Project Nomad state formation and urbanization on the northern Silk Road: The early medieval town of Dzhankent (Aral Sea…

Basic data

Title:
Nomad state formation and urbanization on the northern Silk Road: The early medieval town of Dzhankent (Aral Sea region, Kazakhstan)
Duration:
01/03/2018 to 28/02/2021
Abstract / short description:
This cooperative project with Korkyt-Ata State University of Kyzylorda (Kazakhstan; Dr. Azilkhan Tazhekeev) will explore the process of early medieval urbanization on the northern Silk Road in the context of nomad state formation and long-distance trade. The key site is the deserted town of Dzhankent which is recorded in Arab sources of the 10th to 12th centuries as the capital of the Oguz nomad empire. Key questions include the date of the foundation of the town and its predecessor settlement, its lay-out and functional elements, the composition, structure and changing economic activities of its population, and the reasons for its demise. These questions will be tackled with an interdisciplinary geoarchaeological approach by non-destructive prospection, excavation and enviromental studies in the town’s interior and its immediate surroundings, and by analysis of finds and findings. The project promises to give an impetus to the study of early medieval urbanization in western Kazakhstan by introducing new methodologies, and by putting the subject for the first time in the context of theories and debates from Central Asia to Western Europe.
The significance of the site derives from its historical context as well as its natural environment: the formation of the Oguz nomad state in the 9th/10th centuries and its contemporaneous urbanization, with its main towns located in the huge river delta of the Syr-Darya. One of the stimuli for urban development here may have been north-south trade (including slaves and livestock) to Central Asia. The role of Khorezmian middlemen in this trade appears to be reflected in the pottery, domestic architecture and urban planning of Dzhankent. Its location gives the project an added environmental relevance in that it contributes to the wider study of the desertification of the Aral Sea region. Environmental elements of our research programme will include the dating of river delta palaeochannels close to Dzhankent, and scientific analyses of soils, animal bones and fish remains from the site. The project will, thus, address socio-economic as well as environmental factors in the analysis of the urbanization process east of the Aral Sea.
The results are to be interpreted within the framework of Central Asian and European debates about urban origins and functions in early medieval state formation; these have so far been largely unconnected debates. The planned project will be conducted by a team of archaeologists from German and Kazakh institutions with complementary expertise and experience, supported by contracted scientists and scholars from Germany, Britain and Russia, and by an International Advisory Committee.
Keywords:
Kazakhstan
Aral Sea
Early Middle Ages
Urbanization
State formation
Silk Road

Involved staff

Managers

Institute of Prehistory and Medieval Archaeology (UFG)
Department of Ancient Studies and Art History, Faculty of Humanities
SFB 1070 - ResourceCultures. Socio-cultural Dynamics in the Treatment of Resources
Collaborative research centers and transregios

Local organizational units

Institute of Prehistory and Medieval Archaeology (UFG)
Department of Ancient Studies and Art History
Faculty of Humanities

Funders

Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
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