Archaeo-Geographical Research in the Samarkand Region, Uzbekistan (August 2000)

Noboru Ogata (Kyoto University)

In this web page, we offer the record of the research trip made in the Samarkand region, Uzbekistan in August 2000 as a part of the research project sponsored by the Research Center for Silk Roadology. The purpose of the study was to find the ground truth about the archaeological features identified on the intelligence satellite photographs taken in 1964. We visited a number of sites guided by the local partners, and found that those features identified on the satellite photographs were ruins of ancient settlements and forts. The results of the research project were published in the Bulletin of the Research Center for Silk Roadology Vol. 17 (2003) "A Study on Cities, Settlements and Archaeological Sites in the Silk Road Region Using Satellite Photos."


Study Area

The left picture is the intelligence satellite (CORONA satellite) photographs taken by the United States on October 20, 1964. It covers the Zarafshan River Basin (upper part) including Samarkand and the Kashka River Basin (lower part) including Shakhrisabz. Those basins (oases) look dark among the dry region which looks bright on the photograph.

Red circles in the photograph denotes archaeological sites we visited while blue squares show the location of major cities.

Samarkand occupied important position in the Silk Road region throughout the historical ages. The troops of Alexander the Great from Greece reached this region in the 4th century BC. Xuanzang, a Buddhist priest from China who traveled to India in the 7th century AD, wrote in his record that Samarkand is located in the middle of the western regions. In the 15th century Samarkand enjoyed its heyday as the capital of the Timurid Empire.



August 25 We traveled from Samarkand southward and visited several archaeological sites near the edge of the basin.

Qofur Kala ... City ruins with a citadel and several towers.
CORONA satellte photograph over Qofur Kala, Gisht Tepa and Dunyo Mirzo Tepa
The citadel of Qofur Kala
Panoramic view from top of the citadel including three towers


Gisht Tepa ... A prismoid shaped small mound.
Dunyo Mirzo Tepa ... We found remains of a well with footholds inside on the side of the mound.


Small unnamed mounds scattered in the field
CORONA satellite photograph showing small mounds scattered in the field
Conical small mound
Prismoid shaped small mound


August 26 We traveled from Samarkand westward along the southern edge of the basin and visited several archaeological sites.

Robinjon Tepa ... The site had been destroyed by the construction of a new irrigation canal.
Robinjon Tepa on the CORONA satellite photo taken in 1964
'Ruined' ruins of Robinjon Tepa


Qofur Qurgon ... Square shaped ruins of a fort having an 'Ark' at the center.
Qofur Qurgon on the CORONA satellite photograph
Excavated tower at the southwestern corner of the fort
'Ark' (ruines of buildings?) at the center of the fort


August 28 We traveled northward from Samarkand and visited Kok Tepa and other archaeological sites.

Kok Tepa ... The most important archaeological site of an ancient city in the Samarkand region except for Samarkand itself. We heard that, in the recent excavations of the site, archaeologists found a bronze mirror from Han Dynasty China.
Kok Tepa on the CORONA satellite photograph
The citadel of Kok Tepa having trenches for archaeological digs
Remains of a building made of mud bricks with arched windows


Qurgon Tepa ... Remains of a city having a large and complex structure
  Qurgon Tepa on the CORONA satellite photograph
Circular mound in the middle of the site
Small mound which is said to have been a Zoroastrian shrine


Qorovul Tepa ... We heard the name means 'beacon hill'
Qorovul Tepa on the CORONA satellite photograph
We saw three vertical trenches in front of the fort.


Tortkul Tepa ... A rectangular-shaped lofty mound with a surrounding moat, which is dried up today
  Tortkul Tepa on the CORONA satellite photograph
View from top of the mound
Tortkul Tepa among irrigation canals


August 29 We traveled southward across the mountain to reach Kashka river basin and visited Chimqurgon Tepa.

Chimqurgon Tepa ... A huge fort with double enclosure
Chimqurgon Tepa on the CORONA satellite photograph
North side of the fortifications using fluvial terrace cliffs as its outer enclosure   
Inner enclosure of the fortifications
East side of the outer enclosure of the fortifications


Created by Noboru Ogata
Since 01/Aug/2006