A brief history of Archaeology in Southern Kyrgyzstan

Turkestan times

Contrary to the prevailing opinion that archeology developed in Central Asia during the Soviet Empire, the first researchers (more ethnographic than archaeological) visited the eastern part of the Ferghana basin and southern Kyrgyzstan already at the end of the 19th century. At its end, the Ferghan basin became the subject of interest of St. Petersburg academician V.V. Barthold, who visited Central Asia a total of 5 times (1893-1894, 1902, 1904, 1916, 1928).

Vasily Vladimirovich Barthold (1869 - 1930).
Vasily Vladimirovich Barthold (1869 – 1930).

Barthold also visited the city of Osh, where he studied the topography of the medieval city. As the first scientist, he was interested in the etymology and history of the mountain Sulajman Too above Osh. During this period, the research of Prof. Vasilij Kallaur in the Talas valley (1898) and his work was followed by a rather curious expedition of the Finno-Ugric Society. Osh became the subject of research by the historian and arabist L.A. Zimin.

Soviet Era

After the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and in accordance with the overall concept of central commissions for every area of ​​life, the research of history and monuments in Central Asia was entrusted to the institutions of Turkomstaris, Kirkomstaris and Stredazkomstaris (abbreviations in the first place…). Since the mid-30s, local scientific institutions have been included in archaeological research in Kyrgyzstan: the Science Committee under the Council of People’s Commissars of the Kyrgyz ASSR. Since that time, expeditions have been organized, both independent and joint with the State Academy of the History of Material Culture of the USSR Academy of Sciences – namely from Leningrad and Tashkent. Since 1938, soviet archaeological expeditions begins to work and and their course is connected with the great name of Central Asian archeology – A. N. Bernshtam. A.N. Bernshtam visited south of Kyrgyzstan, which resulted in the first archaeological study of the region – a periodization of archaeological materials, primarily settlements (tepe),  a reconnaissance survey of archeological and cultural monuments of a wide chronological range – from the Stone Age to the architectural structures of the 19. century. He worked of the Tian Shan, Pamir-Alay mountains and Fergana basin, of course. The result was the first monographic treatment of the settlement of southern Kyrgyzstan, the creation of a basic systematics of finds and historical topology. His work started the phase of professional archeology – in 1953, a permanent archaeological-ethnographic expedition was founded in Kyrgyzstan, a regional museum began working in Osh, and Bernshtam himself “educated” a number of followers (J.D. Baruzdin – the excavation in Kara-Bulak ; N.G. Gorbunova), the most famous of whom is J.A. Zadneprovsky, whose dissertation in 1954 was focused directly on the Fergana valley and who defined the basic chronological framework of prehistoric and medieval development in Ferghana (Chust – Eylatan – Shurabashat – Markhamat).

Yurij Alexandrovich Zadneprovsky. The heart and sould of research in South Kyrgyzstan in 60. and 70.
Yurij Alexandrovich Zadneprovsky. The heart and sould of research in South Kyrgyzstan in 60. and 70.

J. Zadneprovsky prepared a monographic inventory of the source base of the archeology of southern Kyrgyzstan, and his key work was the research and publication of the so-called Osh settlement in the city agglomeration.

Post-Soviet Era

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the young state began to build its national identity, to which archeology also helped. The big event was the 3000th anniversary of Osh city headed by V.M. Masson with the participation of J.A. Zadneprovsky, D. Abdullaev and others, resulting in special synthetic collections: “Study of ancient and medieval Kyrgyzstan” (1998), “New about ancient and medieval Kyrgyzstan” (1999), “Osh and Fergana in a historical perspective” (2000),  “Osh and antiquities of Southern Kyrgyzstan” (2001).

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