Historical Civilizations and Ancient Cities of Middle Asian Dvurech’e

Issue #2 • 1402

Through dense fog hiding the far past, thanks to scientific searches of scholars, many phenomena and events of ancient history and culture of Middle Asian Dvurech’e, a huge geographic area spreading over both banks of the great rivers, Amu Darya and Syr Darya, have obtained clearer contours. Now the most part of this area is a part of the Republic of Uzbekistan. History of Middle Asian Dvurech’e with all its regularity and specific features make a core of the history of Uzbekistan, for the modern state is a direct successor of that territory with its history where this state formed, and we know a lot of evidences for this all over the world.

Independently from commonality of historical and cultural processes in Middle Asian Dvurech’e, already in far ancient time, probably, at the end of the 2nd – beginning of the 1st millennia B.C. some civilizations – the Bactrian (southern), Sogdian (central), Khorezmian (northern) and Fergano – Chach (eastern) – entered into the period of their formation.

Each of them had features of stadial character of historical and cultural progress, local regularities and peculiarities of development and life duration, which were caused by extremely complicated processes in the genesis of culture, ethnogenesis and factors of formation of early states. They were agricultural – irrigation civilizations, and therefore, urban by their intrinsic essence, for a city was inseparable element of their being at every stage of development – from embryonic proto-urban forms to the most advanced agglomerations like Alexandria, Balkh, Merv and Samarkand.

Cattle-breeding, both domestic and nomadic, had the great importance but didn’t form their basic essence. States, which raised on foundations of these civilizations and were one of the forms of their being, developed simultaneously with them giving up stability and duration to their existence, and in some periods – commonality in politics, economy and culture.

If the written language can be considered as the most important sign of developed forms of a state, it would be correct to say that civilization is raising simultaneously with state, for the written language also is one of the most important but not basic components of civilization. But if civilization, and first of all historical, is most likely a stadial phenomenon that is typical of all stage-chronological periods of human society development beginning with the Stone Age, the state and state system make secondary phenomena, which are derivative from civilization and appear in the definite stage of social development, namely in the Bronze Age when in civilizations of Mesopotamia, Eastern Mediterranean and low Nil appeared the earliest embryonic forms of the state system, so-called cities – states, or nomes. A great role in the formation of historical civilizations belongs to autochthon ethnos, which formed a definite type of civilization.

But not less importance in this process belongs to ethnic migrations because of definite geographical, political, military and demographic factors beginning with the Stone Age when started the exchange by the cultural values. By its essence all the ethnic history of humankind is the history of migrations of peoples from one environment towards another, from one geographic zone to another and their mixture. During the process of long migration the historical civilizations, at first spontaneously and then permanently, changed each other along with assimilation of substrate ethnos and cross-breeding of autochthonic population, what finally resulted in genesis of new ethnic and linguistic communities, which I called migratiometeo-ethnic communities reserving, however, their autochthonic ground.

Civilization, as a permanent and comprehensive form of society being, was inherent for all peoples in all periods of their history, at the same time, having stage-chronological, ethnic and hierarchic differences. Civilizations having reached the highest position in hierarchic stair (so called civilizations of the first rate) have priority and advanced forms of existence and achievements, which had become a result of a long process of historical progress. In particular, such civilizations are presented by cities, which concentrated political, economic, cultural and other values determining, in many respects, a course of development of advanced civilizations. That is in order both for ancient time and modern period. At the same time, the definite type of cities correlates with the definite type of state. The last one, as a specific form of political system, takes its origin in city, the first stage of which formation turned to state. They are so-called city-states, or otherwise nomes how usually they are called in science (following to the example of Ancient Egypt, which history found good reflection in written sources). Nomes consisted of a dominant center surrounded by country neighborhood and controlling over some part of irrigation system or river course. Uniting of several nomes led to the formation of the first states in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

At the end of the 2nd millennia B.C. the similar type of proto-urban and proto-state associations raised in the south of Middle Asian Dvurech’e, modern Surkhandarya province of Uzbekistan. It was Djar-kutan (nearby Sherabad city), a huge agglomeration covering a territory over 200 hectares and including several settlements, which formed a complex concentrated around common center, the fortified residence of a ruler and temple, having formed a core of ideological functions. But that was not only way of city genesis in Middle Asian Dvurech’e. There were different ways. Thus, many of them had formed in a course of gradual development from small settlements with citadels, which appeared at the beginning of the 1st millennia B.C. and gradually transformed into big cities. The other ones initially were constructed as refuges, which included huge, mostly, empty territory with citadel where, in a case of military danger, local inhabitants hid together with all their property and cattle. Later those territories were rendered habitable, different buildings and structures were built and a refuge became a city with all set of typical functions.

There were cities, which were constructed according to definite project and will of a king. This kind of genesis had been typical of the Hellenic world since Alexander the Great and his successor. In particular, Arrian informed that such city had been built by the order of Alexander the Great on the Bank of the Syr Darya (probably, the settlement of Kanka in Tashkent province) for 20 days and was inhabited by veterans of his army and local people.

The duration of ancient cities life depended on natural geographic, political and economic conditions and was different. Some of them, having passed a way of genesis and evolution, suddenly died (usually after military invasion) or gradually deserted and then never rose again. For example, many ancient settlements in Middle Asian Dvurech’e stopped their existence in the 4th – 5th cc. B.C. The other ones, gradually evolving, transformed into medieval and then in modern cities. In Middle Asian Dvurech’e they are rather numerous, but just some of them are 2500 years old or even elder (Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Kitab, Karshi, Termez), and in neighboring region – Merv and Serax.

Beside of evolutional and chronological aspect there is a territorial aspect in the history of cities of Middle Asian Dvurech’e. Some of them can be related to the type of so-called “migrating cities”, which because of some reasons moved from one place to another within definite area. In particular, this phenomenon was typical of Samarkand and Termez. The reason of their migration was common – the Mongolian invasion when they were totally destroyed and then occurred again on a new place beside. The other cities, for example Bukhara and Khiva, from the time of their foundation and till now have occupied one and the same place, what makes the archeological investigations extremely difficult.

Analysis of full set of evidences proves that availability of powerful cultural layers dated from different periods and reaching sometimes up to 20 meters in deepness is the most important condition of duration of city life and its status. They revealed the gradual passing from one stage of the development of urban structure to another definite scheme: initial settlement or a group of settlements – proto-city – early city – developed city of the Antique epoch (two-part and three-part) that included ark-citadel, proper city, suburb being formed with cult and burial structures and country side. Later, a medieval city became even more complicated in its structure and consisted of kuhendiz-citadel, proper city (madina or shahristan), and often of madina – kharidja, or shahri-biruna (inner city), and madina-dahil, or shahri- daruna (external city), and also of suburb-rabad, sometimes both internal and external too. At the same time each stage of development (except the earliest ones) bears basic features of city: strong fortification for all or almost all its parts, monumental structures of public, civil or cult-memorial buildings, developed handicraft manufacturing, trade-monetary relations, administrative and fiscal services.

Only in the case of these most important features and forward evolution from one stage towards another it is possible to say about historically long period of life of this or that city and great antiquity of its existence. Scientific facts prove that just few cities now existing in Central Asia, mainly in Uzbekistan, meet these conditions. Among them there are Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva, Merv as well as Termez and Shahrisabz, on the territory of which purposeful and systematic stratigraphic explorations have been done.

Author: Edvard Rtveladze

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