Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dinosaurs of Uzbekistan - Timurlengia euotica

A new species of tyrannosaur which has been named Timurlengia euotica has been discovered in the Kyzyl Kum desert of Uzbekistan.  From just a handful of fossilised bones and a well preserved brain case, palaeontologist’s have been able to build a picture of the Timurlengia euotica. The fossils found are believed to be dated to 90 to 92 million years old, in the Cretaceous period.

This early tyrannosaur was a close cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex and its discovery may hold the key to explaining how its infamous big cousin went on to become such fearsome predators and reach such massive sizes. It would have weighed between 170 to 270 kilograms, would have been about the size of a horse, covered in a mixture of skin and feathers. It was a nimble pursuit hunter and would have chased down its prey before making short work of them with its slender razor sharp teeth. It probably preyed on the various large plant-eaters, especially early duck-billed dinosaurs, which shared its world.

Researchers believe that it marks an evolutionary turning point for the tyrannosaurs, where the keen senses and brainpower of these top hunters were developed and refined.  Analysis of its brain casing showed it had already developed inner ear structures which would have enabled it to hear lower frequencies, an advantage for predators when it came to hearing prey and rivals.  It also shows that the advanced brain and senses of the colossal later Cretaceous apex predator T. rex were were already present in the Late Jurassic, more than 90 million years ago. However, the sinuses of Timurlengia were seen to be much simpler than their later cousin - whose heightened sense of smell would have helped it to find prey - hinting that the tyrannosaurs had not yet finished evolving all of the master hunter's attributes. As these are on a separate branch of the tyrannosaur family tree, it would also indicate that the these attributes developed in a common ancestor even further back, before splitting off.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Plans for Tigers to once again inhabit Central Asia.

The Caspian tiger, Panthera tirgris virgata  which at 140 kilograms were among the largest cats to have ever lived.roamed Central Asia, from the Caspian Sea to north-west China, before reclamation of lands in the 19th century and hunting led to a significant decrease in availability of prey - wild boar and deer - that the tigers fed on.  It's not clear exactly when the Caspian tiger died out. Some reports suggest it was last seen in the 1960 in the Caspian literal of NW Iran, while others date its extinction to the 1970s the last reported sighting being in Kegeli in Karakalpakstan.

Ever since Caspian tigers disappeared, biologists and conservationists have tried to come up with a strategy to bring tigers back to Central Asia.  A recent study published in the Journal Biological Conservation has suggested that the Tiger could be effectively resurrected by reintroducing the genetically similar subspecies the Amu tigers from the Russian far east back into Central Asia. Between 2010 and 2012, scientists conducted a series of tests showing that the Caspian and Amur tigers were almost identical in their genetic structure.

Studies on the Siberian (Amur) variant found in found in the Sikhote Alin mountain region of the Primorye Province in the Russian Far East revealed that the two subspecies have diverged from a common ancestor relatively recently. Genetic mapping showing that the common ancestor of both subspecies colonised Central Asia via the same path as the Silk Road from eastern China about 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age. Some stayed in Central Asia and became the Caspian tiger, whereas the rest of the population moved up to the Russian Far East and evolved into the Siberian tiger. They found that despite some very small physiological differences, the Caspian and Siberian tigers are essentially the same on a genetic level. Thus, the extant population in Russia is thought to be a perfect way to “breed back” the Caspian tiger to Central Asia by introducing Amur tigers into suitable habitats.

The likely first location identified as a habitable area on the south bank of Balkhash lake and the Ili river estuary in Kazakhstan. The reintroduction project has already had approval from regional wildlife authorities and national government agencies. As a part of the project, it is planned to create a national park, revive riparian woodlands, and increase the diversity of flora and fauna in general. In particular the types of mammalian prey that the tigers normally hunt, such as deer and wild pigs. In addition they will need to carefully monitor and conserve the water supply. These measures are predicted to take at least 15 years. The project then plans to introduce into the park up to 100 tigers, they expect that the population to grow and stabilise at around 200 tigers by mid century.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

The World's Oldest Chess Pieces "Afrosiab Set"

Photo of the famous pieces found at
Afrasiab (near modern-day Samarkand)

Although there is scholarly disagreement about where chess originated - Central Asia, India, the Persian empire, and China are all contenders - it is certain that the game spread along the Great Silk Road. Indeed, the earliest, recognisable chess pieces, dated to about 760 AD were excavated at Afrosiabs north of present-day Samarkand in 1977 by a team led by Archaeologist Prof. Yuri Buryakov's from the Uzbek SSR Academy of Archaeology. (NB:
A coin, dated 761 was found with the chess pieces)

This find a sensational at the time included seven chess pieces. They were heavily worn, but clearly identifiable as two foot soldiers with shields and short swords (= our pawns); a war elephant with chain armour and a rider in full battle-dress (= our bishop); a visier (= our queen) with two horses with two mounted riders with sword and shield (= knights); and the Shah, on a three-horse chariot, holding a mace his symbol of power (= our king). The rukh (rook) also features a three-horse chariot with two men, one driving, and the other armed with sword and shield.
The set has five out of the six types of pieces, and are completely convincing as a chess set, being made at the end of the Sassanid Empire just before the Arabic conquest they are representational unlike later Arabic sets which used abstract shapes, in accordance with Islamic religious teaching.
Some other older statuettes which were also found in Uzbekistan are occasionally named as the worlds oldest chess pieces. They are figurines of an elephant and a zebu bull excavated in 1972 at Dalverzin-Tepe an ancient citadel of the Kushan empire located in Southern Uzbekistan, and stem from the 2nd century. The Elephant is about 2.4 cm high and the Bull is about 1.8 cm high. Some historians believe that they could also be toys or amulets which is quite possible. Also, it has been noticed that there is no Bull in the chess. Most chess historians feel as such that they are probably not Chess pieces, but probably belonged to a forerunner of Chess. They are kept in Tashkent.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Silk Banknotes of Khiva and Khoresm (KPSR)

Silk banknotes of Khiva and the Khoresm People’s Soviet Republic (early 20th century). The notes were made of natural silk were covered with inscriptions and images by hand, with the use of special dyes (some examples below).
For more information read

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

SamAuto Bus and Truck Factory

SamAuto, originally Samarkand Automobile Factory (Uzbek:Samarqand avto zavodi) is a bus and truck venture located in Samarkand. It currently produces four (4) models of buses and five (5) truck models, some of which are exported.The SamAuto plant first started production of medium-capacity buses and small and medium-duty trucks in 1999.

The SamAuto lineup includes basic models in the small class SAZ NP 37 chassis Japanese Isuzu, low-floor bus of small class SAZ LE-60, Isuzu trucks and other special vehicles on the chassis of Isuzu. It has recently launched a production line for Ford cargo trucks.

On July 30, 2016 SAMAuto produced its 25,000th vehicle in the Samarkand Automobile Factory (SAF), the anniversary vehicle was a LE60 low-floor bus used for passenger transport on city routes.

The SamAuto LE 60 uses a Cummins 4ISBe4 185B engine with capacity of 4.5 litres, which meets "Euro-4" environmental standards . The length of the bus is 8 meters long and weighs 10.2 tons. It is a low-floor bus, with 56 seats. It was designed in conjunction with the Russian company "Ermis engineering".

SamAuto buses and trucks are commonly seen all over Uzbekistan including the streets of Nukus.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Suzani - Decorative Textiles

Painting with Suzani by Robert Falk, Savitzky Museum, Nukus

Suzani is a type of embroidered and decorative tribal textile made in  Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries. Suzan which means needle. Suzanis usually have a cotton (sometimes silk) fabric base, which is embroidered in silk or cotton thread. Chain, satin, and buttonhole stitches are the primary stitches used. There is also extensive use of couching, in which decorative thread laid on the fabric as a raised line is stitched in place with a second thread. Suzanis are often made in two or more pieces, that are then stitched together.  One of the things that make suzani fascinating is they are handmade and so no two are exactly alike. Every suzani has an intentional imperfection be it an unfinished corner, a distorted shape, or the “wrong” colour this is “because the world is not perfect, a suzani should not be perfect”.

Some patterns are abstracted and geometric, but most are legible: snakes, suns, knives to cut bad luck and hot peppers to ward it off, pomegranates for fertility, many forms of flowers Popular design motifs include sun and moon disks, flowers (especially tulips, carnations, and irises), leaves and vines, fruits and occasionally fish and birds.

The oldest surviving suzanis are from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but it seems likely that they were in use long before that. In the early 15th century, Ruy Gonz├íles de Clavijo, the Castilian ambassador to the court of Timur (Tamerlane), left detailed descriptions of embroideries that were probably forerunners of the suzani. In the nineteenth century, Uzbek women produced fabulous embroidered hangings,  bed covers, wrapping cloths, table covers, and prayer mats for their households and their daughters' wedding trove. Brides Suzani's were traditionally as part of their dowry, and were presented to the groom on their wedding day.

Suzanis were traditionally as part of their dowry, and were presented to the groom on their wedding day. These hand-embroidered vintage suzanis are infused with the character that only comes from everyday use. The story of each suzani is as rich as their colors, as intricate as the designs that cover their surfaces.


Uzbekistan Red Book Stamps - Saiga Antelope

The Post office of Uzbekistan (O’zbekistan Pochtasi) and the State Communications Committee released the stamps on May 30, 2014 titled Fauna - Rare animals of Uzbekistan.«O'ZBEKISTON FAUNASI». The series consists of two stamps and two postage block of two of the most endangered large mammals in Uzbekistan the Saiga antelope and the Turkestan lynx both in the Red Book of Uzbekistan. Number of stamps minted was 10,000. Number of copies of each postage block - 7000.
Saiga tatarica 3200 Som