Throughout the whole history of Khujand, the city’s heart was its castle. Over 2,500 years, the Khujand fortress expanded together with the city, was destroyed by the conquerors, rebuilt anew, but always continued to be a symbol of endurance of the people.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the first fortress was built in the VI-V centuries BC, and consisted of an artificial embankment gradually developed into a thick wall of natural clay. Moreover, in addition to the fortress there was a city wall occupying 20 hectares. Along the walls there were deep moats filled with water.
During the heyday of the Great Silk Road Khujand fortress was rebuilt and the city wall as well. However, the city was growing even more, and was divided into three parts: the citadel, and rabad shahristan. By that particular time, the Khujand fortress was considered one of the most inaccessible fortresses in Central Asia.
However, the fortress was fated to fall under the onslaught of the Chenghis Khan’s army. In the period from 1219 to 1220 Khujand was under a siege, the number of invaders, at that, exceeded 25,000,000 people, excluding 50,000 captives, intended for work. Timurmalik, who led the defense of the fortress, could not offer resistance to the Mongol fleets and the city surrendered. The fortress was completely destroyed, and the siege of Khujand has become one of the biggest events in the history of Tajikistan.
Some historians argue that the fortress was rebuilt in the XV century, while others believe that the reconstruction began soon after the siege. However, nowadays, the Khujand fortress is the remains of walls and gates, as well as a territory of archaeological digs of the first wall foundation.
In 1999, a part of the eastern wall of the Khujand fortress dating back to VIII-X century was restored, and flunked to the building of the Museum of Local History, Archeology and Fortification. This museum has collected household items, pottery and implements found at the fortress territory. All in all, the museum fund consists of 1200 exhibits, most of which are available to visitors.
Located 30 km from Dushanbe (4-5 km from Hissar settlement) is one of the most important landmarks of Tajikistan – Hissar History and Culture Reserve. This name is related to archeological and architectural monuments of different ages found on its 86-hectar territory. The reserve location – Hissar Valley – is a vast intermountain hollow with the rivers Kafirnigan, Karatag and Shirkent. People inhabited this place in the Stone Age, in the 4th-3rd millennia B.C. Later the valley territory was a part of Bactria, and then of Greek-Bactrian and Kushan states. This fact is proved by the remains of ancient settlement found by the archeologists. However, today only orbicular mounds called “tepa” – “a hill” – has survived. In the Middle Ages Hissar was known for its crafts and markets. In the 18th – 19th centuries it was known as Hissar province – one of 28 domains of Bukhara Emirate. Hissar fortress which has survived since those times is considered the most famous landmark of the reserve.
The city is located in the central western part of the republic, in the center of Hissar Valley, the greenest and the most densely populated part of the country. The city is surrounded by mountains: from the north by the Hissar Ridge, from the south – the Gazimalik Mountains, from the southwest – the Babatag Mountains. It has been proven that people inhabited Hissar Valley 40 thousand years ago.
The sacred book of Zoroastrians «Avesta» mentioned this area as «Shumon». For the first time the word «Hissar» («hissor») as a name of a settlement, city or an administrative unit was mentioned in the 11th century. Then this word designated a site of ancient settlement with state armies, crafts, and a market. Way back then the city was the center of the most independent part of Samanid state.
In the late 19th and the early 20th centuries the architectural complex of the city consisted of two madrasahs, over a dozen mosques, four city gates, and a central market. The construction the modern Hissar in the form of kishlak began in the beginning of the twentieth century.
In 1952 the archeologists started exploration of a place near Kurgan Tube named Khisht-Tepa (” the Brick Hill”). Presumably there had to be the site of the “vanished” medieval capital. The entire area (about 70 hectares) abounded with pieces of pottery and glass, ceramic and metal slag, and fragments of burnt bricks. According to historians Hulbuk’s structures were made from these materials.
The further excavation proved that it was on this hill, in the center of Hulbuk, where the palace of the local ruler used to stand. The inspection of the remains of the citadel which was a part of the palace revealed that it stood on an even platform; its walls were made of mud bricks and tiled with burnt ones. The palace consisted of big rectangular rooms and long wide corridors. The parquet0like floors were laid with burnt bricks. The palace was richly decorated: the walls and ceilings were covered with wall paintings showing warriors, musicians and musical instruments as well as alabaster carving in the form of vegetative and geometrical patterns, Arabian inscriptions, images of fishes and mythical animals.
The further excavations revealed that under the palace, dated the 11th century, there are some earlier structures which means that the palace was constructed on the debris of another. It was also found that in the ancient city there were a sewer, water and heating systems with brick ducts and ceramic pipes. The rooms were heated by means of big jugs, khums, dug into the floor. A jug filled with hot wood coal gradually heated the floor. One of significant finds in Khuttal’ were huge Hulbuk ivory chess figures. The archaeologists found 20 intact and 8 half-destroyed ones.
Sarazm is an ancient town and jamoat in north-western Tajikistan. It is located in Panjakent District in Sughd province
The archaeological site of the ancient city of Sarazm is located near Durman, a town situated in the Zarafshan Valley of north-west Tajikistan in the Sughd province near the border with Uzbekistan.
The site indicates an early steppe presence in the Zarafshan Valley. About 5000 years ago it was “the largest metallurgical center of Central Asia engaged in export”. It was abandoned after the arrival of the Indo-Iranians, around 2000 BC.
The city is believed to have been revived as a mining point to collect from nearby sources of turquoise. Established no later than 1500 BC, the city also served as an important regional agricultural and copper production center.
The town was discovered by a local farmer named Ashurali Tailonov in 1976 who found a copper dagger protruding from a nearby construction site. It was excavated by Abdullo Isakov and French archaeologists beginning in 1977.
World Heritage Status
The proto-urban site of Sarazm was inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2010 as an archaeological site bearing testimony to the development of human settlements in Central Asia, from the 4th millennium BCE to the end of the 3rd millennium BCE”. It is the first World Heritage Site in Tajikistan
Buddha in Nirvana
Located 12 km far from Kurgonteppa the area is called Ajina Tepe by local inhabitants. Translation of this can be as “Devil’s Hill”, or “Hill of evil forces.” Perhaps such an attitude has developed among people living here because of the ugliness of this place, surrounded on three sides by ditches, barbed wire densely covered with pits and mounds.
Imagine everyone’s surprise, when launched in 1961 on the site excavations have helped to remove from the land of more than five hundred works of art: sculptures, reliefs, fragments of wall paintings, the rest of the ensemble from a single residential buildings and places of worship Buddhist monastery VII-VIII centuries.
Archaeologists have determined that the monastery in Ajina Tepe consisted of two parts (of the temple and monastery), two rectangular courtyards surrounded by buildings and strong walls. In one of the houses was a large mortar (building to house relics and sacred sites for designation).
In the corners of the yard were small stupas of the same shape as the Great Stupa. The monastery was richly decorated, the walls and vaults are covered with paintings. Within the walls there were niches where there were large and small sculptures of the Buddha (the image of all occupied a central place in the sculpture Ajina Tepe).
But the most sensational discovery Ajina Tepe was a huge statue of Buddha in Nirvana clay, found in 1966 in one of the corridors of the monastery. And, only the lower part of the figure was found – from the waist to the soles of the feet.
The upper part of the sculpture was heavily damaged. All other fragments of sculpture were found separately. In the same year work began to restore the statue restorers, which lasted until 1978. Then came a long break, which ended in 2000.
Today the sculpture of the Buddha in Nirvana on display at the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan in Dushanbe. It is the largest in size statue of Buddha found in the territory of modern Central Asia.
Petroglyphs (rock drawings) represent a distinct group of ancient monuments. The Pamirs, with more than 50 sites, is the richest area for rock drawings in Tajikistan.
They are found in the valleys of the Ghunt River (at the Chertym Dam), Panj (near Namatgut), Langar, Porshnev, Shohdara, Yazghulom, North Ak-Jilga villages and in the Bartang River estuary.
These are the main points of concentration of petroglyphs. They are divided into groups according to their approximate age. The earliest ones are dated from the bronze age, and the more recent ones are from the early medieval, developed medieval and modern periods. The greatest number of known petroglyphs are found in the Langar and Kisht village area in Ishkashim district. The total number of the rock drawings has not been counted, but there may be more than 6,000.
The drawings are carved on the surface of granite rocks. They are combined into several “fields” connected by a chain of separate pictures. They are found in the area starting from the foothills of the Shohdara range and extend almost as far as the watershed. The petroglyphs are usually drawings of mountain goats, yaks, deer, riders, and hunters with bows and dogs. Some drawings have been found at 3,200–3,300m above sea level.
The majority of the pictures were done using a “spot technique”, i.e. engraved by a metal tool or a stone. In odd cases one can find deeply engraved pictures made with a metal object. Sometimes pictures have been scratched using a sharp knife-edge. The pictures in Langar contain frequently repeated themes – scenes of hunting and of nakhchir (mountain goats). Most of these are drawings 10-20cm long, with occasional ones 30-40cm long. The biggest figure is 80cm, the smallest one 6cm. Also interesting are drawings of rubobs – a favourite local musical instrument. It is remarkable that there have been no other discoveries in Central Asia of a comparable quantity of petroglyphs showing musical instruments (about 300).
A hypothesis, based on Pamiri folklore, is that a rubob represents a man, therefore the discovered pictures are actually stylized pictures of the people. Another region with interesting petroglyphs is Vybist-dara. It is located 7-8km higher than the Debasta village (30km from Khorugh) at the end of a valley of the same name. There are four groups of rocky manuscripts. The central one has the biggest concentration of petroglyphs. Unlike the majority of Pamiri petroglyphs, in which themes of hunting wild goats with bows and dogs dominate, pictures in the Vybist-dara are devoted to the portrayal of people and ornaments. The oldest group of pictures comes from the second half of the 1st century B.C.
There are many petroglyphs on the 23 х 19m black shale stone of the Ak-Jilga River valley (left side of the Bazar-dara River) in the East Pamirs, a few kilometres from the remains of the ancient mining town of Bazar-dara. You can see pictures of mountain goats, an archer with a hooked nose and a pointed hat, and a two-wheeled chariot harnessed by horses and driven by coachmen. Pictures of chariots are well known in Central Asia and date from the bronze age.
It is difficult to say what the ancient people intended by their drawings. They may have had religious significance, or described their daily life. Perhaps it was just an expression of their imagination, or the desire to leave a permanent memento of themselves. One thing is clear – the drawings reflect the centuries-old history of the people who lived in this area or came here from other places.