Late Medieval Otrar Sixteenth–Eighteenth Centuries
Акишев, Кемаль и др . Позднесредневековый Отрар: XVI-XVIII вв. Алма-Ата: Наука, 1981, 343c.

Akishev, Kemal et al. Pozdnesrednevekovyi Otrar: XVI-XVIII vv. Alma-Ata: Nauka, 1981, 343pp. 


Late Medieval Otrar Sixteenth–Eighteenth Centuries

Позднесредневековый Отрар: XVI-XVIII вв

This monograph is a continuation of the book, Ancient Otrar. In the preceding work, emphasis was given to the topography, stratigraphy and prospects for researching the site of the ancient settlement of Otrar-Tobe, as well as other medieval monuments around the oasis of the same name. The second book pays considerable attention to topography and stratigraphy and is more comprehensive. It includes the results of archaeological research from 1967 up to the completion of this collective publication.

The first chapter, “Archaeological work on the Ancient Settlement of Otrar”, serves as a point of reference for the whole book. It provides information on the topography of the settlement, the excavations that have taken place, and the artefacts found. Particularly striking here are the combined plans − published for the first time − of an excavated urban structure with an area of approximately seven hectares. On the basis of stratigraphic methods, the authors distinguish three cultural (constructional) levels, consistently observed in the various parts of the settlement. 

Thereafter, the author deal with the topography of the town, and point out that while the topography of the central mound (of the excavation site) took shape in its basic form between the 13th and 18th centuries, it succeeded an earlier planning layout. The work also notes that the fundamental unit of settlement planning was the district or quarter. This fact is important for researchers of urban planning as it points to the regularity of the urban space. However, this is an Eastern type of regularity with the inner isolation of each quarter (the so-called ‘blind wall’). The presence of streets and passages within these closed urban units facilitated social − and possibly administrative − communication between their inhabitants. Traces of inter-quarter specialisation are evident, such as potters' quarters, blacksmiths' quarters, and weavers' quarters, etc…

The monograph provides a detailed description of the reconstruction process for living quarters in the settlement. This illuminates both the common (Central Asian) and specific characteristics of medieval Otrar dwellings. The authors correlate calculations of home construction numbers with the overall area of the settlement to produce demographic indicators pointing to a population in medieval Otrar of 4,500− 6,300 people. 

The authors' research on the ethnic makeup of medieval Otrar society draws on their analysis of traditional material culture. This highlights Otrar's common origins with the Kazakh settlement of the nineteenth century. The authors analyse Tamgha seals, ceramics, and coins, and attribute their iconography to the major Kazakh tribal groups − the Kipchaks, Argyns, Dughlats, and Kereits. 

Overall, the book is of interest to archaeologists and specialists working on the middle ages by virtue of its collation of materials from many years of meticulous research on the settlement of Otrar. The appendix is illustrated with photographs, graphic illustrations, diagrams, including axonometric projections, and also contains a catalogue of coins. There is also supporting evidence on the development of crafts and trading relations. 

The book can also be of interest to a wide audience in that it represents the most coherent reconstruction of medieval culture on the territory of Kazakhstan. It is also useful for more specialised readers as it contains extensive comparative material on archaeological excavations in Central Asia.

Kulshat Medeuova
Translated by Joseph Livey
Medeuova, Kulshat. “English abstract of 'Late Medieval Otrar Sixteenth–Eighteenth Centuries'". Translated by Joseph Livey. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 103. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
Related Documents