Friday, October 12, 2012

Ustyurt Arrows - Geoglyphs


In 1986, scientists from the the Karakalpak Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek ССР whilst examining aerial photographs of the plateau Ustyurt detected strange arrow bag layouts. In total some 50 such arrow bag like lay-outs known as negative geoglyphs were found in an almost continuous chain over a vast area starting from near Cape Duana on the edge of the Aral sea stretching hundreds of kilometres into the Ustyurt across the border into Kazakhstan. 

The Arrow formatiuons differ little from each other with contours and sizes, and generally face to the north. On the ground each arrow and bag can be identified by a faint ridge of rock in which the traces of a binding solution. On the inside of the bag was a trench dug earth, the earth from which a shaft, which has been installed and stone ridge.

All along the pit grows wild grass, which can be clearly seen against the background of withered grass on the plateau. Archeologists believe that the arrows represent the ancient watering facilities for Ungulates (large hoofed animals).

Ustyurt Arrow Geoglyphs - Scientists still do not have an unified opinion about these ancient geolines however the most recognized hypothesis is that the arrows were used for seasonable mass-hunting for ungulates (hoofed animals).

Source of photo: 44°45'31.39"С 57°37'45.74"В

Arrows of the Ustyurt

Despite an interest by UFOlogists who tie them into similar theory they have about the Nazca Lines in Peru ie that they are an ancient Spaceport ect (ED: I have visited Nazca - truly an amazing place!).

By far the most logical explanation to date was that put forward by the chief of archaeological expedition from Nukus V. Yagodin which investigated these formations. His team concluded that they served ancient hunters as shelters / pens during the seasonal hunt for ungulates (large hoofed animals) they may also have had an additional function in that they allowed for the collection of water.
All the geoglyts "Arrows of the Ustyurt" so far identified are in the form of a bag, from which two arrows with strong tips stick out. All the arrows point to the north and only slightly differ from each other in size and outline. The top keen edges of each bag have jutting out two spread wide arrows (one each side) having tips in the form of extended triangles. The narrow passages that form the body of an arrows delimited by shallow swales along their entire length in the direction towards the tips which are pits of up to 2 meters in depth.

At top of each triangle are rings of ten-meter diameter, serving possibly as holes. They look very similar to a schematic drawing of a military chart on which the fat arrows specify the direction of an attack.

The length of each lay-out is 800-900 meters, together with directing shaft reaches 1500 metres, width 400 - 600 meters, the depth of most of the outline doesn't exceed 0.8-1.0m, and the tops of the arrows up to 2m in depth. Judging by the fragments scattered around, earlier these outlines were much deeper, being worn away by wind erosion over time.

The area over which these mysterious impressions are found even surpasses the extent of the world famous system of mysterious lines and drawings in the Peruvian desert of Nazca. They are known to local population under the name “aranvi.”. During a trial excavation section through one of the arrow lay outs had been found ceramics and other subjects dating to the VII—VIII to centuries AD. However, if one is to consider that these are a little above the occupation layer which concerns the time of creation of the layout this is more than likely “the top border” of the timeframe of their construction.

Source: Vokrug sveta (ED: the oldest continuously published magazine in the Russian language)

Note: A geoglyph is a large design or motif produced on the ground and typically formed by clastic rocks or similarly durable elements of the landscape, such as stones, stone fragments, gravel, or earth. A positive geoglyph is formed by the arrangement and alignment of materials on the ground in a manner akin to petroforms, while a negative geoglyph is formed by removing patinated clasts to expose unpatinated ground in a manner akin to petroglyphs.

The Ustyurt also spelled Ust-Yurt, Ust-Urt and Usturt (Kazakh: Üstirt, Turkmen: Üstyurt), is a  plateau in Central Asia (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) between the Aral Sea and the Caspian Sea. It extends roughly 200,000 km², with an average elevation of 150 meters, and consists primarily of stony desert. The plateau’s semi-nomadic population raises sheep, goats, and camels.


Bannikov A.G. History of the Arrows Vokrug sveta
(ED: the oldest continuously published magazine in the Russian language)

Additional Information:
Bull J.W. and Esipov A.  Ancient techniques for hunting saigas in Ustyurt: the remains of arrans

Plakhov K.N. 1994. ‘Sastaiannie populazii Ustyurskogo gornogo barana v KazakhstanSelevinia 3: 58-67.

Viktorov S.V. 1971. Pustenia Ustyurt i voprosi ee asvoenia. Moscow.

Yagodin V.N. 1978. ‘Pamiatniki kochevik plemen drevnosti i srednievekoviya. In: Drevniaya
i srednievekovaya kultura Iugo-Vostochnogo Ustyurta. Tashkent: 79-199.

Yagodin V.N. 1991. ‘Strelovidnie planirovki Ustyurta. In: Arkheologhia Priaralia, vol 5. Tashkent, ANRU.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Karavan Saray on the Ustyurt Plateau

Caravanserai, khan, or fondouk, also Han (in Turkish) known as caravansary, caravansera, or caravansara in English or Sarai in Indian subcontinent (Persian: كاروانسرا kārvānsarā or کاروانسرای kārvānsarāi, Turkish: kervansaray) are buildings specially built to shelter travelers, goods and animals along ancient caravan routes, in particular along the former Silk Roads.

Caravanserais supported the flow of commerce, information, and people across the network of trade routes covering Asia. Up until the 16th century caravans continued to move trough the region linking the Kharnate of Khiva with the Emba and Volga Rivers.

Archeologists have discovering on the the remains of Caravanserais and wells which used to be stay points along the Great Silk Road placed at intervals of 20-30km or so across the UstyurtPlateau.

Linked to the rise of Islam and the growth of the land trade between the Orient and the West (then to its decline because of the opening of the ocean routes by the Portuguese), the construction of most of the caravanserais spanned a period of ten centuries (IX-XIX century), and covered a geographical area the centre of which is Central Asia. Many thousands were built, and together they form a major phenomenon in the history of that part of the world, from an economic, a social and a cultural point of view. They are also remarkable for their architecture, which is based on geometric and topologic rules that use a limited number of elements defined by tradition.

Sadly many have been completely demolished and those which remain are, for the most part in ruins and are slowly disappearing.

Beleuli caravanserai (Just over the border in West Khazakhstan)- On the route of the Khorezm-Sheikhs connecting Khiva with the lower reaches of the Emba and the Volga.