Book: Case Studies in the Silk Roads Archaeology
Chapter: 6. The Dzhety-Asar Culture of the Lower Syr Darya – Evolution of Culture and Typology of Settlements
Despite its apparent size and length of existence the Dzhety-asar culture of Kazakhstan remains one of the great unknowns of Central Asian archaeology, comprising, as it did, several dozen now-ruined settlements with an almost thousand-year long occupational history. First settled around the 1 st century BCE and gradually abandoned in the second half of the 1 st millennium CE, the Dzhety-asar towns and manors were located to the East of the Aral Sea within the Syr Darya delta and may have functioned as a key element in Central Asia’s medieval trade networks. Despite past research efforts by the Khorezmian Archaeological Ethnographic Expedition (KhAEE), the cultural and political history of the Dzhety- asar people remains largely unclear, with as yet no consensus on political structure or their ethnic, linguistic and religious make up. The present paper does not presume to answer these questions at this stage, as it is the result of two fieldwork seasons documenting and surveying Dzhety-asar settlements; it lays out the preliminary findings, a basic typology of sites and presents some early hypotheses on the structure and possible evolution of the culture.