In the eastern side of the settlement in the immediate closeness from the outer wall there are shakhristan mosque ruins fixed, in size of 9,7x9, 7 meters, with preserved mikhrab wall and niche. The walls of the mosque built of mud brick. Most likely the mosque is memorial. In the southern side of the settlement, as well as on the territory of rabad there are ruins of another mosque built of burnt bricks. The dimensions of the mosque 12,3x7, 3 meters. The mosque has two halls. External – gurkhana and mosque itself. Building of rabad settlement was not dense. It was alternated with open spaces, fields and canals.”

Zhankent Ancient Settlement

Zhankent (Yangikent) Ancient Settlement (between the Aral Sea and Baikonur Cosmodrone, 20 kilometers from Kazalinsk, on right river bank of Syr-Darya) was occupied from the first centuries B.C. to the 18th century by, in order of succession, Kangyuy, Oghuz, Kipchaks and Kazakh. From the A.D. first centuries to the 12th century the site was occupied by the ancient settlement of Zhankent. From the 13th to 14th centuries it occupied by the settlement of Myntobe. The site is part of the Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The ancient settlement has subdirect shape in the size of 375х225 meters. There is a citadel in the size 100х100 meters and height of 7-8 meters in a northwest corner. The topography of ruins shows the direction of the main street connecting the gates in east and western walls. Intra-quarter small streets depart from this. The burial ground of Myntobe consisting of hundreds burial embankments was found to the North trap of the ancient settlement in 1986 by archaeological expedition of the Arch of monuments of Academy of sciences KazSsR. The people here have been buried from the first centuries B.C. till 18th century. The destroyed mausoleums of 13th-14th centuries represent some interest, once they were revetted with majolica tiles and bricks. The scheduled archaeological researches are conducted on a site of ancient settlement since 2006. As a result of excavations the streets and premises of shakhristan have been revealed, dated by 12-13th centuries. The street with both parties covered with premises of manors of the nobility of a city was found on a citadel as a result of excavation was partially dug out. A pagan Oghuz altar was found in one of the premises, with “protoms” in the shape of lamb heads. The altar is dated by 11th-12th centuries. [Source: UNESCO] “ Historical reference: Zhankent (Yangikent) which was called as New Guziej, was not only a capital of Oghuz, but also the residence of their governor “Yabgu". Jangikent had close connections with Khoresm. Colonists lived in a city from Khoresm, and there is an opinion that the city existing long before Oghuz and in X century has been built up from the zero point and was fortified by Khorezm builders.

“Zhankent (Yangikent) was not only capital and residence of Oghuz governors but also the largest trading centre in lower reaches of Syr-Darya. It is explained by its geographical position – it settled down in the original corridor connecting steppes of the Central Kazakhstan with Central Asia and the Near East, on the one hand, by Khoresm, Priaralem, Caucasus, and the Mediterranean – on the other side. The city was the centre of overland and river trade: vessels, loaded with grain and bread came downwards across Syr-Darya from the Central Asian cities to these lands according to ibn-Haukal. In 17th-18th centuries it was a residence of the Kazakh khans.

“Writings about Zhankent as about a city of Oghuz and then of Kipchaks for the first time are seen in historical sources of the Central Asian, Arabian and Persian historians and travelers in the 10th and 11th centuries. According to numerous written sources, the city was located on a line of the Silk Road. Excavation of the city produced a series of coins from Khoresm, Samarkand, and Bukhara. During excavations the ceramics from Central Asia – Samarkand and Shash were found. In the second half of 13 centuries it has been built up again and with revival of trading ways as before it began to play an important role by connecting the cities of Priaralye, cities of Central Asia, the Middle East, East and the Western Europe. In 18 century the city has fallen into decay. The population had to leave a city and Zhankent was never built up again.”

Kesken-Kuyuk Kala Ancient Settlement

Kesken-Kuyuk Kala Ancient Settlement (near Zhankent, 20 kilometers from Kazalinsk, on right river bank of Syr-Darya) was occupied from the middle of 1st millennium B.C. to the A.D. 12th century. The Kangyuy, Oghuz Turks and Kipchaks lived there. The site is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The citadel and shakhristan in the form of a quadrangular hillock can be seen in the topography of a site of ancient settlement with the size of 230х210 meters. and height 3 meters. The site of ancient settlement of Kesken-Kuyuk kala is located on southern coast of currently dry channel which has densely grown with a bush of ancient delta. Following the curvature of external walls, the site of ancient settlement has got the shape of irregular approximated outlines. The size of the ancient settlement on a line the north-south can be determined as 840 meters, on a West-east line it is 820, a total area is over 530 thousand square meters. [Source: UNESCO]

“The central hillock has the sizes of 230 meters (on the north-south line) х210 meters (on a line the West-east), surrounded with the walls and shaping it as a square towering over surrounding district at 3 meters, it can be in turn divided on two parts: the citadel itself located in the southwest quarter of the central hillock, and shakhristan surrounding a citadel from northern and east sides. The citadel is not designated as the basic structural element of the ancient settlement because it cannot be visually seen both from a surface, and at an aero-photo. Thanks to detailed topographical shooting and the subsequent drawing of contours it became obvious that such unit as the citadel can still be designated on the general surface of the central hillock. Greatly dispelled and slid down walls of a citadel and an insignificant height of object – about one meter – hid it on a surface of the central hillock. The citadel “is read” in a kind of sub-square design, with the sizes of 55-60х55-60 meters, the height was already specified above, it makes about 1m above the level of the central hillock.

“The territory of shakhristan represents a leveled surface (as a result of influence of natural factors) of the massive development easily noticed in lines of designs of buildings, streets, lanes. The most raised part of shakhristan is the one which directly adjoins the citadel.

“First Kesen-Kuyuk (Khuvara, Khora) town is mentioned as Oghuz city, first time it can be traced in the historical sources of the Central Asian, Arab and Persian historians and travelers in the 10-11th centuries. Apart from local population in the town there lived settlers from Khorezm. There is a scientific point that the town that existed long before the Oghuz, in the10th century was rebuilt and fortified by Khorezmian builders.

Dzhetyasar Oasis Monuments

Monuments of Dzhetyasar Oasis (45 to 90 kilometers south of Baikonur) is a complex of settlements and burials dating from 5th century B.C. to the A.D. 9th century and located in the basin of ancient channels of Syr-Darya — Kuvandarya and Pra-kuvandarya (Eskidaryalyk) Occupied by the Dzhetyasar culture and the Kangyuy, the site is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Dzhetyasar is situated in the Lower The Syr Darya river and is a unique concentration of the towns, settlements and burial grounds collectively known as the Dzhetyasar culture. During the first two stages of culture development the vast majority of Dzhetyasar settlements had oval or rounded two-layer mound-tobe ranging in height from 8 to 25 meters and covering areas ranging from 0.5 to 18 hectares. [Source: UNESCO]

“All settlements are represented by strongholds with a developed fortification and solid inhabitant building inside. At the third stage of culture development several strongholds are being constructed, which are sharply distinct from the rest in its layout and fortifications. Some of the high strongholds with solid multi-residential buildings typical for the early stages of Dzetyasar culture, additionally put intothe ring of new stronghold walls with protuberance oval towers, but a large space inside such walls are lack in any residential building traces. The core of the town is a solid multi-storey building. Upper platform is bordered by a second one, much lower, and then the third area, each of which is limited by a system of strongholds. Originally on the second tier, there were areas such as frame buildings like animal shed with separate stalls, and possibly open enclosures, and later the second platform was built up with two three-room residential-sections.

“Main dwelling room always preserved the same interior: sufa along the walls, floor central open hearth of strictly defined forms, enterspace marked with clay or walls, constructions for grain grate, hearth stands. Location of each section, its total area, interior of the main residential premise remained unchangeable during the centuries, though inside the wall sections there were many reconstructions, which changed location of the rooms and their amount. Mount burial grounds that surrounded the settlements, contained primed burials of 4 types and three burial constructions. Excavations over thousand of burial grounds revealed great collection of unique archaeological and anthropological burials.

“In Dzhetyasar mounds there were amber buttons from the Baltic, cornelian from India, glass from Syria and Egypt, chalcedony gems from Iran, Eastern and Central European brooches and bracelets and many other accessories, once again showing the direction of Dzhetyasar trade relations. Precious cloth for that time were colorful and smooth silk from China and multicolored patterned one from Iran and Syria, these findings are reported in Dzhetyasar burials.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Kazakhstan Tourism website (visitkazakhstan.kz), Kazakhstan government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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