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Relics of the Past

Ancient and medieval monuments located in the territory astonish visitors with their antiquity and greatness. They are so mysterious and romantic that they attract one’s persistent interest. Built as defense buildings or palaces, these monuments have become a real decoration of history. A number of relics of the past and impressing archeological places give their guests a unique opportunity to make a tour through centuries of the past.

Hundreds of archeological monuments dating back from the palaeolithic era till the late middle ages, were found in the territory of Karakalpakstan. A number of them such as Tuprokkala, Ayazkala complex, Mizdakhan complex have for a long time been visited by tourists, but there are also other monuments which are as interesting and unique as the ones mentioned above .

Chilpik (Shilpik) a pray house construction, II-IV, IX-XII A.D.

Chilpik, the ring-shaped construction, lies on the top of a cone-shaped hill with 35-40 meters high, near the road 42 kilometers south from Nukus. It has an unclosed and a bit flat round form with diameters about 65-79 m. The walls reach 15 meters high. In early ages of A.D. Chilpik was constructed as Zoroastric dahma (hill of silence) which was used by Zoroastrians as a place to put the dead in the open air. The dead were left for birds to eat. Once the bones were free from the flesh they collected and put them into earthenware to bury.

In 9-11 centuries locals used it as a signal turret which served as a landmark for water caravans in Amudarya.

There are many legends connected to this curious monument. It is said to have been a residence for a princess with her lover slave. They hid here to avoid the wrath of her father.

Another legend states this construction was erected by an ogre and the tower on the west of the path leading to the river, was formed from a lump of clay which came out through his fingers when he built the walls. Just as in the case of other sights, at least one legend sounds more or less plausible.

Gyaur kala Sultanuizdag

Located on the right side of the Amudarya River on the way to Turtkul, 80 kilometers south from Nukus. It is possible to drive there on the small macadam road which leads down to the river, turns and flows straight along the fortress. The fortress was founded in early antique period and was used until 4th century A.D.  Now northern wall and a small part of the western wall are the only remnants of the fortress. Primarily the fortress had a trapezoid form with double walls and double-tiered galleries for archers, turrets and embrasures, typical to Khoresm architecture.

The preserved remnants of this site are rather high which means the walls were too long to pass or too high to climb?. The northern wall is 200 meters long, and the eastern and western walls were more than 400 meters long. There is a monumental building preserved in the northwest corner of the fortress. Several small halls ornamented with sandy-based columns, slightly plastered walls with inscriptions on them, and evidently, a chancel were found in it. This building was probably a temple of fire. Gyaur kala was used approximately till the 3rd century AD.

There is a legend linked to this place as well:

Long ago in the town of Kipchak, there lived a heavenly man by the name of Shish-paygambar, whose wife was very beautiful. Gyaur, a wealthy and handsome boy, fell in love with her. She loved him too, but the sweethearts couldn’t find a way to be together.

Gyaur decided to build a fortress in the mountains and from there to dig a tunnel leading under his lover’s house. Soon the sweethearts got the chance to meet; however, some time later, the husband learned about his wife’s unfaithfulness. He got them together and attacked Gyaur. They began fighting but none of the men could win the battle. When Gyaur got tired he addressed his sweetheart begging for help. She threw a handful of seeds of millet under her husband’s feet. He slipped and fell down. After falling he called his faithful dog, which came running and bit Gyaur’s leg. Getting a fatal wound he fell.

Shish paygambar called his wife and told her: “do you see how the dog is faithful to his owner?” He hoped that she would regret and become faithful again but she turned back and went away. Shish paygambar, irritated, ran after her and killed her. He ordered his children to cut off his legs after his death, throw them away and bury only his body.

Jampik kala, fortress town 9-12, 13-14 centuries.

The town fortress is located 6 kilometers southwards from Karatau village, in the southwestern part of Sultanuizdag column. It is One of the most picturesque monuments of the right bank of Amudarya. The city fortress has a complex configuration. Archeological excavations led us to determine its chronology. The most ancient ceramics, date to 4 BC- 1 AD. The date of the last settlement is determined by coins 1319-1320 years, and 1345-1346. During the excavations numerous findings, brought from various eastern and western countries (China, Egypt, Europe, India), were obtained. The city fortress served as a harbor city. In the outskirts of Jampik kala, one can see the immense territory of Baday Tugay national reserve park.

Toprak-kala

It is located several kilometers southwards from Sultanuizdag column, close to the Nukus-Turtkul highway. It consists of big ruins, which still reach more than 20 meters high above surrounding agricultural constructions. Ancient system of channels brought water here from the tributary (now dried out) of the river Oks.

The fortress was erected during the Kushan period approximately second and third centuries AD and served as residence for Khoresm kings. The city fortress consists of five parts: sector of houses, erected along straight streets  within the boundaries of fortified constructions; a piece of land around the temple; an enormous monumental building, identified as a palace or temple; outer palace complex; and a large, fenced place which perhaps was a palace garden.

The central street with nine meters in width stretched from the beginning to the end of the city, and adjacent streets across the central street forming districts of houses on both sides of the main avenue.  All of these buildings belong to the second through sixth centuries AD. Part of them were used as workshops and places for manufacturing. One of the pieces of land was separated under the temple complex which, judging by the amount of cinders in and around the buildings, was a temple of fire.   In neighboring building there were found a great amount of jewelry including bracelets ornamented with curls like a sheep horn, glassware, beads and rings. Parts of gypsum statues and pieces of gold were obtained as well. The palace located in the northwest of the castle is considered as one of the largest and best preserved monumental buildings of Kushan period in Central Asia. The whole complex was constructed on the handmade platform 14 meters high on which stands central building in the form of  square with adjacent rooms protected by towers. Most rooms in the central building have niches (shelves) with remains of earthen sculptures of natural size that are assumed to be the statues of kings. Other accommodations are richly decorated with frescos which describe various figures including people, mythological characters and animals.

One of the rooms the so called “the Room of Kings” had a chancel of  sacrificial fire in the centre, and along the walls there stood statues in a line that depicted  the rulers of Khoresm. Another room,-  “ the Hall of Victories” had an illustration in the form of bas-reliefs of sitting rulers with Goddess described above them. Decoration of the palace rooms reflected the military courage and the power of the  king.

“The Hall of Deer” was ornamented with pictures of deer and there were fixed panels above them with images of griffons. Numerous other decorations on the walls expressed grapes and pomegranate trees. There was a “Hall of Dance” in  the palace as well with pictures of dancing men and women. The main niche (shelf ) had an illustration of a goddess with a wild animal. These rooms were presumably used to hold rituals for productivity of the royal family. The complex is connected to throne hall located inside of the palace with entrance gates with three arches. In the northeast of the building there was a corridor with images on the walls describing water and fish which shows its relation with the divinity of water.

The most valuable findings are the manuscripts that are considered to be the largest collection among the existing ones in Choresmian language. The texts were written on leather and wood and majority of their contents concerned economy, receipts,  including the list of slaves and workers.

The palace which served as a royal temple and the residence of Choresmian kings was abandoned in the third and fourth centuries AD. The fortress existed till 400 AD when there was a military catastrophe after which in the place life didn’t restart , and on its walls began functioning Zoroastrian tombs.

Kizil Kala (the Red Fortress)

The castle, located 1.3 kilometers  west of Toprakkala, was erected and settled at the same time as its bigger companion. It lies on a flat place among canals and fields. It is almost a square shaped construction. It has towers on its two sides, the walls are well preserved and in certain places they reach 13-16 meters. The entrance to the fortress is in the southwest wall and a steep path leads to it.

Kizil Kala was primarily built in the late antiquity, from the first through the fourth centuries AD, but it was abandoned then it was restored again in the twelveth and thirteenth centuries on the eve of Mongol conquest. The walls were made of raw  brick and the outer wall has embrasures in the form of an arrow. Scholars argue concerning its purpose, some consider that it was used as garrison barracks for troops whereas other scientists think it is an early form of numerous manor houses that was peculiar to early medieval Khoresm.

As many other castles Kizil Kala too has its own legends. The Inside of the fortress is well preserved and visitors entering here find themselves on the second floor, and the lower rooms may be seen in certain places where brick is washed away. Curious locals often came scrambling into these cellars being sure to find here gold, however almost every time they encountered snakes which loved to hide here from blazing sun. It bore a legend which says that a huge pile of gold was hidden here and no one could get it because it is protected by a big snake or demon.

Ayaz Kala

>Ayaz kala is regarded as one of the most effective castles in Khoresm. In fact there are a group of three fortresses located around a hill on the east of Sultanuizdag. The first castle Ayaz Kala 1 lies on the top of rock and is believed one of the forts built in the outskirts of Kizilkum desert. Being one of the sections of defense system of ancient Khoresm it provided protection from nomadic attacks. Climbing up the rock and looking at the western direction one can see other sections of the chain of frontier defense constructions- the small and big Kirkkiz Kala fortresses.

 

Ayaz Kala 1 occupies 2.7 hectares and has a rectangular shape. The walls have preserved their ten meter height. They still have traces of double tiered galleries for archers and loopholes at an equal distance from each other. The lower gallery is at ground level. These galleries provided protection and ease for archers to move .The arched roofs of the lower galleries have remained safe and visitors can walk in them. The construction of arches began in the fourth century BC, when a tiered fence was built.  Later, 3 century BC, round towers were erected. A complicated system of gates is typical of  Choresmian frontier castles. Massive gates protected by two right angled towers lead to a small rectangular space surrounded by high walls from which archers could shoot at the enemy in case the latter managed to break through the first gate. A rectangular turn towards the second gate leading straight into the fortress destroyed the last effort of the enemy.

The castle is thought to have been used until the 1st  century AD, however it could possibly serve as a shelter for locals till the early Middle Ages. There is a legend related to the fortress according to which in ancient times a Choresmian king ordered to build a castle for the protection of northern boundaries of his country from nomadic attacks. He announced that the man who was able to build such fortress would marry his beautiful daughter. A shepherd by name Ayaz who lived near the Khoresm boundary proceeded to build the castle but then he discovered that the king broke his promise and let his daughter marry a different man.  Having heard this, the shepherd terminated the construction and it remained undone. Interestingly, archeological investigations show us that the fortress is in fact unfinished.  

Ayaz Kala 2 is a small oval castle connected by a steep pathway to a village in a level area to the west from it. A gate in the southwest, the steep pathway or the circuitous footpath from the north lead to the castle. There is a slope way down from the gate which formerly linked the castle gate to the entrance of  a big and magnificent palace below the hill. Halls with columns, an elegant bench, a ceremonial stage, frescoes and a temple of fire were discovered by the archeologists. Coins of Choresmian kings from Afrigids dynasty, in particular the coins by the king Bravik were obtained here. The palace was constructed approximately in the fourth century AD, and later destroyed by two conflagrations that took place one after another. Soon it was resettled again and was used as a residence during the 6th and 7th centuries AD.

Ayaz kala 3 is a castle in the shape of parallelogram built on an open level area downwards from Ayaz Kala 1. It has double strata walls protected by rectangular  steeples round the fortress and a complicated construction gate in the centre of the western wall. The castle occupies the area of 5 hectares. The outer walls were built in the first and second centuries AD, while the monumental building in the northwest of the castle was perhaps erected earlier –approximately fifth or sixth centuries BC.

Ayaz Kala 3 was evidently  used as a garrison in Kushan period or perhaps as the king’s residence and a shelter for local peasants whereas the older castle, Ayaz Kala 1 on the top of a hill, could be occupied by a small group of warriors and used as a place of observation. Around the walls there were found remnants of peasantry, agricultural constructions and vineyards. According to archeologists in Ayaz Kala settlement wine making developed. They found rooms where wine was made and kept.  In these rooms huge dishes (khums) for keeping wine were discovered. According to calculations by archeologists approximately 10-12 tons of wine could be made in Ayaz Kala during a year.

Kirk Kiz Kala (The Fourty Girls Fortress)

It is located to the north from an ancient Berkutkala oasis, near Sultanuizdag chain in Ellikkala region of the republic. It dates back to the 4th  century BC and 7th-8th centuries AD. Life prospered in the castle from the third through the fifth centuries AD. It lies near irrigated areas and is a constituent part of the chain of  frontier castles, situated to the east of Ayaz Kala. It is near the highway Buston-Turtkul. The fortress was founded in early antiquity then restored again in the 7th through the 9th centuries AD. It was the centre of ceramics manufacturing during Afrigids reign.

Kurgashin Kala

Kurgashin Kala lies near the same mountain chain 17 kilometers north from Djanbas Kala. The castle is well preserved and several towers are still high.  It occupies 1.4 hectares. Kurgashin Kala was constructed in the third and fourth centuries BC and was used until the 4th century AD. The castle is regarded as extraordinary in the way that it has round and rectangular defense steeples manufactured in various methods. They are fixed in every corner. The gate was in the centre of southeastern wall and had a protection maze before it. Defense constructions on the front enhance the safety of the fortress. The castle is located in an important area and defended the northeastern territory of ancient Choresmia. According to local shepherds the name of the castle originated from a Turkish word which meant “lead”(metal) that is obtained not far from this place.

Guldursun Kala Big

Guldursun fortress is located near the Buston-Turtkul highway. The castle was built on the base of an ancient deserted fortification. It is regarded as one of the largest fortifications in ancient Choresmia.  The outer walls and steeples date back to the 12th century. The castle has complicated fortification constructions and a monumental gate located in the middle of the eastern wall. During archeological excavations a great deal of ceramics dating back to the ancient and medieval period as well as a lot of commodities from brass and coins were obtained here. Judging by the coins the castle was settled before 1220 during the reign of Mukhammad Khoresmshakh when Mongol troops launched Khoresm.

A number of legends are connected to this place. One of the most famous legends narrates the way this fortress got its name.

Gyaur Kala of Khodjeyli

Is located near Mizdahkan - archeological architectural ensemble, 4th century BC, 14th century AD

The archeological ensemble of ancient Mizdakhan is located on a large area more than 200 ga, along highways near Kunya-Urgench (Turkmenistan) and northern regions of Karakalpakstan- Kungrad, Muynak and Ustyurt Plateau.

Main parts located on three hills include Gyaur Kala fortress, Shamun Nabi, Muzlumkhan Sulu, Khalfa Erejep and Karavansarai mausoleums.

Unique Assyrian tombs, coins, various household items, glassware, masterpieces from gold were obtained during excavations.

Puljay

The castle lies 45 kilometers to northwest from Kungrad. It consists of several parts. Near the edge of the Ustyurt plateau there are the ruins of a tower. The castle stands on the very edge of the ravine. Downwards on a plain area there is a big settlement.

A tetragonal tower was built from sheared stones. At present it is completely ruined and is like a huge pile of stone and its pieces.

The castle is preserved much better, and has a shape of regular tetragon. There are towers fixed on all angles and in the middle of the walls.

The fortress was built in the 9th  and 10th centuries after the water came to the region as a result of a crush in the dam near Kurganja (modern Kunya urgench, Turkmenistan) and the change of Amudarya river.
Puljay was a commercial factory as well, where trade relations between medieval nomads of Ustyurt (Oguz, Kipchak) and Choresmian merchants took place.

The 12th and early 13th centuries were the  time of significant development of the settlement. It was due to the formation of the Great Choresmian Empire and total growth of economic and cultural life in Khoresm. In this period Puljay occupied a very beneficial geographical position, as it lay on a large caravan road which connected Central Asia to Eastern Europe. 

The city was presumably important as a dealer in commercial relations between steppe tribes and the population of Khorem with settled peasantry.

In the 14th century as a result of military campaign by Amir Temur as well as flood waters from the Aral Sea, the castle and the settlement became deserted and life didn’t restart here.

Another trade factory where Choresmians accomplished commercial relations with Ustyurt nomads was Kurganch ( Davlatgirey) located on the Ustyurt Ravine (chink) between its edges called Ulkentumsuk and Aktumsuk, 146 kilometers north from Puljay. Driving up to the ravine  (chink ) one can see a signal turret standing on the landslides. The castle is inconspicuous from the chink. One needs to come down on a slope and walk about a kilometer beneath the ravine edge. The fortress lies right below the turret.

The monument has a rectangular shape with the size of 50x44 meters, with walls facing the four cardinal points of the universe.  Sphere and oval shaped beads from blue glass and shells with holes to thread onto a string were obtained here. Ceramics date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Slope brickwork applied to the tower in the southwest corner is peculiar to Golden Horde period in Khoresm.

The castle is regarded as remains of a trade factory where commercial bartering between Choresmians and Northern nomads took place.