Territorial Barriers in Central Asia

Investigating the "Long Wall" of Bukhara (Uzbekistan)

Sören Stark


Territorial barriers are a widespread phenomenon in Western Central Asia where they specifically take the shape of large-scale oasis walls, surrounding the entirety or large parts of the agricultural hinterland of important urban centers vis-à-vis stretches of desert or desert steppe in the region. Nonetheless, starting with their dating, our understanding of these sizable monuments is still very insufficient. The most monumental and best preserved one of these territorial barriers, the 'Long wall' of Bukhara – at least 250 miles long and complete with an impressive array of adjoining fortresses and watchtowers –, has been since 2011 subject to comprehensive investigations carried out in the framework of an American-Uzbek field project. The results of five seasons of extensive field surveys and excavations allow now, for the first time, substantiated conclusions regarding the chronology and the purpose of the barrier.

Sören Stark is Assistant Professor of Central Asian Art and Archaeology at ISAW. He studied Oriental Archaeology and Art History, Ancient History and (European) Art History at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. He received his doctorate in 2005 with a study on the archaeology and history of the pre-Muslim Turks in Central and Inner Asia which was published in 2008 as Die Alttürkenzeit in Mittel- und Zentralasien. Archaeologische und historische Studien (Nomaden und Sesshafte 6), Wiesbaden: Ludwig-Reichert-Verlag. His other works range chronologically from the Iron Age up to the pre-Mongol Middle-Ages and deal with various aspects of archaeology, art history and history in Central and Inner Asian as well as in neighboring cultural areas. From 2005 to 2008 he led archaeological surveys and excavations in Northern Tajikistan (near Shahriston and Istaravshan/Urotepa). Before joining the faculty of ISAW he was Junior Fellow at the Excellence Cluster TOPOI and teaching at the Freie Universität in BerlinHis main research focus lies on the political and cultural interrelations between pastoral nomads in Central and Inner Asia and their sedentary neighbors.

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