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Archaeological sites of Otrar oasis

Date of Submission: 24/09/1998
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Institute of Archaeology, Ministry of Science - Academy of Sciences
Coordinates: Otrar district, South Kazakhstan region. 42°43° N, 68°-68°30' E
Ref.: 1137
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Otrar oasis is an area of 200 sq km with archaeological remains of medieval towns and structures of irrigation. The main town is Otrar (I-XV1D AC), other towns are Kuyruk-Tobe (I-XV), Altyn - Tobe(I-XI), Pshakshi-Tobe (I-XII), Mardan-Kuyk (I-XV), Kok-Mardan (I-VII).

Otrar town is the largest medieval hillfort of Kazakhstan with an area of 170 ha.: in the first century AC was part of the Kangju empire; at the beginning of the VIII capital of the Kangars tribal confederation (Petchenegues) with the name of Kangu-Targan and later of Farab. Abn Nasr Farabi born here in 870 and Timur here died in 1405. It has all the typical features of a medieval Central Asian town: citadel, shahristan (a town in itself), rabat (suburbs) and fields, everything surrounded by walls.

Today the landscape is reduced to semidesert and the towns are in ruin, but, until the XV century, Otrar, together with the rest of the oasis, represented the main urban centre on the marginal zone between southern towns and northern steppes, between settlers and nomads of Central Asia. The oasis constituted a peaceful economical and cultural complex, an avant-post in attracting northern nomads, settling them down, and so importing elements of the nomadic culture into the sedentary societies. This is reflected in the town planning, architecture, in the art of pottery and jewelry.

Archaeological excavations brought into light the general plan of the territory, the irrigation system, the suburbs, and the earthen ruins of the towns. They are almost reduced to the plan, but, through the remains of towns, of canals and roads, it is possible to observe the evolution of this interaction of cultures stage by stage, from the very beginning to the period of final decay, when the Eurasian route lost its importance and the towns their economical role.