80 km southwest of Tashkent, on the right bank of the Syr Darya river are the ruins of one of the largest urban settlements of Tashkent oasis, which had existed from I AD till the beginning of the XVIII century and identified with Benaket-Shohruhiya.
For the first time the monument was inspected in 1876 by regional ethnographers D. K. Zatsepin and then N. Pantusov.
The identification of it with Shokhrukhiya was carried out at the end of the XIX century by members of the Turkestani section of fans of archeology E.T. Smirnov and I.A. Belyaev. In 1913 I.A. Kastanye visited the ancient settlement and described it. The monument about which many legends and stories remained was repeatedly surveyed by experts and fans of archeology, in 1966 was included in the archaeological map of of the Tashkent oasis (Buriakov, Kasymov, Rostovtsev, 1973, page 106). The first excavations were carried out in 1973-1974., and then continued in the 1978-98 by the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan (Buriakov, 1982, p.43 – 44; ancient and the medieval city of East Transoxiana -Maverannahr, 1990, p. 78 – 99).
In 2002 there started joint excavations of the Institute of archeology of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan and Vatan Tarikhi (History of the country) Department of Tashkent Nizami State pedagogical university. Some works were carried out by the State Museum of History of Timurids in 2004-2006.
The ancient settlement consists of traditional parts – an arch citadel, Shakhristan and Rabat the territory of which was divided by ancient channels, ditches and natural water streams all falling into Syr-Darya from the North and the Southeast.
Built on a hill near the river bend Shakhristan was a square Hillfort (600 x 600 m) and towered over the river more than 25 meters. In its southwest part the citadel was raised. In a northern corner of the Shakhristan traces of the gate are visible.
Unfortunately the ancient settlement has been intensively washed away by Syr-Darya: the citadel is almost completely washed away and diagonally a half of Shakhristan I, the most ancient city kernel was cut off.
From the three sides the city was surrounded by Rabats area of over 300 hectares. Its territory was crossed by channels and a network of street highways. The southern part of Rabat is precinct with the line of fortifications with towers, surrounding by semicircle the territory of 65 hectares and resting in the West into the walls of the Shakhristan, in the south in ravine of Syr-Darya. Along these walls deep moats сan be traced and beyond their borders a large necropolis with fragments of marble gravestones-saghana.
The first stratigraphic excavation was put along the river bank in the Shakhristan where cultural layers with capacity of more than 15 m. were revealed. In the bottom layers the remains of residential buildings from a brick of the large rectangular standard were revealed. In filling there were a complicated cultural layer consisting of molded flat-bottomed vessels decorated streaks of black paint, with handles in the form of figures of animals, with large jugs, grain grinders. Those vessels were characteristic of Kovunchi culture of the I century BC – III century AD. Above traces of dwellings of the III-V centuries AD with ceramics of a rather different shape and coins of ancient coinage af ancient Chach. Over them there had been the traces of the next major reconstructions, the platforms with high buildings of the early Middle Ages. They were blocked by houses filled with sets of fine glazed ware of the IX—X centuries. Among those stuffs the bowl with the image of a graceful figure of ibex with solar pearls on the body is of special interest. High horns and feet in knees were obvolute by lush bows of ribbons. It is remarkable that the images of the sacred animals with bandaged feet in the scenes of the solemn processions in the same way were discovered in mural paintings of the Palaces of Sogdian Ikhshids in Afrasiab. Before the eyes there revealed echoes of the Zoroastrian cult associated with the worship of the deity Farnham, the Bestower of the boon and abundance.
Above – thick layers of X1-XII centuries. The upper level represented thick layers of X1-XII centuries. Opened in the western part of Shakhristan I main water supply system supplying the downtown with water relates to that period of time. The tunnel of a water supply system of an arch form was laid out from a burnt brick and on the ground level there two parallel threads of large ceramic pipes passed. Through certain intervals in it there were left out the wells, hatches (Anarbayev, 1978). Here small sites of urban development were opened.
The upper layers of the Shakhristan were related to the settling in the city in the XV-XVI centuries.
Rabat covered the city like a horseshoe, but during the different periods it expanded northward, as well as, eastward. Under the walls of Shakhristan to the east of it, in the IX-XII centuries there grew a large quarter of ceramists separated by the road and the small channel. There were found pottery kilns; by construction they were small bunk cylinders without separating the vault. Furnace and working parts were settled down in the same cell. The upper part was speckled with rows of deep cells into which the ceramic rods pins were inserted. On them jugs were hung by the handles pitchers and on the special crossbeams – small vials. In the lower part of a horn on a ledge of the shelf piles of open vessels were put: bowls, drinking bowls, plates, divided by special gaskets three-legged sepoya. In those furnaces the fine glazed ware; vessels of household and technical use were burned. There were also found some furnace supplies, tools of ceramists and the products.
Traces of craft production (separate forge and glass-blowing workshops, large tagkhona – a semi-subterranean dome construction for storage of fruits and vegetables) were revealed in the territory of Rabat to the North and the East from Shakhristan. The traces of weaving manufacture remained. It is no coincidence that the sources note, among the goods of Maverannahr/Transoxiana export fine Turkestani fabrics taken out from Benaket.
Apparently, the main Bazaars/market places had been located also in Rabat. According to Moharram al-Muqaddasi, the author of X century near the Bazaar there had been the Friday Mosque.
Part of the medieval Rabat northeast of Shakhristan was surrounded by a fortified wall on the line there stood 26 hillocks, the remnants of towers. In the course of excavations it became clear that towers were two storied/ the bunk and of the semicircular form, projecting beyond the line of the wall (Buriakov, 1975, pages 23-25; Ancient and medieval city of East Transoxiana, 1990, pages 90-93). In northern part where at those times there passed the main road to the city, the gate were explored that had been controlled by a special round shaped bastion (25×30 m. The walled grounds in the Timurid time was called Hissar.
From occupation layers of a medieval residential building in northern part of Hissar the armor of heavily armed warrior was removed consisting of one hundred large iron plates welded to each other to unite into several blocks. The largest of thick rectangular plates (11×8 cm) protected the breast of a warrior and could resist even to arrows with armor-piercing tips, to withstand the impact of spear blow. The doubled blocks from small plates protected sides of a warrior. Rectangular, podkvadratnye, diamond-shaped plates were elbow pads and knee pads parts. Rectangular, subsquare, diamond-shaped plates were details of elbow pads and kneecaps. Near armor a helmet of a sphero conical form was lying. The unique in its preservation was the armor on arms of noble warriors of a medieval era, including the army of the time of Amir Temur`s ruling.
In the same territory there was found kilns of different types – the large, two-chamber, with a diameter of 2 to 2,5 m. and in height sometimes higher than 3 m. The combustion chamber was separated from the working cell by hearth with special overlapping-podom with heat- conducting holes through which heated air flowed from the combustion camera to the burner cell. Ceramic ware – graceful thin-walled bowls, drinking bowls of open forms were made from white kashin mass in imitation of porcelain and decorated with blue painting on a white background under a colorless glaze. The ware presented there belongs to the XVI XVII centuries.
In northeast part of Rabat, along the road, there was the large memorial ensemble now known under the name Shamorkori-Avliya and a large old Uzbek cemetery that functioned till the last centuries.
In the XVI-XVII centuries Shakhrukhiya was considered as the second most important urban center of Tashkent demesne, the place of residence of the Heir. Once there operated a mint where copper coins were printed. It is no coincidence therefore that in the XVII century the Syr Darya was called “the river of Shakhrukhiya”. However in the first half of the XVIII century as a result of devastating raids of the Jungars and deep crisis, the city became deserted and was abandoned.