Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Karakalpak-Australian Excavations in Ancient Chorasmia

Photo - The head of a king, from the newly uncovered mural atKazakl'i-yatkan
The traditional fascination visitors have in visiting Uzbekistan lies in the ancient oasis towns along the Great Silk Roads. The blue tiled medressehs, minarets and mausolea of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are among the most spectacular medieval monuments in the world, and stand testimony to the culture and civilisation of this ancient land. Yet beyond theses monuments are even older cities, citadels whose walls were standing in the time of Alexander the Great, as his armies passed by on their way to India.These cities, long lost under the desert sands, were first investigated by Soviet Archeological & Ethnographic Expeditions to Khoresm led by Sergei Tolstov starting in the 1930s. The expeditions found hundred of ancient sites, many with massive fortifications still standing preserved almost intact in the dry desert air.

The best of these sites lie in Karakalpakstan and Khorezm (ancient Chorasmia) at the western end of Uzbekistan, where the Amu-Dariya river spreads out into a delta before draining into the Aral Sea. Today, the land here is a patchwork of cotton and rice fields and pasture by the ever encroaching desert. The canals that sustain the oasis today were constructed during the Soviet era but the first irrigation channels were cut in about the 7th century B.C. to support newly established kingdoms in the region. A team of University of Sydney archaeologists and specialists from the Karakalpak Branch of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences have found magnificent ancient paintings in a monumental building (temple), within the massive fortified settlement of Kazakl'i-yatkan in the east of Karakalpakstan.The site they are excavating dates from the 6th century BC to the 2nd century AD. Kazakl'i-yatkan became independent around the 5th century BC and grew increasingly isolated, but during this period it developed a rich indigenous civilisation.

The region was never conquered by Alexander and remained cut off from almost all outside influence until around the 1st century AD.On the evidence they have unconvered so far, these murals may have covered more than a kilometre of wall. They show amazing scenes including a long procession of a desert caravan with men on and aside pack horses and camels and also a gallery of magnificent portrait heads, possibly depicting members of the ruling families. Some of these paintings are being lifted from the ground and walls before being restored with additional help from UNESCO specialists on loan from the French Government and transferred to state museums and eventually for international exibition.

From about the 7th/6th centuries BC ancient Chorasmia was located south of the Aral Sea, in the delta of the Classical Oxus River (mod. Amu-dar'ya). To the north lay the Inner Asian steppe (now Kazakhstan), to the west the cliffs of the inhospitable Ustiurt Plateau (further west, the Caspian Sea), to the east the delta of the Classical Jaxartes (mod. S'ir-dar'ya), and to the south two deserts, the Kara-kum and Kz'il-kum which separated Chorasmia from Margiana and Sogdiana. Its geographical isolation form the "civilsed" ancient Indo-Iranian world resulted in virtually independent cultural development for much of its early history and, later on, after the devastation caused by the Mongols and particularly Timur, remarkable preservation of pre-Islamic monuments the like of which cannot be found anywhere else in Central Asia. Long before archaeological explorations began, Chorasmia was known from Persian and Greek texts as a province (satrapy) of the Achaemenid Persian empire; it also stands as the possible area of the "Aryan Expanse" of the Avesta, as the best land created by Ahura Mazda and therefore of signal importance regarding the early stages of the Zoroastrian faith. By the time of Alexander the Great Chorasmia was independent and had a king. This is the last textual mention of Chorasmia until the early medieval period, although it may have had relations with the Kushan empire at least from the 2nd century AD onward. Exploration began in the I930s under the leadership of S. P. Tolstov who founded the Chorasmian Archaeological Expedition whose work continued up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in I991.


The Northern Frontier of the 'Civilised' Ancient World = Les fouilles australo-karakalpak dans l'Antique Chorasmie : les frontières les plus septentrionales du monde civilisé antique. Auteur(s) / Author(s) HELMS S. W. (1) ; YAGODIN V. N. (2) ; BETTS A. V. G. (1) ; KHOZHANIYAZOV G. (2) ; NEGUS M. ; Affiliation(s) du ou des auteurs / Author(s) Affiliation(s) (1) Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, AUSTRALIE (2) Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography, 179a Amir Timur Street, Nukus 742000, Karakalpakstan, OUZBEKISTAN Résumé / Abstract Excavations at Kazakl'i-yatkan & Tash-kirman-tepe.

Come and Visit Karakalpakstan

Photo Karakalpak Wedding Dress

Karakalpakstan is home to one of the most interesting Turkic ethnic minorities in Central Asia – the Karakalpaks.

They formed their own tribal association along the banks of the Syr Darya at some time around the 16th century, composed of many factions who had broken away from previous nomadic confederations, like the Qon'ırat, Ma'n'gıt and Keneges.

After suffering a violent and destructive invasion by Mongol Dzhungar tribes from Eastern Turkestan (Chinese Xinjiang) in 1723, the Karakalpaks were irreversibly divided – some migrated to Ferghana, Samarkand and southern Uzbekistan, whilst others – the Lower Karakalpaks - settled close to the mouth of the Syr Darya in the vicinity of the Aral Sea. From here the latter grouping continued to move south, eventually entering the Amu Darya delta, where they were forcibly subjugated by the Khan of Khiva.

The Karakalpaks developed a colourful and vibrant culture, which reached its peak during the early decades of the 20th century. Following the Revolution in the early 1920's the Karakalpaks benefited from universal education and health care, employment rather than feudal servitude, legal rights for women, and the modernisation of their agricultural economy. Sadly their traditional culture howver also changed a lot during this process.

No'kis is the only place in the world to see the remains of their unique and joyously colourful material culture, which is prominently displayed in two very different local museums.

The most famous is the Karakalpak State Museum of Art named after Igor Savitsky, which also houses a world famous collection of Russian and Soviet avante garde paintings.

The Republic of Karakalpakstan also contains the largest number of important archaeological sites pertaining to the ancient civilization of Chorasmia, or to use its more modern description, Khorezm. During the second half of the first millennium BC and the first half of the first millennium AD, this whole region was a thriving agricultural oasis, supported by a huge network of man-made irrigation channels. Its population believed in the Zoroastrian cult of fire. They were governed by a dynasty of Khorezmshahs who lived in richly decorated palaces and they were defended from nomadic attack by an elaborate system of garrisons stationed in sophisticated mud-brick fortresses with an advanced military design. For the past twelve years, archaeologists from Karakalpakstan and Australia have been uncovering the secrets of the massive fortified site of Kazakl'i-yatkan, founded around the 3rd century BC and later buried under the desert sands. It may have once been the capital city of the region. In the last two seasons they have discovered the largest collection of wall paintings ever found in Central Asia in what may have been a temple or religious palace.

Despite almost two thousand years of erosion by winter rains many of these huge fortresses, palaces and other sites still exist on the fringes of the Qizil Qum desert. They are readily accessible, yet devoid of vistors. The best place to see them is in southern Karakalpakstan, east of Biruniy and just south of the Sultan Uvays Dag mountains.

Karakalpak Economy - A Brief Summary

The Republic of Karakalpakstan is a sovereign state within the Republic of Uzbekistan. Its territory is 166,600 sq. km (37% of the total area) and the population is 1.6 mln. people (approximately 5.6% of the total population), however, its GDP is only 2.4% of that of Uzbekistan. It is populated mainly by Karakalpaks in the North and Uzbeks in the South. Karakalpakstan consists of 14 districts.

Karakalpakstan has its own Constitution, which is in line with that of Uzbekistan. The state system of the Republic is based upon the constitutional division of powers between legislative, executive and judiciary branches. The Jokargi Kenes (parliament) is the legislative body of the Republic, while the Council of Ministers is the highest executive body.

Geographically, the territory of Karakalpakstan consists of the north-western part of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, the south-eastern part of the Usturt Plateau and the Amu Darya River delta, as well as the southern part of the Aral Sea. The Amu Darya is the only river that flows through the given area. There are a variety of natural resources such as gold, uranium, gas, iron, phosphorus, bentonite and kaolin clay, salt, marble, and granite. Climate is typically continental with dry and hot summers and cold winters. The traditional occupation of the Karakalpaks is livestock farming, agriculture and fishing.

On the east Karakalpakstan occupies the western half of the Kyzylkum Desert, a vast plain covered with shifting sands. The central part consists of the valley and delta of the Amu Darya (river), a low-lying area intersected by watercourses and canals. On the west the republic includes the southeastern part of the Ustyurt Plateau, a slightly undulating area characterized by flat summits rising to some 958 feet (292 m) above sea level. The climate is marked by cool winters and hot summers. Average rainfall is only 3 to 4 inches (75 to 100 mm).

About one-half of the population is urban. Nukus, the capital, Khŭjayli, Beruniy, Takhiatosh, Chimbay, Tŭrtkŭl, and Altykyl are the chief settlements.

The economy is predominantly agricultural. The industrial sector, while limited, includes light manufacturing, refineries that process oil from nearby petroleum fields, several building-materials plants that utilize the limestone, gypsum, asbestos, marble, and quartzite of the area, and a power station in Takhiatosh.

The main sectors of the economy are agriculture (cotton, rice, melons, watermelons, vegetables, karakul sheep, and cattle) and industry (electricity and energy production, textile and food industry). Cotton reprocessing is the leading branch of industry.

The Cotton Crop

Cotton is cultivated along the Amu Darya and in its delta and is processed at Chimbay, Qŭnghirot, Beruniy, Takhtakupyr, Khŭjayli, and Mangit. A well-developed system of irrigation canals supplies water from the Amu Darya to the crops. Besides cotton, crops include alfalfa, rice, and corn (maize). Cattle and Karakul sheep are raised in the Kyzylkum Desert.

Transport facilities in the republic include a railway from Kungrad (Qŭnghirot) to Charjou (Chärjew) in Turkmenistan, motor roads that link several cities of the republic, and air connections with Moscow, Tashkent and Muynak. Area 63,900 square miles (165,600 square km). Pop. (2007 est.) 1,678,191.

Karakalpakstan has its own peculiarities which define the character of its economy and infrastructure. Low density of the population and vast areas of land significantly increase the cost of investments into its industrial, physical and social infrastructure. Remoteness of settlements, factories and SME enterprises also increases the cost of manufactured production due to additional expenses for delivery of raw materials, energy resources, water, electricity, and export of this production. All this accounts to a great extent for the ’closeness’ of the Karakalpak economy from neighbouring regions and countries.

Karakalpakstan has is own Constitution and Parliament (Jokargi Kenes) which rules the country. The government is headed by the Council of Ministers of Karakalpakstan.

The Republic of Karakalpakstan has significant mineral resources: natural gas, crude oil. granite, bentonite, kaolin, marble, phosphoric and erbium-doped metals deposits with a sprinkle of precious stones and metals. It also has the largest oil and gas deposits in Uzbekistan. About 20 of these deposits were discovered on the Ustyurt plateau. The estimated oil and gas resources on the Ustyurt plateau amount to 1,7 trillion cubic meters of gas and 1,7 billion tons of liquid hydrocarbons.

The most developed industries are the production of construction materials, agricultural production and processing and metalwork. There are also textile and foodstuff factories in the republic. The Tahiatash and Tyuyamuyunsk power plants completely satisfy the demands for electric power in the republic with enough over to supply the neighboring Khorezm region and Turkmenistan. The Republic also has wind and solar power resources.

Cotton and rice are the two dominant agricultural crops. Fruit, vegetables, potatoes and forage plants are also cultivated in this region. Cultivation is possible in irrigated areas only. Livestock is generally pastoral including karakul sheep, cattle, camels and horses.

The total length of tarred roads in the Republic is about 3000 km and the Chardjow-Kungrad-Beineu-Makat railway passes through Karakalpakstan on route from Central Asia to Russia.

The Academy of Sciences of Republic of Uzbekistan has established a branch in Karakalpakstan.


Try and Save the Saygak the symbol of the steepe

Photo: Saiga Antelope (Female)
The symbol of steppe is the saygak, It is the unique inhabitant of extensive flat spaces of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The saygak is a relic antelope, a representative of fauna of the glacial period, once upon a time roamed the plains with the great mammoths and saber-toothed tigers.

But for the last ten years number of a saygak has been reduced more than to 90 percent. Scientists have sounded the alarm: as it is the fastest reduction of any mammal currently on the planet. Great herds have been exterminated by the poachers killing saygaks for the sake of horns, which are then delivered on the Chinese market (so chinese men can feel potent no doubt!).

Now the saygak has been entered into the Red Book of the International Union of Wildlife Management as a species which is in critical danger. It is at the highest level of threat of extinction. Recently the UNDP GEF program and the State Committee of Nature of the Republic of Karakalpakstan has working on ways of effective preservation of Ustyurt populations of saygak.

The past decades since the end of the Soviet Union have once again proved to be very difficult for these beautiful creatures, the insidious Chinese “medicinal” trade is once again driving the Saiga antelope towards extinction. Just in the last decade alone heard’s in Uzbekistan have reduced by some 90%.

Various Governments (Particularly China, H.K and Taiwan) have to educate their people that they need to focus on other things other than their own material needs and self satisfaction (surely Chinese men can’t be so impotent, that they need to obliterate so many species) and that they are putting themselves and their children in great danger (no biodiversity; no mankind). Further that Uzbekistan and other nations of the steppe must try and control their hunters, who despite heavy sanctions (that sadly can be circumnavigated with “money” ) are still killing so many Saiga.

Male Saiga (Saiga tatarica) - Poster showing a close-up of the saiga's distinctive face.

If this immoral trade is not stopped soon there will be little chance of retaining these wondrous creatures for the generations to come.

Once, for nomadic people of the steepe the saygak was the symbol of steppe, was a source of inspiration. Today all necessary measures should be undertaken to try and get the Russian, Central Asian and most importantly the Chinese government to help stop this stupid and immoral trade, if not then almost certainly, the most ancient and unique antelope on the planet will be completely lost and it will be lost forever.

Write to your local Chinese Ambassador or to the Chinese Minister of Environmental Protection Mr. ZHOU Shengxian at No.115 Xizhimennei Nanxiaojie, Beijing (100035) P.R China calling for action to be taken by the Chinese Government to save the Saygak!

The Last Caspian Tiger

Drawing: Caspian Tiger

The Caspian tiger, Panthera tigris virgata, which once ranged in Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Mongolia, and the Central Asiatic area of the USSR probably became extinct in the 1970s, one of the last confirmed sightings being in Kegeli in Karakalpkstan in 1974.

Tigers were already widespread in Asia one and a half million years ago. However, recent genetic research suggests that they nearly became extinct in the late Pleistocene Era, probably about 10,000-12,000 years ago. A small remnant population survived, probably in what is now China. From this area tigers then spread out again, migrating along river valleys following their prey, mostly deer and wild pigs. Although all mainland tigers are very closely related, and may be regarded as regional populations rather than as discrete subspecies, they have developed physical or morphological adaptations to different environmental conditions.

The two varieties of tigers in the former Soviet Union represented the most easterly and westerly populations of the great cat. Amur tigers prowl the rich mixed forests in the southern Russian Far East on the Sea of Japan, while the Caspian Tiger also known as the Hyrcanian or Turanian tigers (Panthera tigris virgata) were the most westerly ranging tigers. They inhabited the basins of inland drainage of western and central Asia, wherever there was adequate prey, water and vegetation cover.

These magnificent great cats had thick, plush winter coats usually of a more reddish background colour than Amur tigers, with closer set black or sometimes brown stripes, long white belly fur and sort nape mane (beard), though their summer coats were shorter. A little smaller than their Far Eastern relatives, adult male Caspian tigers weighed 170-240 kg and measured 270-290 cm in total length.

The Caspian tiger’s unique habitat was the seasonally flooded tugai vegetation growing along the great rivers that flow from high mountains and traverse deserts, or around lakes. Tall, dense reed beds grow along the riverside fringed by gallery forests of poplar and willow. These give way to tamarisk shrubs, saxaul and other salt resistant plants on the desert edge. In this dense undergrowth the tigers sometimes stood on their hind legs to obtain a better view. Tigers and their prey, such as Bukhara red deer, roe deer, goitred gazelles and especially wild pigs, had a restricted range in these bands of tugai vegetation and were vulnerable to human disturbance and habitat destruction as these valleys were avenues for agricultural settlement by people.

The tiger played an important part in the culture of Central Asia. Usually living creatures are not represented in Islamic art, but in Sufism, one of the branches of Islam, the tiger’s image is represented on carpets and textiles and can be seen on the facades of the Great Registan mosque and other public buildings in Samarkand.

Tigers in Central Asia were not usually regarded as a threat to human life and were known to co-exist with human habitation, even close to major towns such as Tashkent. But the spread of settlement, especially Russian immigration into Central Asia from the late nineteenth century, was to lead to their demise. In the early decades of the twentieth century Tsarist military detachments were used to exterminate the tigers in lowland areas, as well as leopards and wolves, ahead of human settlement. Those that came into conflict with herdsmen also met a similar fate, who regarded tigers as a threat to their livestock, including camels, horses and sheep.

Soon the ribbons or bands of tiger habitat were broken up by the spread of human settlement and tiger populations diminished and became more fragmented: bands became spots on the map of Caspian tiger distribution. Further human settlement and development in their habitat sealed their fate. Riverside vegetation was cleared for cultivation, and rivers tapped for irrigation water, notably for the great expansion in cotton growing from the 1930s. To try and save the species Zapovedniks or strict nature reserves were established in Soviet Central Asia but were too small to support a viable population of tigers and with increasing irrigation only a few areas of tugai vegetation survived, perhaps a tenth of the original reed beds and gallery forests.

Along the Syr Dar’ya and around Lake Balkhash the last resident tigers were sighted in the 1940s, and in the Vakhsh valley in Tajikistan the last was seen in 1961. In the foothills of the Talysh Mountains and the Lenkoran river basin in southeast Azerbaijan near the Caspian Sea the last were seen in 1964, but these were probably tigers that had migrated from the southern Caspian littoral of  neighbouring Iran; where 15-20 are believed to have survived in this region into the1960s

The last confirmed sighting of a tiger in Uzbekistan was in the Amu Darya delta. A tiger was seen in the Karakalpak town of Kegili (my wife’s hometown) some 25km north of Nukus in 1974. (In the town’s cemetery).

Photos: Caspian (top) Siberian tigers (bottom) are closely related.

There are still occasional claims of the Caspian tiger being sighted from the more remote forested areas of along the Turkmen-Uzbek-Afghan border region once a stronghold. Alas, experts have been unable to find any solid evidence to substantiate these claims and the last reliable sighting was probably at least 40 years ago. It has also been suggested that the 'tiger' sightings may actually be Persian leopards.

The ban on tiger hunting in the USSR in 1947 whilst too late to rescue the Caspian tiger, however it did help save the few surviving Amur tigers. Their stronghold remains the Sikhote-Alin range, a continuous forest as extensive as the United Kingdom. Despite poaching, their numbers increased from the 1950s to the 1980s and today seem to have stabilised. Russian Government &  nature conservation organisations are working hard to save the Amur tigers to ensure that this splendid great cat does not share the same tragic fate as those from Central Asia.


New research shows that the Caspian tiger from Central Asia, which became extinct in 1970, was almost identical to the living Siberian, or Amur, tigers found in the Russian Far East today.

A team of scientists from Oxford University and the NCI Laboratory of Genomic Diversity in the USA have discovered that the Caspian Tiger and the Siberian Tiger have almost the same DNA. The tiger sub-species studied were the Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata), the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), the Indian - Bengal - tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) and the South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis). The Caspian tiger was found to differ by only one nucleotide of its mitochondrial DNA from the Siberian tiger: other tiger sub-species differ by at least two nucleotides.

Carlos A. Driscoll et al. Mitochondrial Phylogeography Illuminates the Origin of the Extinct Caspian Tiger and Its Relationship to the Amur Tiger. PLoS One, Jan 14, 2009 [link]


Camels - Ships of the Desert

Photo: Camel Karakalpakstan

Camels are on of the most intriguing animals in the world. Every child knows quite well how one looks like. These phlegmatic “ships of the desert” were domesticated by humans thousands of years ago, which is evidenced by more than 5000 year old sculptures showing camels loaded up with wares.

Without doubt, Camels for many centuries remained one of the most effective means of transporting cargo. They are relatively fast – can easily travel 50 kilometres in a day, their carrying capacity is good too – up to 200 kilograms. They do not loose there capacity for work for a whole week without food and water, and as they do not require constant water and fodder and they are much more versatile than horses. Moreover they do not react to temperature fluctuations comfortable in plus or minus +/- 50 Degrees C, which means they can still work in the hottest deserts and the coldest alpine mountains and steeps. Camels however do not thrive in high humidity and have never adapted to temperate regions.

Historically the Camel was used in military battles, however as a fighting animal it has severe limitations. Whilst camels are ideal for the quick transfer of troops and supplies across deserts, they don’t do well in battle. The camel is slower than the horse and its proportions and gait don’t make it either easy to mount or good as a platform to launch ballistics. The most substantial impediment it has is that it will not charge a foe or run over infantry. Further it also can be extremely stubborn much worse than a mule when it so desires. It is not only not capable of close combat, the camel unlike the horse will not defend itself, and when stabbed or shot at, tries to escape the battle field totally ignoring its rider. Those warriors that did use the camel in fighting like the Bedouin, always had to dismount when they were forced into close quarters with an enemy.

Whilst the camel no longer carries goods thousands of kilometres or goes into battle these days it still remains a symbol of strength and endurance. The Camel requires little input for rearing and requires minimal up-keep. It is still highly valued “walking capital” in the Arab world where Camel races and fights between "he" camels are still popular.

White Camels are still greatly valued by the people of the East. In ancient times they were the reserve of Sultans, Khans and other high ranking officials. They are highly prised, bringing much good luck to a household, the Bedouin, often call their kids my "little young white camel" as a term of endearment.

Pygmy and giant breeds of camels emerged and disappeared during the evolutionary process. Archaeologists have discovered fragments of their bones more than 100,000 years old. These fossil remains indicate that these ancient camels were more than twice the size of todays breeds.

Paleontological research shows that camels are closely related to other members of the Cameliadae family that lived in North America after crossing the Bearing Isthmus during the last Ice Age up until 10,000 years ago. Their closest relatives are the Lama, Alpaca, Guanaco and Vicuna which still thrive in South America.

A two humped Bactrian Camel grazed on the wide expanses of Asia a million years ago. It can still be found today in the high deserts of Mongolia and China and the eastern uplands of Central Asia. Sadly these magnificent animals (ED: a number of which I had the privilege to see first hand at the top of the Karategin Valley of Tajikistan) have now entered the Red book; and are on the brink of extinction similar to other large animals that breed and multiply very slowly.

Wild Bactrian camels graze in small groups made up of a male leader and its harem. Females go into heat in winter – sometime in January or February – when the “he” camels fight fierce battles amongst themselves for the right to dominate their harems. During these epic battles camels spit and bite each other in addition to viscous kicks to bring down their opponent/s.

Wild camels may attack the herds of their domesticated congeners killing or injuring the males and driving off the females.

Once in two years after 13 months of gestation a “she” camel gives birth to its calf. On the first day of its life the calf can move independently, but remains at its mother’s side feeding on the fat in its nutritious milk for a long period. Only at the age of 5 years does a camel reach maturity, average lifespan is approximately 40 years.

Specialists believe that one humped camels, known as Dromedaries were created by selective breeding of their two humped compatriots. The Dromedary weights about 300-690 kg, growing to around 2.0-2.2 metres tall. The female has a longer gestation (15 months) than two humped Camels, other features which differentiate it from the two humped Camels are its long bent neck and a sole hump in which it deposits excess fat. This hump which in times of stress acts as an emergency food supply, varies in size depending on the season.

Similar to other cloven hoofed animals camels have two toes on each foot. Because of this they are singled out into a different sub order of callous foot animals; well adapted for walking on drifting sands or soft snow. The Camels lips are thick and rough, which enables them to eat thorny plants. Like a cow, they first swallow their food and then eructate it after partial digestion and thoroughly chewed up. They also need more salt (some 6-8 times more than other desert mammals) for preserving their ability to store water.

The majority of legends linked to camels tell about their amazing stamina. They have adapted to life in the desert so well, that in extreme conditions a dromedary may well endure a whole month without water (losing up to 40% of its weight). But once it reaches a source of water it may drink 50 litres or more.

Camels are found in the plains of Uzbekistan primarily in Bukara, Khorezm and here in the Republic of Karakalpakstan. Besides the camel and the dromedary there are extremely powerful dromedaries called Nars that are a hybrid breed (of one and two humped camels), which combine the merits of both, however the bring up inferior descendents and are normally not used for breeding. Larger and much stronger Bactrian Camels are found in the mountainous regions of eastern Uzbekistan outside of the Republic.

In Karakalpakstan the camel is not only a good capital investment but a source of valuable milk, wool and Meat. Their milk is rich in Vitamins and minerals, it also contains antibodies which help fight off disease. Camel milk or Shubat has a strong sour taste is much favoured particularly by men (ED: makes even the strongest Vodka taste tame). It has 3 times more Vitamin C and D than normal milk. Its wool also possesses valuable properties; people believe that it helps heal osteochondrosis, rheumatism and other articulation ailments. It is much more durable and lighter than other wools, retains heat better and does not cause allergic reactions. Camel meat has good gustatory flavour and is a very lean meat ideal for dietary dishes as it has no internal fat layers.

Unlike other hoofed animals, Camels do little damage grazing lands, they migrate from one place to another and carefully and cautiously eat up only bits and pieces of vegetation they need, enabling the vegetation to quickly rehabilitate itself.

Source: Uzbekistan Airways Magazine

Karalapakstan Blog - Note from the Editor Vance Painter

Welcome to my Karakalpak - Karakalpakstan Blog. I am an Australian Engineer with a long association with Western Uzbekistan first living in Nukus/Kungrad in 1998/99 when I worked with MSF - Holland. I started the blog when I was still living in Karakalpstan in 2008 with my wife Dilbar and our little boy Russel and have continued since returning to Australia.

I have a deep interest in the nature, history and culture of Karakalpakstan and other parts of North Western Uzbekistan. In addition to the focus on Karakalpakstan I have also sought to find interesting information to publish about neighbouring area of Khoresm and northern Turkmenistan and other areas linked to the lower Amu Darya along the great Silk Road. Please enjoy the blog, and feel free to add comments and suggestions, all are welcome.