Dzhankent, also known as Jankent, is a city in Kazakhstan that was once near the eastern shore of the Aral Sea. It is situated on the left bank of the lower Syr Darya. Written records place the location as the Oghuz Turks’ capital at this time, which they called Yengi-kent (which means “New Town”) during the time.
The Oghuz dialect of the Turkic language family was spoken by the Oghuz Turks, a group of Turkic speakers. They first appeared in the eighth century AD and founded the Oghuz Yabgu State, a union of tribes in Central Asia.
A team of German, Kazakh and Russian archaeologists made important new findings at the desert medieval town of Dzhankent.
A rectangular wall circuit with a height of 7 meters (23 feet) encloses the 16 hectares (40 acres) of Dzhankent’s ruins. The Northern Silk Road, which ran east-west from China to Byzantium, and the north-south route connecting the Baltic to Central Asia met at the town’s intersection.
When the town was rediscovered by Russian army topographers in the early 19th century, systematic excavations were mostly carried out by the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IEA RAN, Moscow), Korkyt Ata State University of Kyzylorda (Kazakhstan), University of Tübingen (Germany), and the Margulan Institute of Archaeology of the Kazakh Ministry of Education and Science (MON).
Recent research suggests that Dzhankent was established as early as the sixth century AD and reconstructed by Khorezmian builders in the late ninth century AD from the Amu-darya (Oxus) river oasis.
The first domesticated cat ever discovered on the Northern Silk Road and a cache of chicken eggs found written with Arabic script in a ceramic cup from the 10th century AD were both discovered during site excavations.
A palm-sized ceramic bear figure or pendant that is similar to late Iron Age artifacts from southern Siberia was also discovered by archaeologists, as well as a sherd from a big ceramic jar with the word “Allah” written on it.
Heinrich Härke, from the University of Tübingen, said: “According to written sources, Islam reached the area in the 10th century AD, so the discovery is now the earliest reference to Islam in the Aral Sea region.”
Cover photo: Martin Goffriller