February 21, 2014

Genghis Khan was here. Broken bones and pottery. Afrosiab, Uzbekistan

One of the best sites in Samarkand is away from the main tourist trail of Minarets, Madrasah and tombs, the remains of Afrosiab. This was the original city that pre-dates modern Samarkand. Described as ‘the most beautiful city in the world’ by a contemporary, it was a major trading station on the Silk road. Once occupied by Alexander the Great, it was destroyed by the violent Mongol invasion force in March 1220, with over 100,000 inhabitants being put to the sword.

Afrosiab is located about 3KM east of the Samarkand Bazaar, in the parched hills surrounding the city, alongside the Tashkent kochasi road. There is a museum on site, which has some interesting remains uncovered in the Russian  archaeological digs of the last century, as well as some good scale models to show the size of the city.
Walking out of the museum and turning right is where the adventure begins. Pass through a small gate, and then you are walking over the grass, mud and sand remains of the city. It must be an archaeologists dream to wander around the site. So little has been excavated, and you are literally crunching pottery and sparkling glass underfoot, which i tried to avoid, but there was so much it was hard not to. This area pictured had recently been unveiled by rain and storm flow, and in the layers can be seen different types of pottery shards, coloured glass, and human bones. You can visualize the sudden and dramatic end to a rich and colourful city established for over a thousand years, by the Mongol hordes.

With a bit of investment so much could be uncovered and exhibited, yet being able to freely walk and explore Afrosiab, picking up and examining ancient artifacts, was one of my favourite experiences in Uzbekistan. I spent hours wandering through the ancient city and I had it to myself. Long may it remain off the beaten track.

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