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The City of Otrar, Kazakhstan: Using Archaeology to Better Understand the Impact of the Mongol Conquest of Central Asia

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Peer-reviewed

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Article

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Abstract

In the early decades of the 13th century, the Mongols swept through Central Asia, sacking the cities of the Khwarezmian Empire and apparently causing economic chaos throughout the region. The Persian historians Rashid al-Din, Juvaini and others describe this as a traumatic event with cities razed and populations slaughtered. This paper takes the site of Otrar in present-day Kazakhstan and examines how archaeological evidence might be used to complement our historical understanding of this event and its aftermath, and whether archaeological evidence might have the potential to challenge or corroborate our current understanding of the period. The paper describes the historical and archaeological background of the site, and initial results of small-scale archaeological work at Otrar undertaken in 2017, which involved mapping, cleaning of sections and environmental sampling. Concluding that archaeology can have a large part to play in the debate, it is nonetheless cautious about how this evidence is used and discusses some of the limitations of archaeological data, as well as its potential within the context of the site of Otrar.

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Keywords

Khwarazmian Empire, Mongols, Archaeology, Silk Road, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Conquest

Journal Title

Proceedings of the 11th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East Volume 2: Field Reports, Islamic Archaeology

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Publisher

Harrassovitz Verlag

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Sponsorship
Nizami Ganjavi Programme