Saturday, April 16, 2011

Desert Castles of Ancient Khorezm

Photo: Djambas Kala, Turtkul district
Republic of Karakalpakstan,Uzbekistan

The Desert Castles of Ancient Khorezm sprang up along the tributaries of the Amu-dar’ya River, on the sandy plains of what is now the Republic of Karakalpakstan and the Province of Khorezm in Western Uzbekistan and neighbouring Turkmenistan's northern Tashauz region.

The surrounding lands constitutes one of the largest oases in Central Asia and offered fertile agricultural soil to the area’s first settlers.

The first fortifications began to appear in the 7th century BC, built out of local materials, including mud brick, cob, and pakhsa that allowed the structures to maintain their structural stability while allowing for massive walls, gates, towers, and architectural details including vaulted corridors, decorative niches, and arrow slots.

Added to the World Monuments Fund 2010 Monuments Watch List, the façades of the castles and fortifications have softened through centuries of exposure to wind and other natural elements. Some of the listed structures have also been impacted by salinisation of the soil due to centuries of irrigation which has eaten away at their foundations, compounding the deterioration left by time and the environment.

These adverse impacts on these ancient structures are requiring authorities to put in place comprehensive management and conservation plans to ensure their long term preservation.

The collection of Desert Castles of Ancient Khorezm on the UNESCO World Heritage site list includes the archelogical sites; Toprak Qala, Ayaz Qala, Koy-Kirilgan Qala, Big Guldursun Fortress, Pil Qala, Anka Qala, Kurgashin Qala and Djanbas Qala.