Showing posts with label Paikend. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paikend. Show all posts

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Uzbekistan | Paikend | Varakhsha

I already mentioned the Kushans, who may have ruled Bukhara when the Magok-i Attari was first constructed. After the Kushans, around the beginning of the sixth century, Sogdiana fell under the sway of the Hephthalites, perhaps descendants of the Yuezhi, who themselves may have been Blonde-Haired Blue-Eyed Proto-Hippie Potheads but exact origins unclear.

The Hephthalites emerged in the fifth century a.d. and at the peak of their empire controlled much of East Turkistan (current day Xinjiang Province China, Afghanistan, and northwest India. According to one contemporary historian, the word “hephthalite” is derived from the Sogdian word for “strong man” Although the Hephthalites may have claimed suzerainty over the city-states of the Zerafshan Valley the Sogdians probably enjoyed a degree of autonomy, and by 563 a.d. Hephthalite influence in the region had ended altogether.

It was around this time that the Ark in Bukhara and the various small settlements surrounding it had coalesced into an important city. Still, it was one of numerous cities in the Bukhara Oasis and not necessarily the most dominant. Varakhsha, on what was then the western edge of the Bukhara Oasis (its ruins are now in the desert), and Paikend (also Baikand), on the very southern edge of the oasis, were both substantial, well-fortified cities older than Bukhara itself. Indeed, according to the ten-century historian Narshakhi a trader who went to Bagdad was more likely to brag that he was from Paikend than from Bukhara. These cities of the Bukhara oasis and the other loosely aligned city-states which made up Sogdiana dominated trade on the Silk Road arteries stretching from China and India to Byzantium, southern Russia and northern Africa, and their language, an early form of Iranian, became the lingua franca of commerce.
Locations of Paikend and Varakhsha (click on images for enlargements)
Paikend, twenty-eight miles southwest of Bukhara, was an important caravan stop on the Merv-Bukhara-Amul (at the Amu Darya Crossing)-Samarkand route. Attacked and largely destroyed by invading Arabs in the 710s, it was partially rebuilt but probably never recovered its former prominence. It is now in ruins. 
Ruins of Paikend
Southern entrance to the city. Stalls used by merchants can still be seen at top, just left of center.
Remains of what were probably residences
View of vineyards from the walls of the city
Ruins of Varakhsha
Varakhsha, twenty miles west-northwest of Bukhara, probably exceeded Bukhara in importance during its heyday. It boasted of impressive palaces used by Sogdian rulers. Once in the cultivated part of the Bukhara oasis, it may have been abandoned for lack of water as the oasis contracted. 
Ruins of Varakhsha
Ruins of Varakhsha
Ruins of Varakhsha
Ruins of Varakhsha
From Varakhsha the desert now stretches for hundreds of miles to the west
The religions practiced in Sogdia were indicative of these trade links with varying cultures. Buddhism, which had entered the region via Bactria, was in decline by the sixth century, but Zoroastrianism, the dominant religion of the Sassanian Empire to the southwest, was flourishing. Nestorian Christianity, stamped out in Byzantium, had spread eastward, and as early as 334 a.d. there was a Christian bishop in Merv, just south of the Amu Darya. By the sixth century Nestorian Christians were established in Samarkand, and probably in Bukhara. Manichaeism and a host of breakaway sects and chthonic cults also found followers among the Sogdians. By the end of the sixth century Sogdiana was flourishing, but dangers lurked just beyond the horizon. It was probably at this time that the Sogdians constructed the Kanpirak, or “Old Woman, the 150 or-more-long wall which surrounded most of the Bukhara Oasis and served as a bulwark against the hostile Turkish nomads who inhabited the deserts and steppes to the north. The invaders who would bring down Sogdiana and forever change the way of life in the Land Beyond the Rivers came not from the north, however, but from the south, in form of Arabs who came proclaiming the new religion of Islam.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Uzbekistan | Bukhara Oasis | Paikend

In a post about the Early Sogdian History of the Bukhara Oasis I mentioned the ancient cities of Paikend and Varakhsha. I would be remiss if I did not make a few more observations about Paikend, known during its prime as “the city of merchants”, or “the copper town” (apparently for the quality of its copperware). Located at the southern entranceway to the Bukhara Oasis, Paikend may well be older than Bukhara itself, and for much of the first millenium a.d. may have been the more important of the two cities. It was the first major city in Sogdiana north of the Amu Darya River and most caravans that crossed the Amu Darya at Amol would have passed through the city. Through Amol it was linked to Merv in Khorasan and the great Silk Road cities of the Iranian Plateau and Mesopotamia beyond. From the east much of the caravan trade from China, Mongolia, and East Turkestan (now Xinjiang Province, China), would have been funneled through the city. Paikend was also famous for its locally produced silk, glassware, copperware, pottery, armor, and weapons. Chinese, Arab, Indian, Afghani, Persian, and European merchants could be found searching for bargains in the city’s marts and roistering in the less salubrious districts. 
Bukhara-Paikend-Amol Route (click on images for enlargements)
On source suggests that since so many of the men are often out of town on trade missions the city itself was garrisoned at least in part by women. Girls were taught horseback riding and archery from an early age.  Finely carved bone rings found in the ruins baffled archeologists for years before it was determined that women wore them on their middle fingers as a guard when drawing a bow string. Famously independent, the women of the city were known to pick out their own husbands and may have engaged in polyandry, a practice not unknown in societies where one husband could be gone for years at a time on trade expeditions and a spare or two would come in handy. 

As mentioned in an earlier post about the Arab Invasions of Sogdiana, Paikend was invaded by Islamic armies in the first decade of the eighth century and thoroughly plundered. Enormous amounts of booty were seized, including armor and weapons the quality of which amazed the Arabs. Ephemeral sources also indicate that numerous gold and silver “idols” were also looted and melted down for their metal. Whether these were Buddhist statues or those of some indigenous religion is not clear. Buddhism was certainly known of and probably practiced in Paikend, along with a host of other religions, including Zoroastrianism and Nestorian Christianity. The city did recover and was rebuilt, as demonstrated by the remains of the mosque and minaret built after the Arab conquest. Presumably the city was no longer garrisoned by women after the arrive of Islam. 

The Tenth-Century Historian Narshakhi wrote that the merchants of the city had become extremely rich on account of the trade with China, and that any trader from the region who went to Baghdad was more likely to brag that he was from Paikend than from Bukhara. At one time nearly 1000 ribats, or caravanserais, surrounded the city. The record is far from clear, but apparently Paikend fell from grace due to the lowering water table which left the city, which sits on a low rise, high and dry. In the early twelfth-century the Khwarezmshah Arslan attempted to revive Paikend by supplying it with water via a new canal, but construction of the waterway proved to be too difficult and the project was eventually abandoned. Today Paikend is in ruins, but traces of its former greatness can still be seen, and if you listen very carefully you can still hear the muted laughter of women from the city’s battlements. 
Watchtowers in the old city wall were located about 180 feet from each other
 Fortifications in the city wall
 Fortifications in the city wall
 Fortifications in the city wall
 Fortifications in the city wall
A residential district within the city walls
Residential district within the city walls
 Ruins of residences
 Ruins of residences
 Ruins of residences. The function of the round hole,which is lined with brick is not clear.
 Remnants of a large wok-like metal structure
 Looking from the residential area toward the Citadel
Ruins of the Citadel
Ruins of the mosque next to the Citadel
 Ruins of the mosque
Base of the minaret next to the mosque. The base is larger in diameter of the still-existing 155-foot Kalon Minaret in Bukhara, which has led some to speculate that it may have been higher than the Kalon Minaret. 
 Floor of the Citadel
 Paving stones on the floor of the Citadel
 Building connected with the Citadel. The purpose of the round hole in the wall is unclear.
 A well near the Citadel. It is now dry. 
 Looking south from the Citadel
 Another residential area
 Ruins of residential area
Ruins of residential area
Archeologists claim this is the ruins of an apothecary. Broken glass and pottery containers with traces of plants and other medicinal substances in them were found here. 
 The main artery through the city leading to the southern gate. It is not entirely clear from the available sources, but it may be that for security reasons city had only one gate—this gate opening to the south.
 Looking north along the the main artery through the city leading to the southern gate
The main artery. Ruins of merchant stalls can be seen to the right.
 Merchant stalls lining the main artery
The main artery from the southern gate of the city. This may have been the city’s only gate.
A high-class residential district, probably inhabited by wealthy merchants, just east of the southern gate. 
 Upper-class residential district. The brick structure may have been a cistern. 
Well in the upper-class district
Ruins of ribats, or caravanserais, just outside the walls of the city at the southern gates. At one time there were close to 1000 of these ribats surrounding the city. 
Locals are still uncovering artifacts from the ruins. This young man has a pottery vessel which an archeologist whom I consulted said was used to store mercury. Apparently there are other examples in museums. Among its many other uses, mercury was used in processing gold, and was exceeding valuable in Sogdian times. Shards of common pottery are found everywhere within the ruins. 
 Detail of pottery vessel
Vineyards outside the ruins of the city walls 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Arab Invasion

By the end of the sixth century Bukhara Was Flourishing, but dangers lurked just beyond the horizon. It was probably around this time that the Sogdians constructed the Kanpirak, or “Old Woman”, the 150 or-more-long wall which surrounded most of the Bukhara Oasis and served as a bulwark against the hostile Turkish nomads who inhabited the deserts and steppes to the north. The invaders who would bring down Sogdiana and forever change the way of life in the Land Beyond the River came not from the north, however, but from the south, in form of Arabs who came proclaiming the new religion of Islam.

The Prophet Muhammed died in June of 632 a.d. Abu Bakr, his father-in-law and senior companion, assumed leadership of the Prophet’s followers and became the first of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs.  The Caliph and his successors had a simple mandate: the spread of Islam, by military conquest if necessary, to the far corners of the world. In the spring of 633 Arab General Khalid ibn Walid, acting under orders from Abu Bakr,  invaded Mesopotamia (current-day Iraq), then part of the vast Sassanian Empire stretching from near the shores of the Mediterranean to the Indus River. The incursion faltered after the death of Abu Bakr in 1634, but under this successor the second Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab the invasion continued and in September of 636 the Arabs defeated a huge Sassanian army in a three-day battle at the small town of Qadisiyyah, just east of Kufa and about one hundred miles southeast of Baghdad. Not long after the Sassanian imperial capital of Ctesiphon, eighteen miles southeast of Baghdad, surrendered without a fight, and the Sassanian emperor Yazdgird III along with his family and entourage fled eastward, taking refuge behind the natural border of the Zagros Mountains, which separated Mesopotamia from the Iranian Plateau.  In 642 Caliph Umar ordered his Muslim armies over the Zagros Mountains into the Sassanian heartland. Although vastly outnumbered the Arabs soon scored a stunning victory at Nahāvand, about forty miles south of Hamadan in what is now Iran. The Battle of Nahāvand was a death blow to the Sassanians. According to Islamic historian al-Tabari (838–923), “from that day on, there was no further unity among them [the Persians] and the people of the individual provinces fought their own enemies on their own territory.”

Yazdgird III, accompanied by thousands of relatives, hangers-on, and a small contingent of still-loyal troops fled farther eastward to Khorasan, passing through Nishapur and finally reached the then-already ancient city of Merv (fifty-five miles northwest of Mary in current-day Turkmenistan). Envoys which he had dispatched to Sogdians and Turk tribesmen north of the Amu Darya and to the Tang  Dynasty in China seeking aid to renew the battle against the Arabs came away empty-handed. Abandoned by the remainder of his troops, he again took flight and ended up hiding in the flour mill of a Christian miller on the banks of the Mugrab River south of Merv. In 651 he was assassinated, perhaps by the miller himself. After 427 years the Sassanian Empire was finally extinguished.

The same year Arab armies occupied Merv, 120 miles south of the Amu Darya, and Herat, on the western edge of Khorasan, and the following year Balkh, in Tokharistan  (current day northern Afghanistan), just thirty-five miles south of the Amu Darya. The Arabs invaders, now colonists, set up a governorship in Merv and used it as a base for further military forays to the north. Small raiding parties operating out of Merv may have penetrated  Khorezm on the lower Amu Darya in the 660s, but the first substantial campaign north of the Amu Darya took place in 673, when the governor of Khorasan Ubaidullah b. Ziyad led a force across the river to Bukhara. The Arabs were now in Transoxiania, or as they called it, Mawarannahr, literally “that which is beyond the river.”

 At this time Bukhara was still a Sogdian city and according to some accounts it was ruled by a khatun, or queen, who was the mother of the young Tugshada, the nominal Bukhar Khudat (ruler of Bukhara). She negotiated a truce with the Arabs and after paying them tribute of a million dirhams and 4,000 slaves they retreated back south of the river.

 For the next thirty years the Arabs continued to raid Bukhara and other cities in Mawarannahr and Khorezm but after demanding tribute from the local rulers, plundering the countryside, and enslaving Sogdians they continued to return to their bases south of the Amu Darya. In 705 al-Walid I ibn Abd al-Malik became the new Umayyads Caliph in Damascus, and under his reign the actual conquest of Mawarannahr began. Qutaiba b. Muslim, newly appointed governor of Khorasan, led an Arab army across the Amu Darya at Amul and in 706 attacked the city of Paikend at the very southern edge of the Bukhara Oasis.

After a two-month siege the city  fell. Qutaiba left a small garrison of troops and returned to Merv, but soon after his departure the Arab troops were expelled from the city. Qutaiba returned and wrecked horrific revenge, putting the fighting men to death, enslaving the women, and  completely plundering the city. Enormous amounts of booty was seized, including armor and weapons the quality of which amazed the Arabs. The message to the rest of the Zerafshan Valley was clear; submit and pay tribute or face annihilation.

With the destruction of Paikend the way was clear to Bukhara, thirty-one miles to the  northeast. Assaults on Bukhara in 707 and 708 failed, but 709 Bukhara and several other cities in Mawarannahr finally surrendered to Qutaiba. From the Bukharans he  collected tribute of 200,000 dirhams for the Caliph back in Damascus and 20,000 for the governor of Khorasan. A garrison was stationed in the city and every homeowner was made to house and presumably feed Arab troops.

 In 712 Qutaiba built the first mosque in Bukhara on the former site of a temple in the Ark, marking the introduction of Islam into the city. The temple may be been Zoroastrian, or possible even Buddhist. Apparently the local people did not immediately accept Islam, since, according to tenth-century historian of Bukhara Narshakhi, Qutaiba had proclaimed, “Whoever is present at the Friday prayer, I will give two dirhams.” The Quran had to be read in Sogdian, since none of the local people understood Arabic.

For the next hundred years Arabs maintained tenuous control of Bukhara and other cities in Mawarannahr. Revolts by the indigenous Sogdians were frequent, and in 729 they succeeded in expelling the Arabs from Bukhara altogether, although the city was taken a few months later. In the 740s the Abbasids (descendants of Abbas, uncle of the Prophet Muhammad) attempted to seize control of the Islamic geo-sphere from the Umayyads. Their lieutenant in Khorasan and Mawarannahr, Abu Muslim, defeated the Umayyads in 747–748, and local people, believing they were being liberated,  flocked to his banner. They soon realized, however, that the Abbasids, who finally seized the Caliphate in 750,  were no better than the  Umayyads. Revolts and rebellions against the ruling Arabs continued.