Ancient Ornek Added to UNESCO World Heritage List

ZHAMBYL REGION – The Ornek settlement has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Ornek settlement dates to the eighth-twelfth centuries. It is located 7.7 kilometres south of Ornek village on the banks of the Altynsu and Shybyndy rivers, in the Sulutor gorge of the Ryskulov district.

20140722_14_39_56990Arab maps composed by Ibn Khordadbeh and Kudam give clear evidence that settlements such as Kasribas, Kulshub and Dzhulshub were located among Taraz, Lower Baryskhan and Kulan. There is also an opinion on the identity of the city of Kasribas and the Akyrtas settlement. In this case, Ornek must correspond to Kulshub which, as well as Kasribas, belonged to the Karluk people and was one of the encampments of Karluk feudal lords. Archaeological materials suggest that the camp emerged on the place of permanent sedentary settlements, which apparently had been formed on the territory of spring and autumn pastures of one of the nomadic tribes. Most likely, part of the nomadic population grew wheat on the fenced fields and in turn, the reinforced camp served as the nucleus of the city.

Scientists say that international trade played a decisive role in the Ornek settlement, for its strong fortifications, mosques and mausoleum indicate that it was a developed and populous city. The central part of the settlement is a rectangular area measuring 155×160 metres and oriented to the cardinal angles with the entrances in the form of breaks in the mound. The roads running from the entrances intersected at the centre of the ancient city. Big stone boulders separated the sections of land located mainly along the Sulutor gorge. The total area of the array is about 500 hectares. During the excavation of the central part of the settlement archeologists found a 40-x-20-metre rectangular building with stone walls and columns oriented to the cardinal points. One of columns, made of gray sandstone, is stored in the regional history museum. On its upper part are four relief medallions in a circle with stylised images of human faces. The diameter of the medallions is 31 centimetres. The remains of the building are most likely a pillar-type mosque known in Central Asia. Such temples are typical for early stages of Islam. The remains of a residential house with stone walls and a street, traced on the area of 1.1 kilometres, were discovered opposite the mosque. The excavations showed part of the street was used for canals that supplied drinking water to the population of Ornek. Also among the findings were irrigated and non-irrigated dishware and crockery, including loop-handle pots, pitchers, jars, mugs, glazed cups, disk-trays and plates. The study of such monuments as the Ornek settlement allows us to trace one of the most important processes of history – the settling of nomads and the appearance of their urban centres.

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