Antonovka Settlement (190 kilometers northeast of Taldykorgan) was the home of Kayalyk (also spelled Kojlyk), a medieval Silk Road town dating to the 8th to the end of 13th centuries. Located in the Sarkand area of Almaty region on the banks of Ashi-Bulak river, it is part of the Silk Road in Kazakhstan, nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Medieval Kayalyk (Kaylak) is the biggest settlement of Ili valley. Outwalls made of cob represent slipped down shaft with 11-13 meters of width, and preserved height to 2-3.5 meters, they surround a square area with length of 1290 meters, depth of 840 meters. Behind the wall there is a clearly seen ditch with width of 1017 meters, depth of 1-2 meters. Entries into ancient settlements were organized in the northwest, northeast and southeast parts. Inside the settlement the whole vast ground territory of the settlement is covered by numerous hillocks and hollows – these are traits of previous development. In the center of the above-mentioned quadrangle the central part is standing out, with the size of 241x225 meters, angles oriented to the four winds. [Source: UNESCO]

“The city was known in the sources of 11th to-beginning of 13th centuries as the capital of Karluk dzhabgu – this is an independent property of Turks-Karluks in Karahanids’ Kaganate. In the middle of 13th century the city has been visited by Guillaume de Rubrouck, an ambassador of Louis 9th while he was going to Mongol Khan Munke. He described the city as a big trade center. According to him, there were temples of “idolaters”, a mosque and Christian church nearby.

Talgar Medieval Settlement

Talgar ancient settlement (25 kilometers to the east of Almaty) is a monument: settlement of medieval Talhir that dates to the 8th century to the beginning of the 13th century. It is situated at the foot of Zailiyskoe Ala Tau, in the outskirts of Talgar city and is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

Talgar for sure corresponds to Talhir which is mentioned in anonymous Persian geographical writing of the end of 10th century, called “Hudud al-Alem”. “Its citizens are warlike, brave and valorous”, — mentioned the medieval geographer. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The central part of the ancient settlement has a square section surrounded by fortifications with some remains of towers. The wall now looks like a slide down bank with a height of three up to five meters, with hilly towers at the corners and around the perimeter. An ancient build-up can be noticed around the central part. It is preserved best in the southern part. The total area of the ancient city was 28 hectares. [Source: UNESCO]

Karamergen Medieval Settlement

Karamergen (southern Balkhash lake, 200 kilometers northeast of the village Bakanas) is a Oghuz Turk settlement dated to 8th to 13th century beautiful three kilometers north of the confluence of the dry riverbed of Ortasu. It is part of the Silk Road in Kazakhstan, nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Karamergen ancient settlement can be referred to as a “tortkol” type monuments widely known in Zhetysu, South Kazakhstan, Tuva, Mongolia and in Tien Shan. These are remains of towns, towns-shelters, settlements and caravanserais. Karamergen is a city on the route of the Silk Road and this is evidenced by findings of imported beads made of lazurite; and the main proof is that it is situated on the section of The Silk Road going from the main line across Pribalkhashye to Sary-Arka.

“The settlement is rectangular in shape (115x120 meters) with the corners oriented to the four winds directions. The walls are well preserved, even now they reach three meters in height. “Round, projecting towers with 4.5 meters height are situated in each corner. Northeast and southwest sides have two more towers with 3.5 meters height. Entries into the ancient settlement can be noticed in the middle of northwest and southeast walls. Their structure is rather complex. They are flanked with L-sector of the wall, the corners of this sector have two more towers and the southeast entry is fixed with overhanging roll with preserved height of 1.5 meters. [Source: UNESCO]

Aktobe Stepninskoye Medieval Site

Aktobe Stepninskoye (south of Lake Balkash) is a medieval settlement dated to the 7th-13th centuries and occupied by Karluk, Chigili and Yagma. The site is situated at both sides of Aksu river, not far from its falling into Chu river, in the steppe zone of Semirechye and 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: “Central ruins that gave the name to the whole monument are situated on the left bank of Aksu river. Citadel looks like high subdirect square hill with height of 15 meters. Sizes of the hillock are 120x100 meters at the base. Citadel is attached by shakhristan having subdirect square contours with 240x210 meters in size. Citadel and shakhristan are surrounded with walls which are now look like slid down rolls. The territory of handicraft and agricultural areas is close to central ruins, it is surrounded by two rows of rolls. The length of the area downstream the river from southeast to northwest is 9.5-10 kilometers at the external circle of the walls and 5.5 kilometers at the internal circle of the walls. [Source: UNESCO]

“The settlement is defined as big centre of trade and craft in compound of western turk Kaganate. Starting from 1974, ancient settlement is being excavated by expedition of Kazakh State National University of Al-Farabi. From 2008 the works are being conducted on the program of “Cultural Heritage of Kazakhstan”. During excavations at the ancient settlement the residential communities, separate farmsteads were found, fortification was explored. Crafts made of ceramics and glass, metal crafts and jewelry, bronze vessels and big amount of coins were gathered during excavations.

Ornek Medieval Settlement

Ornek Medieval Settlement (75 kilometers southwest of Petropavlovsk) dates to the 8th-13th centuries and was in inhabited by Karluk, Chigil and Yagma. It is situated six kilometers south of settlement called Ornek on the Altynsu river, in Solutor gorge, and 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 central part of the ancient settlement represents the quadrangular platform oriented by corners to the four winds. The sizes of an area on a crest of a roll surrounding it are 155x160 meters. The roll was preserved with the height to 5 meters with width of the basis of 11-15 meters. On corners and on perimeter of walls the hillocks can be noticed, where the towers were supposed to be located: there were 7 of them on the northeast wall (angular also), 6 of them on the northwest wall, 9 on the southeast wall, and 9 on the southwest wall. Each of the four sides has gate (entry) with the shape of ruptures in a roll. Entrances were connected by the roads crossing in the center. [Source: UNESCO]

In the center of an ancient settlement, closer to a northwest wall there are round foundation pits for three water reservoirs connected with each other. Diameters of two of them are 30 meters and the third is 15 meters in diameter. The central ruins are adjoined by the territory surrounded with the roll with towers. The roll is at a distance of 90 meters from a southwest wall, in 40 meters – from the southeast wall, in 90 meters — from northeast wall and in 100 meters – from northwest wall.

Akyrtas – Medieval Archeological Complex

Akyrtas (40 kilometers east of Taraz, 6 kilometers south of Akchulak railway station) is an archeological complex with various kinds of features situated at the foot of Kyrgyz Ala Tau. The features cover wide chronological range and were occupied mainly by Karluk Turks and Arabs. Part of the Silk Road in Kazakhstan, nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012, the site is occupied by dry foothills, some of them archaeological ruins. In regards to site’s so-called palace, there is no exact data about the history of its creation or builder. The unfinished project, massive, grand and bold in design, consists of a number of rooms arranged around a spacious internal yard.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The complex includes several archeological and archeological-architectural monuments of different times. A “palace” features monumental construction, is rectangular and is made of massive stone blocks of red sandstone, with a height from 1 to 1.5 meters. The size of construction is 169x145 meters. The long sides of construction are oriented at a north-south line. The plan of construction can be read easily: the main street connects north and south entries. One more street which is perpendicular to it goes from east to west and rests against deep “aivans”. Streets divide the construction into four parts, three of them consist of facilities situated round the yards and one (northwest one) is free from development. [Source: UNESCO]

Kulan Medieval Settlement

Kulan Settlement (100 kilometers east of Taraz) dates to the 7th to 13th centuries. 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 Kulan town is known from the written sources relating to 8th-13th centuries. In routing guide by the Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim Sjuan Tszjaija mentioned it under the name "Tszjuj-lan’". In 9th-10th IХ-Х centuries Kulan was mentioned by the Arabian authors describing cities located on a line of the Silk Road. Ibhn-Khordadbekh and Kudama geographers locate Kulan fourteen “pharsakh” (unit of measure) to the west of Taraz. Here what Kudama told: “... there is sand between Taraz and Kulan from the north side, and behind it there is a desert of sand and pebble, and in this desert there are echidnas, [it stretches] to Kimaks’ border“. The Arabian geographer of X century al-Makdisi describes Kulan as “the fortified city” which has “a cathedral mosque” and which “has already become empty, it is located on big Taraz road”. The author of the geographical dictionary, Yakut who created his work in 20-ies of 13th century, mentions: “Kulan is a pleasant small town on border of the country of Turks, from the side of Maverannakhr”. A number of famous historical events is connected with Kulan: in year 740 the last west-Turkic kagan Ashaina Syn’ has been killed by Turgesh prince Kursul’.[Source: UNESCO]

“Degree of research: Explorations of remains of this city were facilitated by the fact that according to the sources it was located between two medieval cities the location of which was well-known. In the west, fourteen “pharsakhs” from Kulan the Taraz was located at the place of an ancient settlement in the centre of present Taraz city; in the east, on distance of four “pharsakhs”, there was Mirki town which nowadays has the same name. Therefore, identification of Kulan with ruins close Lugovoye village Meadow, suggested by V.V. Bartold, does not leave any doubts. The data received by archeologists allow assuming that originally in 7th-8th centuries there was a construction with “pakhsa” walls in the place of citadel. Probably, it was a construction of a castle type.

Kostobe Medieval Settlement

Kostobe Medieval Settlement (10 kilometers northeast of Taraz) is an ancient settlement dated to the 6th to 12th centuries. Located in Dzhamukat town on the eastern side of the Sarykemer settlement, it was occupied by Oghuz and Karluk Turks and Sogdians and 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 central part of Kostobe occupies a quadrangular elevated area with the size of 420 х 450 meters surrounded by a double wall. Height of the external rolls is 3.5 meters; internal roll is to 5 meters. The corners and perimeter of the walls had round towers fixed on them. Four entrances can be seen in the middle of each of the sides. The citadel is in the middle of the western wall. Now it looks like a pyramidal hill with a flat platform at the top. The sizes of a hill in the basis — 70x80 meters, height of the hill is12-15 meters. Shakhristan is attached to the citadel and occupies all southwest corner of the ancient settlement with sizes of 150x150 meters. The entrance is located in northern wall. 200 meters to the north of shakhristan there is a dome-shaped hillock with diameter of 80 meters and height of 15 meters. Probably, it was the fire tower. [Source: UNESCO]

“From the north side, behind external roll there are two necropolises. Rural districts can be noticed within the radius of 3-5 kilometers from the central ruins. Separate hills are the remains of former farmsteads and castles; they stretch upwards across Talas towards Tortkoltobe ancient settlement identified with Nizhniy Barskhan, located at the basic line of the Silk Road.

Karaspan Ancient and Medieval Settlement

Karaspan Ancient Settlement (50 kilometers west of Shymkent) was occupied from the A.D. 1st century to the 18th century. Situated at the left bank of Arys river, to 2 kilometers to the east from Karaspan village. It was part of the Otrar-Karatau culture and was home to Sogdians, Turks, Sarts and Kazakhs. It is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The central part of the ancient settlement is a high subdirect square in the plan “tobe”, the basis of it is 220-260 meters and the height is 22 meters. Around the ancient settlement there is a shakhristan development surrounded by roll. The sizes of its territory are 850х 600 meters. Outside of shakhristan the remains of rabid can be observed, but it is impossible to determine its sizes because it was thrown open and built up. [Source: UNESCO]

“The settlement is identified with Karasaman town, known to the sources of 14th to 18th centuries. The ancient settlement was explored by the South-Kazakhstani archaeological expedition (1948-1951) and the excavations were recommenced in 2004, 2008 by the South-Kazakhstani complex archaeological expedition.

Kultobe Ancient and Medieval Settlement

Kultobe Ancient Settlement (50 kilometers west of Shymkent) was occupied from the A.D. 1st century to the 17th century. Situated near to Karaspan village and Karaspan ancient settlement, it was home to Kangyuys and Kazakhs. It is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The monument’s citadel is almost destroyed by waters of Arys’ river. The remained part represents a rib with height of 7.5 meters and area of about 150 square meters with precipitous west slope. The slope cutting revealed building constructions made of “pakhsa” and rectangular mudbricks with size of 35x30x10 centimeters. Kultobe “ground” has an irregular trapeziform layout with the following side sizes: 210х150х100х180 meters. The steepest slopes are in the west part of the monument: central and north parts show some lowering. South part has round rising grounds; most probably these were defensive towers. An average height of Kultobe ground is 5-6 meters.

“In scientific area the settlement became well known due to the scriptial monuments that were found there. Historical interpretation of the inscription was made by the French explorer, France Grenei. Probably, the inscription informs about a building of a city on a place of Kultobe ancient settlement by “the leader of army”, most possibly, “the leader of army of the Chacha people”. Probably, he headed the army in the name, or jointly with leaders of four basic cities-states of the central and southern Sogdiana: Samarkand, Kish, Nakhshab and Bukhara. “The land belonging to (our) people” and “[the land belonging] to nomads” can be understood as the land conquered from nomads and divided between Sogdians. More possibly, it could mean that the borders between the arable lands belonging to Sogdians and pastures of nomads were determined by the mutual consent. It seems that "city" was located on this border or behind it. This city could be a part of a line of the boundary posts stretched along the river Arys’.

Otrar Ancient and Medieval Settlements

Ortrar (170 kilometers northwest of Shymkent, 10 kilometers to the west from Timur railway station) is a ghost city on the Silk Road was once so city great it drew Genghis Khan to Central Asia. There is little of the ancient city today other than an expanse of ruins and an 11th century mausoleum that is in surprisingly good condition.

Otrar Ancient Settlements and Monuments of Otrar oasis was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998. Otrar oasis is an area of 200 square kilometers with archaeological remains of medieval towns and structures of irrigation. The main town is Otrar (A.D. 1st to 16th centuries). Other towns are Kuyruk-Tobe (A.D. 1st to 15th centuries) Altyn — Tobe (A.D. 1st to 11th centuries), Pshakshi-Tobe (A.D. 1st to 12th centuries), Mardan-Kuyk (A.D. 1st to 15th centuries) and Kok-Mardan (A.D. 1st to 7th centuries). “Tobe” means hill.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Otrar town is the largest medieval hillfort of Kazakhstan with an area of 170 hectares: in the A.D. first century it was part of the Kangju empire; at the beginning of the 8th century it was the capital of the Kangars tribal confederation (Petchenegues) with the name of Kangu-Targan and later of Farab. Abn Nasr Farabi was born here in 870 and Timur died here in 1405. It has all the typical features of a medieval Central Asian town: citadel, shahristan (a town in itself), rabat (suburbs) and fields, everything surrounded by walls.

“Today the landscape is reduced to semidesert and the towns are in ruin, but, until the 15th century, Otrar, together with the rest of the oasis, represented the main urban centre on the marginal zone between southern towns and northern steppes, between settlers and nomads of Central Asia. The oasis constituted a peaceful economical and cultural complex, an avant-post in attracting northern nomads, settling them down, and so importing elements of the nomadic culture into the sedentary societies. This is reflected in the town planning, architecture, in the art of pottery and jewelry.

Bozok Medieval Settlement

Bozok Settlement (east outskirt of Astana on shore of Bozok Lake) dates to the 8h to 14th century that was inhabited by Kipchaks and Dzhuchid. Situated in an area that is advantageous both geographically and strategically, it is part of The Silk Road in Kazakhstan, which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012.

Settlement excavations started in 1999 the revealed that site was Bozok (also spelled Buzok) was first a city-fortress and the military centre on the steppe Silk Road in the 8th-10th centuries. Later it became the residence of a Kipchak governor, a religious-cult centre and a rest stop for travelers and caravans. Houses were built of burn bricks manufactured in local workshops. In the settlement, a water supply and sewerage system existed. From the 13th to 15th centuries there were places interpreted as sacred areas and burial places. Archeologists found burial of a woman warrior dated to the 13th century.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The roll remains, ditches surrounding them can be seen on a modern surface. They fence three quarters. The lay-out of the quarters located in the form of the three-petal socket and grouped round the central platform is interesting. The monument relates to the medieval epoch, to the period when the territory of the Central Asia was in the structure of Kipchak state. Important researches have been spent on a monument in 1997-2009 by expedition of the Euroasian state university of L.Gumilev, headed by Professor K.A. Akishev and M..K. Khabdulina. [Source: UNESCO]

Kyzyl Kala Medieval Settlement

Kyzyl Kala Settlement (18 kilometers on SSV, in Shetpe settlement, Mangistau region) dates to the 10th to 13th centuries and was occupied by Turks and Sogdians. The basic part of a site of ancient settlement stretched along two mouth channels which merged in a single channel. 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 site of ancient settlement consists of the remains of the central fortification and numerous of manors around. Fortification can be distinctly read on a high roll (height of a roll is 3 meters) and viewed central, square fortification in the plan surrounded by a stone wall in width of 1.2-2 meters. The medium part of a northwest wall has a main gate arranged. Structurally these are formed by two towers. Projecting elements of stone layings from outer side of walls of a fortress show angular and two intermediate towers with a total number of 13. Buildings round a fortress are seen on the bases of constructions, places of mass distribution of elevating materials − crocks of pottery, fragments of “plinfa”, and fragments of bones of animals. The total area of a site of ancient settlement makes 50 hectares. [Source: UNESCO]

“The town was founded on the northern branch of the Silk Road as a trading settlement. Initially it was the centre of attraction of local population as well as nomads, merchants, who came not only from Central Asia, but Europe. After sometime the settlement was seized by the nomads. Appeared the first record that here Khoresm fought with Kipchaks. After that there was a reconstruction, the settlement was enclosed with thick stronghold wall of 2 meters thickness. There were numerous buildings made from mudbrick. Kyzyl-Kala town did not last long. Life here has faded in the first half of the 13th century. During excavations, archaeologists have not found any Golden Horde materials. We can assume that at this time caravans did not pass here.

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

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