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Astana, July 26: Turkestan is sometimes understood to be a region covering roughly the area of former Soviet Central Asia, taking in present-day Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan as well as Xinjiang province in China. More precisely, Turkestan is an ancient city which was on the old Silk Road and is situated in the South Kazakhstan Region. The Margulan Archaeological Institute is currently conducting a major archaeological dig in Turkestan, which has revealed some fascinating and, until now, hitherto unknown details about the citadel which once stood on this site. The head of the excavation work, Yerbulat Smagulov, revealed details to the newspaper, Kazakhstanskaya Pravda.

    The most striking architectural feature of Turkestan is the Khodzha Akhmed Yasavi Mausoleum, which, with its sky-blue dome, is similar in appearance and size to the celebrated Bibi-Khanum Mausoleum in Samarkand in Uzbekistan. The dig, which is uncovering more and more of the ancient citadel, is situated just 300 meters to the south of the Mausoleum. It has already revealed four-meter high walls, with arched doorways and the remains of great arched ceilings.

    Experts now think that there was a cross-shaped building with an upper floor at the heart of the old city – yet only a few signs remain.

    Only three or four buildings of this design have been uncovered, in the Zhambyl and South Kazakhstan Regions, and these date back some 2,000 years. Experts believe that the building at the present excavation site could date from the first century BC.

    The current excavation is helping to form a more complete picture about the whole history of this fascinating place. Last year, pots were uncovered in the walls of the Mausoleum which had been used to offer sacrifices. They are believed to date from the ninth or tenth centuries. A clue to their age is a runic inscription on one pot which is thought to be in an as yet undeciphered script used in the ninth century.

    Archaeologists are beginning to talk about the whole territory of the ancient citadel being turned into a single large museum site. The excavations so far have already uncovered enough to present an architectural and archaeological vision of the start of the development of city life in the area. But the chief archaeologist working on the project, Yerbulat Smagulov, is aware that much has still to be done to make this dream of creating a museum site a reality. Until now, too little has been preserved of city life in the area, helping to promote the myth that there were no cities since the Kazakh people were always nomadic. The excavations at Turkestan are showing that 2,000 years ago there were already buildings of more than one storey, city walls and towers as well as places of spiritual importance.

    The excavations at Turkestan are uncovering secrets about life in the area which have been hidden for centuries. Not only could Turkestan fi nd itself in the future on a revived “Silk Road”, it could also become a major attraction for historians and cultural tourists.


Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Japan©2013