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Home Asia Uzbekistan Kyzyl Kala & Toprak Kala
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Asia - Uzbekistan
21 August 2010

Kyzyl Kala and Toprak Kala, Uzbekistan

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On a daytrip from Khiva, we drove through Urgench, towards the Kyzylkum desert, to see remains of nearly 2000 year old Khorezmian civilizations. We drove criss-cross through the flat lands until we saw the first fort rising in front of us: Kyzyl Kala, nowadays practically land-locked by cotton fields. Especially from afar the sharp lines could clearly be seen. Once within, we found it completely filled-up with sand that had been blown in centuries long and turned to hard mud. Here and there water had provided opportunities to peek down in the inner parts of the fort, revealing corridors and arches.

After visiting Kyzyl Kala we moved on to Toprak Kala, a nearby temple complex from the same Khorezm empire. From afar it was not too impressive, but once near, it gave a good idea of what it had looked like from the inside.

From Toprak Kala we drove to the third and last major structure we were to see: Ayaz Kala, the most spectacular of three!

Below some background information about both sites.

Kyzyl Kala

The Kyzyl-Kala fortress is located in the territory of Ancient Khorezm (modern Karakalpakstan) in the vicinity of ancient town Toprak-Kala. According to some data, Kyzyl-Kala was a part of the Toprak-Kala fortified system and served as additional defenses.

Kyzyl-Kala is a monument of the last stage of antique Khorezm architectural history and can be considered as a prototype of the Afrigid period castles corrugated with massive columns.

This architectural site was discovered during a Khorasan expedition headed by S.P. Tolstov in 1938. All basic study of the fortress was conducted by the expedition staff. The fortress itself is not large in size and almost square in form. The study of the foundation and the structure ruins showed that the fortress was surrounded with a double vallum, and there were watchtowers in every corner of the fortress. A main street in the center of the settlement led to a temple of fire-worshippers where Zoroastrian priests were holding their sacramental rites. The residential part of the city was divided by a street into several sections with several rooms in each, where people lived by families.

Kyzyl-Kala is a unique architectural site of Ancient Khorezm of the Kushan-Afgan period of the antique history. It stands in the middle of the plain as a sentinel guarding the Toprak-Kala fortress, the pearl of ancient Khorezm. There is a legend that Toprak-Kala and Kyzyl-Kala are joined by an underground passage. This is quite possible, since Kyzyl-Kala managed to exist till Chengiz Khan invasion, being a part of the defensive installation system of the Khorezmshakh State.

Toprak Kala

The ancient settlement Toprak-Kala is an outstanding monument of culture of Khorezm in 1-6th centuries A.D. The capital of Khorezm was here in the 3rd century A.D. Toprak-kala was discovered by by the Khorezm expedition under the guidance of S.P. Tolstova in 1938. According to the plan, the city had a form of a correct rectangle. The palace of the governor - a huge castle with three towers- was located in a northwest corner. The fire temple was in the south east from the castle. A long street dividing the city into two parts led from the fire temple to south direction. Lanes departing from it separated massive houses-blocks, forming the capital of the late slave-owning Khorezm.

Built in the 3rd century, the fortress was used as the residence of khorezmshakhs - governors of the country- up to 305 A.D. Numerous aggressive wars forced the governors to leave the residence, and the city gradually fell into decay.

Coins, fragments of ossuaries (Zoroastrians canopic jars), magnificent samples of art culture were found during archeological excavations: thin manufactured ceramics, wool, silk fabrics, gold ornaments and a necklace of 300 glass beads, paste, amber, corals, bowls.

Archeologists also discovered workshops manufacturing bows that made Khorezm famous. The architecture of the monument is a remarkable sample of town-planning and fortification art of ancient Khorezm. The governors palace with three towers is of particular interest. Three grandiose towers with rooms inside mounted 30 metres up, their height of 25 metres today is an evidence of advanced level of architecture development in Khoresm.

However the Toprak-Kala is famous not only with its unusual architecture but also with unique finds in ancient Khorezmian language, discovered at four building in the south-eastern part of the palace. Archeologists found 116 documents written with black ink on wooden plates and on leather rolls. Eighteen wooden documents remained in a very good state. Though documents are not completely read yet, their nature is already defined. These are economic documents from the palace archive. Three of the found documents had precise dates - 207, 231 and 232 AD.

Along with the archive, sculptures and painting also attract interest. It is not without reason that Toprak-Kala is named a museum of the fine arts of Ancient Khorezm. It is the unique completely dug out monument of architecture of Khoresm. The sizes and genius of an architectural design make Toprak-Kala one of the most unique monuments of Khorezm.

Source of text on Kyzyl Kala and Toprak Kala: advantour.com