Outstanding archeological discoveries of Uzbekistan in the years of Independence

Shokir Pidayev,

One of the important directions in the researches of archeologists of Uzbekistan is study of Paleolithic monuments. They discovered dozens of rock paintings of the Old Stone Age, Neolithic era. The remains of an ancient man having more than million age, found in Selyungur demonstrate indisputable including of the territory of Uzbekistan into the zone of formation of the most ancient man. In recent years, in Obirakhmat grotto bones typical for a modern human were found with signs of mixing of Neanderthal and Homo sapiens genomes living 50 thousand years ago.
Due to this discovery, the beginning of domestication of animals in Uzbekistan became elder on 2 thousand years, i.e. up to the VII millennium B.C.
Among important sources of historical and cultural heritage of Uzbekistan there are rock paintings, the study of which received much attention in the years of independence. The archaeological and conservation works on rock paintings in Sarmyshsay settlement on Karatau near Navoiy carried out by the staff of the Institute of Archeology of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan are especially significant, thanks to which several hundreds of petroglyphs were renovated. In total there were revealed more than 5000 subject paintings and whole compositions, which were imprinted on stones. In the light of the latest discoveries we can call the paintings of Sarmyshsay, without exaggeration, the unique and unrepeatable memorial museum under the open sky. They eloquently illustrate everyday life, religious and spiritual beliefs of the population living there throughout several millennia. In the same place paintings imprinted in the eras of Neolith, Bronze, Early Iron, Antiquity, Middle Ages and present period were also revealed. Now Sarmyshsay is one of the most visited objects by both local population, and foreign tourists interested in the history and rich culture of our country.
Study of the ancient agricultural oases and formation of urbanization on the local cultural and economic basis is important for the history of Central Asia. Scientists revealed zones of ancient urbanization and their local features indicating that the southern regions of Uzbekistan were included in the zone of formation of proto-urban civilizations of the first order. These were confirmed by the archaeological works carried out on the monuments of Sapallitepa and Dzharkutan, where not only the foundation of the early cities and statehood was laid, but also the most ancient world religion – Zoroastrianism was created. It is a monotheist religious and philosophical system, which concepts substantially influenced the formation and development of Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. The monument related to Zoroastrianism dates back to the Bronze Age and is located in the South of Uzbekistan (Dzharkutan), where in the “Vedic period” this religion was founded and got wide circulation during the “Avesta period” during distribution of “painted ceramics” cultures of the early Iron Age (XIII-IV centuries BC), which Indo-Iranian speaking representatives had already spread across entire territory of Central Asia. Questions about time and place of origin of the Zoroastrian religious and philosophical system are still controversial. Only new archaeological evidences can answer to them. Material confirmation of researches of linguists and data of ancient authors is considered in science an indisputable fact. Temples of the IV centuries BC with the signs allowing to interpret them as Zoroastrian ones were revealed during archaeological researches conducted in the territory of Sogd (Sangirtepa) and Northern Bactria (Kindyktepa) from the beginning of independent development of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
A fire worship temple of the V century BC, which was discovered in Humbuztepa settlement on the territory of the Khorezm oasis and explored, deserves a special attention. In the central hall of the temple there was a floor altar built on a sufa with traces of powerful deposit from burning of fat and oil. Figurative small altars of “classical” form and remains of dakhmas of the VI and IV centuries BC were also found there. Discovery of the most ancient temple of fire and Zoroastrian dakhmas on Humbuztepa confirms the opinion of Uzbek scientists that the territory of Khorezm is the cradle of Zoroastrianism. The various ceramic and metal products found in the temple are characterized by high manufacturing technique and elegance of forms. Development of architectural and planning structure of the temple indicates that by the V century BC the canonized plan of Zoroastrian temples had been developed here, which later got dissemination until the end of the early Middle Ages on the whole territory of Central Asia.
No less interest is attracted by discovery of archeologists of Uzbekistan on the ancient settlement Akchakhankala in Karakalpakstan. In the light of new researches this monument is interpreted as one of residences of the old khorezmian kings. The large-scale researches conducted here since 1996 have shown that the monument consisted of two cities – internal and external and had a well-developed and powerful fortification system. In the internal city archeologists revealed public and religious constructions, one of which is a religious square building of 60х60 m in size and strengthened by powerful defensive walls with intra wall corridors. Walls of one of the corridors had wonderfully executed polychrome subject painting, depicting a procession of people leading animals, most likely horses. It is known that in ancient Khorezm, one of the esteemed animals was a horse – a symbol of the sun. All images on the painting are executed in profile. The manner of their execution and plastic solution is very similar, though each depicted image is original and unique in the own way, attracts attention of the viewer, who feels like a party to this scene. The portrait gallery of the khorezmian kings is also unique. The discovery of the wall painting once again confirms the uniqueness and originality of high artistic culture of ancient Khorezm.
The most important issue actively developed by scientists of the Republic of Uzbekistan is the study of cities and settlements of antiquity and the Middle Ages, their fortifications, residential and religious architecture, the remaining of funeral constructions and handicraft industries, when they established regular contacts with the centers of world civilizations. To the unique finds of that period we can include the complex with five or more than tens of bullas – prints of seals, rings and gems found during archaeological works on a citadel in Kafirkala ancient settlement near Samarkand, which is interpreted by researchers as one of residences of Samarkand governors. The majority of the bullas belongs to the VII-VIII centuries AD. Among them there are samples relating even to earlier period. Images on the bullas differ on the style and subject. Among finds there are prints with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images. Several bullas have prints from certain signs – tamgas. A special group is constituted by bullas with impressions made in either bust or full-length images of deities, and also secular persons – probably owners of the seals. Among the zoomorphic images on the seals, images of a horse, camel and boar are represented more often, and the images of a lion, deer, elephant and other animals – rarer. Possibly, the last group of images on seals could serve to the owners as amulets. Among the complex of prints on the bullas there are individual instances indicating that some seals were done in such highly artistic execution, that they, without exaggeration, could be referred to the number of glyptic masterpieces. Even tiny details of the depicted images were engraved on them in perfection. We can say that the bullas found in Kafirkala ancient settlement open a qualitatively new page in study of portraiture of small plastics of Central Asia in pre-Islamic period.
To the number of discoveries of global significance we can include the palace of the Karakhanids time (XII – early XIII century AD) on Afrasiab ancient settlement, which excavations were carried out by Uzbek archeologists in cooperation with their French colleagues. The palace in terms of its architectural structure and richness of internal decoration has no analogues in medieval architecture of the Islamic world. The throne-hall of the palace was decorated by monumental polychrome subject wall painting. It is known that subject paintings of Islamic time are met extremely seldom on the territory of Central Asia. A whole picture gallery was found in the palace on Afrasiab. The painting amazes and delights with its general composition of the plot, style of its presentation, palette of used colors and technique of execution. The central place in the composition is taken by a governor’s image sitting on a king’s throne surrounded by the confidants and the security. The size of the governor’s figure in rich clothes decorated with the images of mythical creatures – harpies or sirens (a creature with a woman’s head and bird’s body) is twice more than other images. The throne was covered by a fabric with an elegant floral ornament. Walls of the hall consisted of several separate “frames”. In one of them an archer is depicted, in another – a rider, and in the third – a woman with a bouquet. During decoration of the hall the artist skillfully included an image of the mythical bird – Simurg. High professional skills of the artist decorating the throne-hall are reflected not only in the images of the main characters, but also animals, floral motives and epigraphy. Images of a tiger, bear, dogs and hares are presented in motion. There are all bases to assume that during creation of this painting the artist drew all the best of the pre-Islamic traditions of Sogd and Bactria – Tokharistan. He skillfully coordinated them to ideological requirements of Islam. In general, we can say, that discovery and study of the palace of the Karakhanids on Afrasiab became a new milestone in study of early Islamic art of Uzbekistan and all Asia, demonstrating to the world its uniqueness and diversity.
From the first years of independence the priority direction facing the archaeological science of the Republic of Uzbekistan became the direction about origin, formation and development of the cities of the republic, their role in political and economic, cultural and spiritual life of the society at different stages of development and their contribution to the world civilization. In the result of the large-scale archaeological researches in this direction the scientists were able to determine age of many cities of our country. Under the auspices of UNESCO the 2750th anniversary of Samarkand, 2700th anniversaries of Qarshi and Shakhrisabz, 2500th anniversaries of Bukhara, Khiva and Termez, 2200th anniversary of Tashkent and the 2000th anniversary of Margilan were widely celebrated.
Archaeological researches on Kampyrtepa ancient settlement in Surkhandarya deserve a special attention. This unique monument of antique period at the crossing point through Amu Darya (Oxus) River is almost completely researched now at the level of the upper construction horizon by the expedition headed by the academician E.V. Rtveladze. The artifacts found here testify to its exclusively important role on the Great Silk Road. The results of the Kampyrtepa researches allowed to recreate the common appearance of the Bactrian cities of Kushan period and to reveal features of the urban-planning structure. We should specially mention the conservation and restoration works carried out here, which allowed to turn the monument into the object of visit by both Uzbek, and foreign tourists.
The important direction in researches of archeologists is development of problems of study of craft and trade centers on the Great Silk Road. For these purposes, a large set of measures is developed, relating to the study of cult and religious centers, as well as separate phenomena in spiritual culture of the ancient population of Uzbekistan, testifying to ancient traditions of tolerance in the society. Excavations of a large religious center on Karatepa near Termez, a “retransmitter” of Buddhism to Central Asia, China, Korea and Japan became a major contribution to study of world art and spiritual culture. Archeologists of Uzbekistan together with the Japanese researchers study the monumental Buddhist monastery of the I-IV centuries AD, which cult constructions strike not only for their sizes, but also innovative architectural and construction concepts, richness and elegance of the interior decoration. Walls of the monastery rooms were decorated with subject polychrome paintings and furnished by stone clay-ganch sculptures. These are images of the characters of Buddhist pantheon, including Buddha, bodhisattvas, ascetics, monks and mythical birds and animals. The images of secular persons, who are represented in dynamics and very expressive, are not less interesting. Developed and original level of art of ancient Bactria is illustrated by the found objects of artistic culture, which had much in common with Gandhara-Buddhist and Greek-Roman art. Each object of artistic culture discovered on Karatepa is original and unique, demonstrating that in the I-IV centuries AD the highest class artists-sculptors lived and created in the territory of Termez, whose works even after thousands of years delight and admire viewers.
In the light of the latest archaeological discoveries in the Republic of Uzbekistan questions of ethnogenesis and ethnic history of the Uzbek people are successfully developed. A new direction in archeology is implementation in practice of methods of the natural and technical science, focused on the study and preservation of historical heritage. For this purposes unique methods of preservation and restoration of ancient monumental painting and sculpture are developed, ancient production technologies, such as metallurgy, pottery, glass, weaving and jewelry crafts are reconstructed.
During the independence the archaeological science of the Republic of Uzbekistan has arisen to qualitatively new – high world level. Archeologists of the republic conduct joint research with leading scientific centers of France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Australia and Russia, actively establish scientific relations with colleagues from Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. They are initiators and organizers of a number of international symposiums and congresses on the problems of the Stone Age, Bronze Era, urbanization, integration of cultures along the Great Silk Road.

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