Turkestan is 1500 years old. The town came into being in 490 AD. What was the 5th century like?
In the stormy whirl of historical events the ancient world fell down and ruined. The lands of Chinese emperors became smaller and smaller because of the onslaught of nomadic tribes. The Iran kingdom began decaying too. There appeared nomadic people on the historical arena of Central Asia who came from the Great steppe stretching between the Caspian Sea and the Irtysh River. The 5th century went down into history as the Great migration of peoples that brought not only destructive force. Confusion of tongues of different tribes opened broad opportunities for mutual enrichment of knowledge between peoples. It was in the 5th century that the decimal system was spread, the founder of which was the genius of that epoch an Indian Archab-hasha by name.
A big progress was achieved in metal technology, new alloys were developed everywhere, Central Asia included. New plant varieties were cultivated. Handicrafts and art found new ways of development.
The end of ancient empires was not the end of civilization. The stormy onslaught of peoples of the Great migration not only recarved the political map of the then world but mankind stepped onto a qualitatively new historical spire of its evolution. Having come into contact with the farmers of valleys the nomads of steppes formed a new human community.
In Europe and Byzantium slave-owning towns were replaced by feudal castles and republic-towns. In Central Asia there also appeared estates of farming communes next to trade towns of the Great Silk Road. One of such communes was the town of Turkestan which was founded by the Ephalites and first named as Gaiehsy then Yasa and finally Turkestan.
What do we know about the first settlements? Very little, because there were no excavations carried out. However studies of similar town settlements of that period throw light on old settlements. In the center of a settlement like that there was a fortified citadel, it was surrounded by dwelling houses. All that was enclosed with a wall that has a gate, also towers and loopholes. Sowing areas were also fenced or surrounded with banks. Houses were built more often from raw bricks.
The citadel was the residence of the commune chief. The home was headed by the patriarch. Judging by the fact that the kitchen hearth and the altar were of common use in the family the patriarch tightly held the reins of government. But the fact that there were isolated dwelling blocks is indicative of certain independence between the parents and the children.
Farming was the main occupation of the commune. They cultivated wheat, barley, sickle alfalfa which were old cultures, rice and cotton were new ones. There were other occupations. As to handicrafts such as pottery, tanning, weaving, armory, jewelry were practiced only during non-farming seasons. In case of need all men and women became warriors ready to stand up for themselves and their belongings.
A commune like that was able to till not small plots along small rivers, as it had been before, but vast fields of several hundred hectares making use of the water energy of the Syr Darya River. The commune members produced not only natural product, but one part of it was used for sale or barter at markets of the Silk Road towns. Extension of lands led to development of labor tools. Hand- driven stone grinders were replaced by millstones of water-and-wind mills which can be found in Turkestan nowadays. Mills were used to raise water out of wells.
The force of animals and organic fertilizers were used in tilling land. A most important invention of farming communes were earth-fill dams that made it possible to direct water to irrigation canals. The irrigation system was partly changed. Instead of fan-irrigating ditches there appeared aryks (ditches) feeding water along furrows.
In the 5th century farming along the Syr Darya River was extended greatly. The elementary farming practice, namely the hearth one, made way to a more advanced oasis one.
In all epochs the man has lived not only life of work but spiritual life as well. The 5th century saw the flowering of fresco. Walls of houses were decorated with frescoes on various subjects: war, everyday life, work, hunting, leisure.
Rakip Nasyrov, “Along the Great Silk Road”, published by “Kramds—reklama”, 1991.