Urbanism Under Turco-Mongol Rule: Excavations at Otrar, Kazakhstan
The city of Otrar in southern Kazakhstan (42°51'8.64"N/ 68°18'9.26"E; (Figure 1) was occupied from around the 4th-5th century AD and abandoned in the 18th century (Akishev, Baipakov, and Erzakovich 1972:81, 1981, 1987; Baipakov 1990). Exploiting the waters of the nearby Syr Darya river to create a fertile hinterland which supported the urban population (Clarke, Sala, and Meseth 2005; Toonen et al. 2020), written sources indicate it was the location of major historical events from the Mongol Conquest to the death of Timur (Bregel 2003:36, 42; Juvaini (trans. J. Boyle) 1997:82–85; Rashid al-Din (trans a. W.M. Thackston) 2012:170–71; f488-90; Zimin’ 1914). Today, the site consists of a raised mound or shahristan known as Otrartobe, an 18m tall mound of decayed mudbrick architecture and occupation deposits within a larger urban zone covering around 170 hectares (Akishev et al. 1972:43–50; Fodde, Sala, and Deom 2013). The site has been extensively excavated (Akishev et al. 1972, 1981, 1987; Akylbek 2013; Baipakov 2013; Baipakov and Erzakovich 1991; Campbell 2020, 2021) with ample information about various neighbourhoods, and broad chronological understanding of the character of occupation. Abandonment deposits have been found and equated to the Mongol Conquest but the stratification of the coin hoard used to date this phase was somewhat unclear (Akishev et al. 1987:18) and so the precise chronology of occupation at Otrar and the extent to which it was continuously inhabited remains obscure. The work described here presents an initial attempt to further investigate the complex sequence of occupation at the site between the 12th and 14th centuries.
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