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Article

Interfaces and Crossroads, Contexts and Communications: Early medieval towns in the Syr-Darya Delta (Kazakhstan)

Journal of Urban Archaeology. 2021. Vol. 3. P. 51-63.

In the late first millennium ad, the Aral Sea region comprised two broad cultural zones: in the south the civilizations of Central Asia, in the north the steppe nomads. On their interface, in the delta of the Syr-Darya, there is an isolated cluster of urban sites, including Dzhankent. Fieldwork results show that in the ninth to eleventh centuries AD this site was a fortified urban settlement, but it had a predecessor from the sixth/seventh century onwards. Urban design and finds indicate close links to the southern civilization of Khwarazm, but also to local populations and Turkic nomads. It is suggested here that Dzhankent may originally have been a Khwarazmian trading post, later serving as nomad winter quarters while continuing as a transhipping point on the crossroads of two important trade routes. Location and functions also raise questions about the application of emporia typologies to this case.