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Coordinates: 39 ° 46 ′ 28.1 ″  N , 68 ° 48 ′ 33.4 ″  E

Map: Tajikistan

Bundschikat ( Tajik Бунчикат ), also Bunjikat, Bundjikat, was the early medieval capital of the Usrushana region (Ustruschana), which was east of Sogdia in Central Asia . It is located near the present-day village of Shahriston in Sughd Province in northern Tajikistan . The remains of the fortified settlement Kala-i Kach-Kacha 1 from the 7th to 8th centuries and the palace of Kala-i Kach-Kacha 2 from the 7th to 9th centuries were found here on a hill above the Shahristonsai River exposed. The wall paintings found are among the most important of Sogdian art. In 1999 the excavation site was included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage .

Historical environment

Kala-i Kach-Kacha 1. Entire city from the palace to the west. Right: residential buildings in the center, left: residential buildings on the southern perimeter wall, center back: barracks and southwest bastion.

Finds of wooden panels with Sogdian italics from the ruins of the Chilchudschra palace two kilometers away and other places in the area from the 7th to 9th centuries show the linguistic and cultural-historical connection between the regions of Usrushana and Sogdia. The residents of both regions probably wrote and spoke the same language.

Since the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC BC ancient authors called the area between Amudarja (Oxus) and Syrdarja (Jaxartes) Transoxania . The Sogdians first appear as an ethnic group in Achaemenid sources from the 6th century BC. Chr. On. From this time on, Sogdic seems to have developed as an independent East Iranian language . The region of Sogdia initially included the area of ​​Transoxania and was differentiated from the northwestern Khoresmia . From the 1st or 2nd century at the latest, Sogdia was limited to a much smaller area on the lower Serafshan in what is now eastern Uzbekistan , and the region south of the river, which formerly belonged to Bactria, was now called Tocharistan. From this time on, Usruschana lay east of Sogdia between the western part of the Turkestan chain as the southern border and the central reaches of the Syr Darya in the north. This formed the border to the northern regions of Ilak and Schasch (Chach, today Tashkent ). To the northeast, Usrushana extended to around Khujand in the Fergana Valley .

In the 6th century BC The capital of the Usruschana region, which was a province of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, was called Kurukada or Kiropol. It was secured by a triple wall ring. Greek authors presumably meant by Cyropolis the same place that Alexander the Great 329 BC. And which was on the site of today's city of Istaravshan (Ura Tube in Islamic times). In the first centuries AD, Usrushana was ruled by local princes who were under the rule of the Hephthalites from the end of the 5th to the 6th centuries and under the rule of the Turkic peoples from the 7th to the beginning of the 8th centuries . The rulers carried the title afschin when Usrushana was embroiled in long-term power struggles with the first Muslim conquerors of the Abbasids at the beginning of the 8th century .

The ancient fortified cities in Usruschana - Baga and Gada are known besides Kurukada - lost their importance in the early Middle Ages. The Bundschikat settlement, 21 kilometers southwest of the Persian provincial capital Kurukada, was expanded. The heyday of Bundschikat began in the 7th century. Like the other early medieval cities in Central Asia, the place developed into a center of power consisting of a fortified castle on a hill, protected by an urban settlement in the plain below. This two-part city structure reflected the feudal social order, which was divided into a class of nobility and a simple population.

The Usruschana area was divided into a number of districts ( rustaq ) with settlements in the mountains and on the plains. The wealth of Usrushana was based on irrigated agriculture (barley, wheat, cotton and grapes) and the mining and processing of mineral resources (iron, gold and silver). The exchange of goods along the Silk Road running through the area produced a wealthy class of traders.

In the vicinity of Bundschikat there were some isolated, fortified palaces such as Chilchudschra and Urtakurgan (both on the Shahristonsai River, two to three kilometers southwest). The architecture of the buildings and the type of defenses were different in the Sogdian fortresses and were based on the topographical conditions. Urtakurgan is referred to as a castle ( köschk ) or palace according to its function , although the building, similar to Tschilchudschra, had no outer ring of fortifications, while Kala-i Kach-Kacha 2 in Bundschikat, despite its surrounding wall, did not serve as a castle, but as a three-storey building surrounded by a wall Palace of the Nobility. Since the 6th century, different types of buildings have been built in Usruschana according to their purpose: In addition to the urban palaces and the rural palace fortresses in the periphery of the cities, this included temples and barracks. At the end of the 9th century, the Bundschikat palace was destroyed, after which the Usrushana dominion lost its independence, which it did not regain later. The destruction was probably the work of the Samanid emir Ismoil Somoni (Ismail ibn Ahmad, † 907), who ruled Transoxania from 892 to 907 and ended the Afschin dynasty.

Building description

Kala-i Kach-Kacha 1. From the northern perimeter wall to the east with the palace hill in the background.

The city of Bundschikat consisted of two areas in the west of the Schahristonsai: 1) the fortified settlement Kala-i Kach-Kacha 1 (Kala-i Kahkaha 1) with a palace on a hill plateau rising steeply above the river, which can be seen from the village of Schahriston , 2) the smaller palace area Kala-i Kach-Kacha 2 to the south and a little lower down, separated from Kala-i Kach-Kacha 1 by a small valley, and 3) an outer district called Kala-i Kach-Kacha 3 ( rabaḍ ) in the plain on the east side of the river, which was inhabited under the Samanids in the 9th and 10th centuries and which is now largely overbuilt by the modern village. The outskirts were also surrounded by a wall with four gates. The entire city was enclosed by an outer fortress wall, within which there were also gardens and vineyards. There was enough water for the densely populated residential areas. The facility was studied between 1955 and 1960 by Soviet archaeologists from the Institute of History of the Tajik Academy of Sciences under the direction of Numan N. Negmatov.

Kala-i Kach-Kacha 1

The enclosing wall of the five-hectare fortified city of Kala-i Kach-Kacha 1 followed the irregular edge of the flat plateau, which is roughly level with the treeless hills that adjoin to the west and are only sparsely covered with grass. A valley cut separates the excavation site from these, in the east and northeast it is bounded by the river valley and in the south by a valley with a moat from a lower plateau on which the palace of Kala-i Kach-Kacha 2 was located. The surrounding wall made of rammed earth was reinforced by bastions in front , of which a tower stump several meters high has been preserved in the southwest corner. The main entrance was on the north side and another entrance on the west side. At the highest point in the east was the palace, 57 meters above the river. From here several excavation fields can be seen, which have been identified as the houses of business people, pottery quarters and barracks. The barracks in the southwest included accommodations, guard houses and a parade ground. In the west there was also a cistern ( sardoba ). A cult temple was converted into a mosque after the Islamic conquest.

The residential buildings in the northern part of the city had a long room, which was divided by partition walls into a half-open Iwan at the entrance, a central area and a rear area. In the city center, the houses were more elaborately designed with an iwan as an entrance that led to rooms of different sizes. The ceilings were supported by columns and the walls were richly decorated with paintings. A similar sequence of rooms - courtyard, ivan and two square rooms behind them - is known from several Persian-Central Asian palaces, as well as from pre-Islamic sanctuaries such as Paikent (Sogdian trading center near Bukhara) or Surkh Kotal (fire temple in northern Afghanistan). A quarter of the southern perimeter wall consisted of residential units built closely together with two to three rooms, each of which was accessible from the street via a common corridor.


From the palace on the top of the hill to the southeast over the gravel bed of the Schahristonsai.
Fragment of a wall painting in the Archaeological Museum in Dushanbe , 7th / 8th centuries. Century.
Figure in the Archaeological Museum in Dushanbe.

The palace of the rulers ( afschin ) had 20 rooms with a total area of ​​38 × 47 meters and a complex but functionally planned floor plan with a corridor that divided the building into two differently sized areas. It was surrounded by a wall with corner towers and was surmounted by a square tower in the middle of the roof. The walls were made of adobe bricks and plastered with clay. From the representative entrance in the manner of an ivan in the west, a path led down to the outer district ( rabaḍ ), which archaeologists call Kala-i Kach-Kacha 3. On the west side there was a 17.7 × 11.8 meter columned hall at a two-story height, which was oriented lengthways to a raised throne room, a smaller, lower hall (9.6 × 9.5 meters) and the shrine of the palace. On the opposite side was a living room and next to it a room for servants. Stone balls for throwing slings were stored in a narrow room known as the “weapons store”. The 5000 stones found weigh 32 to 48 kilograms. These rooms were surrounded within the wall by a kitchen, a bakery and other utility rooms.

Since Soviet archaeologists began to bring the murals of Sogdian cities to light in the middle of the 20th century, Bundschikat has been among the most important along with Warachscha (45 kilometers west of Bukhara ), Afrasiab (north of Samarkand ) and Old Punjakent (near Punjakent ) Sogdian archaeological sites. The great theme of the art of Ustruschana is the struggle between good and evil, which is essential for Iranian religion and mythology. In the palace, this theme is depicted in the paintings of the small hall and central corridor, as well as in the wooden reliefs at the entrance to the throne room.

The exposed wall paintings from the palace, some of which are on display in the National Archaeological Museum in Dushanbe and the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, include a painting that was once six meters long and was on the west wall of the corridor and contains five scenes. On the left is a seated figure on a throne, in front of which another figure kneels. In the second scene a kneeling woman hands over a child to a man kneeling next to her. This is followed by a scene in which something is swimming in water, possibly in a river. Festively dressed people stand on either side of the banks. In the final scene, a she-wolf is suckling two little boys. The theme of the entire depiction is the suspension and rescue of Romulus and Remus , the legendary founders of the city of Rome in Roman mythology . The myth of the divine twin babies , who are left in a basket on the Tiber , found and nursed by a she-wolf in the reeds, and later raised by a shepherd, has its origins in older Greek mythology . It was also widespread outside of the Roman Empire . This is indicated by seals , copper coins and bracteates (tin coins) from the 6th century from Byzantium and the Sassanid Empire , which depict a she-wolf with two boys. The Sogdian rulers could have taken over the Roman wolf motif from the Byzantines, figuratively conveyed by bracteates, one of which depicting a she-wolf was also found in Old Punjakent. Similar wolf myths are known from the North Asian Wusun and the Mongols . A comparison can also be made with the myths of some Turkic tribes, where the wolf was considered to be the forefather. From them the Sogdians could have adopted the wolf as a symbol of power. The bronze sculpture of a suckling wolf on the pass road north of the Schahriston tunnel refers to the wall painting in the palace .

Several paintings from the palace show the Mesopotamian goddess Nanaja with four arms and the emblems of the sun and moon in her raised arms, with which she possibly reveals herself as the guardian deity who controls the alternation of day and night. The four arms of the deity widespread in Transoxania go back to an Indian influence. The oldest images of a many-armed goddess with Sun and Moon in two hands make kuschanazeitliche sculptures of Mathura is (second half of 2nd century. Chr.). In addition to the Indian, Nanaja, who is sitting on a lion, has a Chinese influence, which is evident in her almond-shaped eyes.

The wall paintings in the small hall represent a large-scale battle between humans, gods and other heavenly beings on the one hand and an army of demons on the other. The fragmentary faces of the demons appear individual and expressive. The next scene shows the people peacefully together as they recover after the battle. A painting fragment on the north wall of the hall depicts three musicians seated next to each other, the one on the left playing a kink-necked lute corresponding to the Persian barbat with a large round body and the middle and right a vertical angle harp with twelve to 15 strings, with the Persian name Tschang was widespread in the Middle East. The musicians are warriors with helmets on their heads and armed with swords. Another, fragmentarily preserved wall painting was reconstructed as an almost life-size standing harp player, standing in an oval frame with a long dress and trousers and playing a ten- to thirteen-string angle harp with both hands. It could be the goddess az-Zuhra (Zuchra), who is assigned to the planet Venus and appears as the protector of musicians in ancient oriental mythology.

In religious Sogdian art there is a seated deity, from whose throne horse protomes protrude on both sides . The figure of a god from Bundschikat, which was located opposite the hall entrance on the west wall, holds a long sword that reaches down to the feet. Seated figures symmetrically surrounded by horse protomes are also known from Buddhist rock paintings from the 8th century in Dokhtar-i Noshirwan (Nigar, near Bamiyan in Afghanistan). Among the remains of the painting was the head of a Buddhist gatekeeper ( Dvarapala ) with his mouth wide open. According to the Persian historian at-Tabarī , Prince Afschin Haidar († 841), who came from Bundschikat, owned a god figure in his palace in Baghdad , probably a representation of Buddha, which is why he was charged there. According to this, Buddhism was still tolerated to a certain extent in Usruschana under Muslim rule in the middle of the 9th century.

A vessel flute made of clay in the shape of a jug was probably partially filled with water, so that when blowing in through the mouthpiece the sound of a trilling bird was created. In Sogdia and elsewhere in Central Asia, otherwise, bird-shaped vessel flutes were probably used, among other things, in magical rituals.

The wooden panels in relief preserved from the palace are of particular value. In Dushanbe, the wooden fragment of a semicircular tympanum is on display, which was located in front of the throne room near the north wall. It shows extremely small-scale figurative and vegetable ornaments with which a series of circular arcs around the edge are filled. The mythical king Zahhak (Zohak) can be recognized among the figures . The furnishing of the halls also included ornamented columns and wooden friezes with heads and floral patterns framed in a circle. The assembled discussion participants sat down on rectangular platforms. The found objects and wall paintings were buried in a fire that must have occurred after the trial of Afschin Haidar and destroyed the palace.


Southern enclosure wall to the west with the rest of the bastion on the southwest corner. On the right part of the barracks.

The building, identified as a barracks, was uncovered from 1956 in a 6.4 meter high artificial hill near the southwestern bastion. The building with a footprint of around 20 × 20 meters was two-story. The only entrance on the east side led to a 2.4–2.6 meter wide and 16.5 meter long central aisle, which bisected the building. Five narrow rooms in the northern part and seven in the southern part could be reached via this corridor. They were 1.3–1.5 meters wide and 5-6.5 meters long. All rooms were covered with barrel vaults and were relatively well preserved. A similar floor plan is assumed for the poorly preserved upper floor. Its small remains were removed before the excavators examined the ground floor. As the upper floor, they exposed a corridor around 2.3 meters wide and 11 meters long that led to buried rooms in the northern half. A stairway to the upper floor did not appear, it was probably only accessible via the defensive wall, from which the building was separated by a narrow corridor. The thickness of the outer walls was 2.6 meters on the north and west sides in the lower area. The barrel vaults were built with clay bricks in oblique ring layers, i.e. with upright bricks that are built in as individual vault rings like a Nubian vault . The vaults above some passages were laid in radial layers (in a horizontal bond). Through an inclined layout and wedge-shaped joints upwards, the bricks met at the apex on both sides at an incline of approximately 45 degrees and there interlocked in a herringbone pattern. The building can only be dated to the 7th or 8th century by comparing the architecture, as there were no small finds that could be used to determine the time.

Kala-i Kach-Kacha 2

Kala-i Kach-Kacha 2. Palace to the south

The smaller settlement Kala-i Kach-Kacha 2, located to the south, covered a rectangular flat area of ​​230 × 210 meters, which was surrounded on all sides by a wall. There was another enclosure wall to the west and south. The only access was in the northwest. The palace, uncovered between 1955 and 1958 in the northeast near the east wall above the river, was three-story and had basic dimensions of 26.5 × 22.5 meters. The building was similar to a castle because of its outer wall, but the Russian archaeologist Sergej Khmelnitskij classifies it according to its function as a palace with a "courtly social purpose". The entrance from the north side to the ground floor led through a 5.3 × 2.6 meter entrance hall 1 in room 2 (6.5 × 6.1 meters) and via a narrow connecting corridor in room 3 (5.6 × 5.2 Meter). The half-open room 4 in the east of the north wall measured 5.3 × 4.7 meters. All four rooms on the ground floor served as reception rooms.

From east to west the three floors, which were not one above the other, rose like a staircase. The first floor in the middle third accommodated three narrow utility rooms and the second floor on the west side housed the two living rooms. The floors were connected to one another by a spiral ramp in the middle of the north side. The ramp led from the entrance in room 1 on the first floor to the long corridor on the first floor (room 5) and ended in the middle room 9 on the second floor. At the time of the excavation, smaller parts of the barrel vault were still present over the ramp. The strength of the northern and southern outer walls was 3.3-3.7 meters in the lower area, the eastern wall 3.7 and the western wall 2.4 meters. The floor of the first floor corresponded to the grown subsoil. For the upper floors, a base made of approximately 70 × 70 centimeter blocks of clay was built. The barrel vaults consisted of ring layers with dimensions for the clay bricks of 49–51 × 25–26 × 7–11 and 62 × 35 × 8 centimeters. The dating of the building is not possible more precisely than in the 7th to 9th centuries. Some pieces of wood and painting residues came to light.


  • Nasiba Baimatowa: The Art of Arching in Central Asia. Mud brick vault (4th - 3rd millennium BC - 8th century AD). Dissertation, Free University of Berlin, 2002 ( full text )
  • Sergej Khmelnitskij: On the classification of the early medieval castles in Central Asia . In: Annali dell'Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli. Volume 45, 1985, pp. 25-48
  • Boris I. Marshak, NN Negmatov: Sogdiana. In: BA Litvinsky (Ed.): History of Civilizations of Central Asia. The crossroads of civilizations: AD 250-750. Volume III. (Multiple History Series) UNESCO Publishing, Paris 1996, pp. 233-280

Web links

Commons : Bundschikat  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Site of Ancient Town of Shahristan (Kahkakha). UNESCO
  2. Sergei G. Kljaštorny, Vladimir A. Livsic: The Sogdian Inscription of Bugut Revised. In: Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, T. 26, Fasc. 1 , 1972, pp. 69-102, here p. 81
  3. Étienne de La Vaissière : Sogdian Traders. A history . ( Handbook of Oriental Studies . 8th section: Central Asia , Volume 10) Brill, Leiden / Boston 2005, p. 16
  4. ^ Boris I. Marshak: The Archeology of Sogdiana. The Silk Road
  5. Sergei Khmelnitskij, p. 28
  6. Boris I. Marshak, NN Negmatov: Sogdiana. In: BA Litvinsky (Ed.), Pp. 259f
  7. Sergej Khmelnitskij, p. 28f
  8. Grigorii L'vovich Semenov: Studies on the Sogdian culture on the Silk Road . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1996, p. 47
  9. Boris I. Marshak, NN Negmatov: Sogdiana. In: BA Litvinsky (Ed.), Pp. 262, 264
  10. Yury Karev: Qarakhanid Wall Paintings in the Citadel of Samarkand: First Report and Preliminary Observations. In: Muqarnas, Vol. 22, 2005, pp. 45–84, here p. 83, footnote 41
  11. Namu Jila: Myths and Traditional Beliefs about the Wolf and the Crow in Central Asia: Examples from the Turkic Wu-Sun and the Mongols . In: Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 65, No. 2, 2006, pp. 161–177, here p. 172
  12. Grigorii L'vovich Semenov: Studies on the Sogdian culture on the Silk Road . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1996, pp. 204f
  13. Joan Good Nick West Wood: Trading the symbol of the Goddess Nanaya. In: Peter Wick, Volker Rabens (Ed.): Religions and Trade. Religious Formation, Transformation and Cross-Cultural Exchange between East and West . Brill, Leiden / Boston 2014, pp. 191, 193
  14. ^ Matteo Comparetti: The Indian Iconography of the Sogdian Divinities and the Role of Buddhism and Hinduism in its Transmission. In: Annali dell'Istituto Orientale di Napoli, 69, 1–4, 2009, pp. 175–210, here p. 198
  15. FM Karomatov, VA Meškeris, TS Vyzgo: Central Asia . (Werner Bachmann (Ed.): Music history in pictures . Volume II: Music of antiquity. Delivery 9) Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1987, pp. 134–137
  16. Markus Mode: The Great God of Dokhtar-e Noshirwān (Nigār). In: East and West, Vol. 42, No. 2/4 , December 1992, pp. 473-483, here p. 477
  17. ^ Hans Wilhelm Haussig : The history of Central Asia and the Silk Road in pre-Islamic times. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1992, p. 250.
  18. FM Karomatov, VA Meškeris, TS Vyzgo: Central Asia . (Werner Bachmann (Hrsg.): Music history in pictures . Volume II: Music of antiquity. Delivery 9) Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1987, p. 90
  19. Boris I. Marshak, NN Negmatov: Sogdiana. In: BA Litvinsky (ed.), Pp. 267–271 (images)
  20. AM Belenizki: Central Asia. Art of the Sogden. EA Seemann, Leipzig 1980, p. 227
  21. Nasiba Baimatowa, pp. 194–197
  22. Sergei Khmelnitskij, p. 28
  23. Nasiba Baimatowa, pp. 205-208