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Archaeological Investigations around the "Long wall" of Bukhārā

Section of the oasis wall around Bukhara In the western part of the former oasis (west of Varakhsha). Today this section runs through the desert-steppe. Photo by Soeren Stark, all rights reserved. In the western part of the former oasis (west of Varakhsha). Today this section runs through the desert-steppe. Photo by Soeren Stark, all rights reserved.

Territorial barrier-walls are a widespread phenomenon in many micro-regions of Western Central Asia where they specifically take the shape of large-scale oasis walls or linear barriers, similar to "long walls" known from other parts of the Old World. Although some of these impressive monuments are mentioned and described to some extent in medieval sources our knowledge regarding their layout and actual purpose must still be considered as very insufficient. Especially the dating of most of these barrier-walls is still a matter of considerable debate.

In the eastern part of the oasis. In the foreground the remains of the wall proper (today preserved as a slightly elevated earth wall), in the background a watchtower. To the left the oasis (with irrigated fields), to the right steppelands. Photo by Soeren Stark, all rights reserved. In the eastern part of the oasis. In the foreground the remains of the wall proper (today preserved as a slightly elevated earth wall), in the background a watchtower. To the left the oasis (with irrigated fields), to the right steppelands.

Doubtlessly the most monumental of these barriers east of Iran was the more than 400 km long oasis wall system around the oasis of Bukhara, complete with dozens of fortresses, forts and watchtowers. Despite a relatively long history of research the key questions relating to this remarqable system of territorial fortification still remain to be answered: when exactly was it first constructed, what was the purpose – or what were the purposes – for its construction, and how did it develop during its existence?

To approach this questons from an archaeological perspective is the aim of an archaeological field project carried out since 2011in cooperation between ISAW and the Institute of Archaeology at the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan in Samarkand, directed by Prof. Sören Stark and Dr. Dj. K. Mirzaakhmedov.

See here for more information and ressources relating to our ongoing work in and around Bukhārā.