Saturday, December 30, 2017

History of Beruniy (Kat / Kath)

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 Beruniy is located on the northern bank of the Amu Darya (Oxus) Urgench. The city is the seat of Beruniy District. It is located 41.69 latitude and 60.75 longitude and it is situated at elevation 101 meters above sea level. It has a population of 50,929 making it the 3rd largest urban area in Karakalpakstan.
Historically, Beruniy was known as Kat or Kath and served as the capital of Khwarezm during the Afrighid dynasty. Kat owed both its glory and demise to the Oxus. While silt deposits from the river made the surrounding land fertile, and its water, through a network of man-made irrigation canals, has aided agricultural growth on vast scales since ancient times, at the same time, the nearly flat alluvial plain on which the lower course of the Oxus flows caused the riverbed and adjoining canals to shift over time, accordingly, Kaṯ has had to be relocated due to flooding at various times. From historical reports that such a natural shift was in progress during the 10th century, when Kaṯ was at the zenith of its history.

According to a Chorasmian tradition related by Abu Rayḥān Al-Biruni's Āṯār, one of the Afrighid kings, whose reign began in AD 616 in the era of Alexander (and the Seleucids)  built his castle at Fir on the outskirts of Kaṯ; this citadel consisted of three concentric forts, in the middle of which rose the royal palace. Fir’s fortifications were so high that they would be visible from a distance of fifteen km or more. The citadel Fir (or Fil) was conquered by the Arabs in AD 712. In terms of size and splendour the capital of Chorasmia rivalled the major urban centres of Central Asia. According to Al Biruni, who eye-witnessed the flooding of his hometown before his emigration at the age of twenty-five (in 998) to Iran, Fir “was broken and shattered by the Oxus, and was swept away piece by piece every year, till the last remains of it had disappeared” in the year 1305 of the Seleucid era (AD 994)

Kat was a commercial hub with a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional population. The 10th-century text on geography the Ḥodud al-ʿālam describes Kat as a town with abundant wealth, a “resort of merchants,” and an “emporium of all Transoxiana’. Its major products were cotton cushion covers, quilted garments and felt carpets which suggest that cotton then played an important role in the rural economy of the region, just as it does today. Kat also had many non-Muslim inhabitants. It is reported that Kat was the seat of bishopric of the Christian church in the 8th century (Tolstov). It was probably in Kat that there lived and worked the Christian scholar ʿIsa b. Yaḥyaʾ Masiḥi, a colleague of Abu Rayḥan Al-Biruni, himself a native of  of Kāṯ. There must have also still been a Zoroastrian community in Kaṯ from whom Biruni obtained the rich research data on Zoroastrianism in his Āṯār al-bāqia. The Ḥodud al-ʿālam adds that Kat was the gate of Turkestan and that the townspeople were warlike and active fighters for the faith.

Kat lost its status as the capital of Chorasmia to Gorgānj across the Oxus, synchronous with the dynastic change from Afrighids to Maʾmunids in AD 995. Three centuries later, in AD 1333, Ibn Baṭṭuṭa , on his way from Gorgānj to Bukhara, passed through Kat, which he portrays as a small but prosperous town. Some forty years later, Timurs army devastated Kat but later he had the destroyed walls reconstructed.

The modern history of Kat has been marked by more flooding and population shifts but also by name changes. In the 17th century, another wave of flooding washed out the old canals. As a result, Anusa, the Khan of Khiva (1663-85), ordered he construction of the Yarmis canal and built a fortress on the left side of the Oxus and brought here the remaining population of Kat. Meanwhile, the ruins of old Kat on the right side of the river became known as Sheikh Abbas Wali, after a local mausoleum.

In the 19th century the inhabitants of the new Kat once again were relocated across the river around the mausoleum. In Soviet times the small settlement was known as Sobboz which was renamed Berunyi in 1957 in honour of the medieval scholar and polymath Al-Biruni who was born on its outskirts. It gained the status of city in 1962. In 1969 the Amu Darya River overflew its banks. As a result many buildings in Beruniy were badly damaged. However, the town was quickly repaired.

Beruniy today is the administrative center of Berunyi district (tuman) in the Karakalpakstan Republic within Uzbekistan. It appears on satellite maps as a vast continuum of built environment and farmland, with a network of canals branching out from the Āmu Daryā.

Sources: Wikipedia and YouTube (

Monday, November 6, 2017

Nukus Streets




The Turan Tiger

Caspian tiger (P. t. virgata), also known as the Hyrcanian tiger or Turan tiger was found in the sparse forest habitats and riverine corridors south and east of the Black and Caspian Seas, through the Pontic-Caspian steppe into Central Asia, and onto the Takla-Makan desert of Xinjiang.

The Caspian tiger had been recorded in the wild until the early 1970s and is now extinct. The extant Siberian tiger is the genetically closest living relative of this recognised subspecies.

Several reasons for habitat loss, human population increase, clearance of vegetation for agriculture and the rivers were used for irrigation. In other areas reeds cleared to assist  eradicate malaria thus depriving the Caspian Tiger was deprived of its habitat and its prey. In addition soon, the Caspian Tiger became an alien in its own territory and was targeted and hunted down as a menace to human settlements and a threat to livestock. In addition the  pelt was prized for its beauty and fetched a hefty price.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Djanpik-Qala (IX-XI, XIII-XIV centuries AD)

The outstanding Soviet archaeologist S.P.Tolstov, who was the head of Khoresm archaeological and ethnographic expedition in Karakalpakstan, called Dzhanpik-Kala (Djanpik-Qala) the most beautiful fortress in Khoresm.

Located 6 km to the South-East of the town Karatau some six km off the Nukus to Urgench highway (50 km from Nukus) not far from the banks of Amudarya, on the border of the Baday-Tugay biosphere reserve not far from the south western edge of the Sailtan Uvays Mountains it can be accessed by a winding dirt road (7Km) from Gayur Qala or (6 Km) off a turning on the main road.

The fortress was built on the ruins of a much early settlement dating from the 4th century BC. The towering external walls, which are seen today, date from the medieval period, the fortress itself largely built between the 9th and 10th centuries AD. The vast Djanpik Qala is irregularly shaped and protected by a double wall with an archers gallery on the second floor. A rectangular citadel is located on the highest point of settlement. Five towers located around the perimeter are still visible. From the 10th to the 14th century it became a residential zone with many workshops and stores.

 It was first sacked by the Mongols (along with most of Khoresm) in the years 1220-1.  After the invaders left there was further construction  residential and workshop zones within the fortress and once again became an important centre of craft production and trade with workshops for glass makers, weavers, blacksmiths, potters and stone carvers. Silver and copper coins and many other items indicate that it must have been and important port and trading post on the river. Artefacts indicate that the town had a sophisticated water supply and drainage system. After Amir Timur conquered and destroyed the Khorezm State in 1388, the fortress was abandoned.
On the north-western side of fortress there is a palace or a citadel with walls with elegant façade stucco moldings, typically of the medieval architecture of Khoresm. The layout of the settlement is complex extending over a large area with large level difference following the landform.

On the top of fortifications were open slots for archers protected by a low wall in the front. It is possible to walk up the stairs, located inside the wall. Five towers have survived each located about seventy (70) meters from each other. Only one tower on the eastern wall has an inner room, other towers are monolithic. There were two entrances. One entrance on the northern wall comes to an cemetery, and another on the bend in a wall from the southern side.

There are still traces of a break on southern wall, which were made during the invasion which led to the collapse of the settlement.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Lower Amu Darya River

The photo below shows the dense series of irrigation canals of the delta of the Amu Darya which are visible due to the reflection of sunlight off the surface of the water. The river provides life-giving water to crops on the Amu Darya Delta (dark green). The river originates thousand of kilometers to the southeast in the Pamir Mountains (Tajikistan/Afghanistan)  and flows across the arid Turanian plain and eventually deposits into the Aral Sea, an inland drainage basin. Before entering the Aral it forms a vast delta (see image below). The primary crops produced on the Amu Darya Delta is cotton and rice both water-intensive. The lower Amu Darya irrigated agriculture and relatively dense population. It is an ethnically mixed population being inhabited by Uzbeks, Karakalpaks, Kazakhs and Turkmen.

Photo: A satellite image of part of the Lower Amu Darya (River),