Thursday, 14 February 2013


I happened to come across this article about Paikend at the site of the Hermitage Museum of Sint Petersburg:

Amridin Berdimuradov, Director of the Institute of Archaeology, Uzbekistan, and Svetlana Adaksina, Chief Curator of the State Hermitage Museum

Paikend city wall dating 7th to 11th century

Paikend dig

Chor-Minor Madrassah

Bukhara Oasis in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: International Conference in Bukhara

From 22 to 24 August 2011, an International Conference "Bukhara Oasis in Antiquity and the Middle Ages" was held in Bukhara to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the expedition to Paikend carried out by the State Hermitage Museum and the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences, Uzbekistan.
Paikend, which was the expedition’s research subject, is one of the most interesting and well studied archaeological sites in Central Asia, and, in many respects, can be considered to be an exemplary monument to the period of the developed Middle Ages. This town, which was a major trade point on the Silk Road as well as a centre of Islamic learning and is mentioned in many medieval sources including in Shahnama, attracted scholarly attention long ago. Archaeological digs began in Paikend in the 1930s but were interrupted by World War II. A joint expedition was organised by the State Hermitage Museum and the Institute of Archaeology, Uzbekistan in 1981. The dig was for many years led by Grigory Semyonov from the Hermitage, who was a renowned expert on the archaeology of Central Asia and was in charge of the Hermitage’s Oriental Department. He left an indelible mark on both the history of science and of the museum and was a man of enormous creativity and great charm. The Ñonference was dedicated to his memory.
During its existence, the Bukhara expedition included large-scale archaeological research in Paikend, and discovered and studied various examples of religious and civil architecture. The research results attracted the attention of experts from all over the world, and the many finds enriched the collection of the Bukhara State Museum of Architecture and Arts. A major achievement was the opening of a branch of the museum in Paikend in 2002, with many exhibits to be envied by any museum in the world. The museum’s new exhibition was opened during the Ñonference after repair and reconstruction.
Conference members heard about 30 reports related to the history, archaeology, ethnography, and writing of Central Asia.


Just recently Don Croner visited this site  again and took a large quantity of detailed photo's.

Please have a look, quite interesting. What do you think of this beautiful pottery vessel?
"Locals are still uncovering artifacts from the ruins. This young man has a pottery vessel which an archeologist whom I consulted said was used to store mercury. Apparently there are other examples in museums. Among its many other uses, mercury was used in processing gold, and was exceeding valuable in Sogdian times. Shards of common pottery are found everywhere within the ruins." 




Uzbekistan | Bukhara Oasis | Paikend FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2013

In a post about the Early Sogdian History of the Bukhara Oasis I mentioned the ancient cities of Paikend and Varakhsha. I would be remiss if I did not make a few more observations about Paikend, known during its prime as “the city of merchants”, or “the copper town” (apparently for the quality of its copperware). Located at the southern entranceway to the Bukhara Oasis, Paikend may well be older than Bukhara itself, and for much of the first millenium a.d. may have been the more important of the two cities. It was the first major city in Sogdiana north of the Amu Darya River and most caravans that crossed the Amu Darya at Amol would have passed through the city. Through Amol it was linked to Merv in Khorasan and the great Silk Road cities of the Iranian Plateau and Mesopotamia beyond. From the east much of the caravan trade from China, Mongolia, and East Turkestan (now Xinjiang Province, China), would have been funneled through the city. Paikend was also famous for its locally produced silk, glassware, copperware, pottery, armor, and weapons. Chinese, Arab, Indian, Afghani, Persian, and European merchants could be found searching for bargains in the city’s marts and roistering in the less salubrious districts. 
Bukhara-Paikend-Amol Route (click on images for enlargements)
On source suggests that since so many of the men are often out of town on trade missions the city itself was garrisoned at least in part by women. Girls were taught horseback riding and archery from an earlier age.  Finely carved bone rings found in the ruins baffled archeologists for years before it was determined that women wore them on their middle fingers as a guard when drawing a bow string. Famously independent, the women of the city were known to pick out their own husbands and may have engaged in polyandry, a practice not unknown in societies where one husband could be gone for years at a time on trade expeditions and a spare or two would come in handy. 

As mentioned in an earlier post about the Arab Invasions of Sogdiana, Paikend was invaded by Islamic armies in the first decade of the eighth century and thoroughly plundered. Enormous amounts of booty were seized, including armor and weapons the quality of which amazed the Arabs. Ephemeral sources also indicate that numerous gold and silver “idols” were also looted and melted down for their metal. Whether these were Buddhist statues or those of some indigenous religion is not clear. Buddhism was certainly known and probably practiced in Paikend, along with a host of other religions, including Zoroastrianism and Nestorian Christianity. The city did recover and was rebuilt, as demonstrated by the remains of the mosque and minaret built after the Arab conquest. Presumably the city was no longer garrisoned by women after the arrive of Islam. 

The Tenth-Century Historian Narshakhi wrote that the merchants of the city had become extremely rich on account of the trade with China, and that any trader from the region who went to Baghdad was more likely to brag that he was from Paikend than from Bukhara. At one time nearly 1000 ribats, or caravanserais, surrounded the city. The record is far from unclear, but apparently Paikend fell from grace due to the lowering water table which left the city, which sits on a low rise, high and dry. In the early twelfth-century the Khwarezmshah Arslan attempted to revive Paikend by supplying it with water via a new canal, but construction of the waterway proved to be too difficult and the project was eventually abandoned. Today Paikend is in ruins, but traces of its former greatness can still be seen, and if you listen very carefully you can still hear the muted laughter of women from the city’s battlements. 
Watchtowers in the old city wall were located about 180 feet from each other

To see all photo's, go to the site of Don Croner and click on one of them, to see them all enlarged

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