Rectangular carved wooden panel with a large image of a goddess and smaller images of people surrounding her.

Wood panel depicting the goddess Nana and worshippers (central part) from Kafir-kala in Samarkand; photo by Alisher Begmatov.

Trans-Eurasian Exchange:

Fresh from Sogdiana

Alisher Begmatov

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar

This lecture will take place online; a Zoom link will be provided via email to registered participants.

Registration is required at THIS LINK.

Sogdiana, in what is now mainly central and eastern Uzbekistan and north-western Tajikistan, found itself in between China, India, Iran, and Byzantium during late antiquity and early medieval period. A large of number of artistic and textual materials from Eurasia have shown that the inhabitants of Sogdiana took great advantage of this strategic position and acted as international traders. Not only did they engage in mercantile activities, but they also played a crucial role in cultural exchanges between East and West.

Among the growing number of textual and iconographical materials from Sogdiana, the sealings, wooden carvings, and the coins from Kafir-kala (presumed to be Rewdat, a Sogdian Royal Residence) in Samarkand are of great value for the question of late antique and early medieval trans-Eurasian interconnectivity. These novel discoveries will be the main focus of this lecture. In addition, it will briefly introduce the recent fieldwork results acquired from Kafir-kala and other sites in Sogdiana.

Alisher Begmatov is a Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW. He conducts research on the extinct languages and cultures of pre-Islamic Central Asia, by taking an integrative approach combining fields such as philology, archaeology and art history. As a research fellow at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, he has been editing and researching Sogdian textual materials from Central Eurasia. He takes a great interest in archaeology as well as philology and participates in expeditions in Central Asia. He has been engaging with and organizing excavations at the sites of Kafir-kala, Dabusia and Mingtepa in Uzbekistan, and other sites in Central Asia. He has also been conducting research on artifacts bearing Sogdian and Bactrian inscriptions and various figurative representations, namely on those newly unearthed from Samarkand and neighboring oases. At ISAW, he will continue interdisciplinary research and contribute to a deeper understanding of pre-Islamic early medieval Sogdiana, Central Eurasia and the Silk Roads.

He received his doctoral degree (D.Litt in linguistics, 2020) from Kyoto University, Japan. His doctoral thesis entailed a critical re-evaluation of the Sogdian documents found at Mount Mugh in Tajikistan, dated to the early 8th Century AD. By systematically analyzing the linguistic features and by comparing the unidentified or uncertain terms with words or terms in the languages of Central Eurasia, in particular, languages with which the Sogdian language could have been in contact, he was able to significantly improve the understanding of these documents.

He holds a BA in philology from Samarkand Institute of Foreign Languages and an MA in linguistics from Kyoto University.

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