An ancient settlement of Kanka is the remains of the largest and most ancient township of Tashkent oasis existed from the end of the IV century BC till the XII century AD. It was the first capital of Chach the ruins of which rest at 70 km south-west of Tashkent, on the left bank of the old course of Akhangaran river.
The The city existed since the end of the IV century BC on the XII century AD and was identified by researchers as Antiokhiya of Transaksartiya (Transoxiana) (antique sources), Yueni, Shi Chzheshi (Chinese sources), as the township of Chach and Harashket (medieval sources).
For the first time the ancient settlement was noted 1868 by V. V. Vereshchagin. Since 1896 it had become the subject of trial researches by the members of TKLA E.T. Smirnov, A. Belyaev., I. Castanet. In 1934 it was surveyed by M. E. Masson who made an eye estimation plan of a monument and identified it with Hareshket (Masson, 1953, pgs. 105-114). Kanka in 1966 was was entered into the the archaeological map of Tashkent region by Chatkal-Kurama detachment of Uzbek Academy of Sciences (Buriakov Kasymov, Rostovtsev, 1973, pp. 105-106), and in 1969 began the first excavations there (Abdullaev, 1975, p. 128 – 154). Since 1974 the hillfort became the base object and the site for wide-ranging studies of the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan (Buriakov, 1975, p. 31-38; Ancient and medieval city of East Maverannahr, 1990, pp. 6-77). In 2007 – 2008 some works (student practice) conducted by the Department of Archaeology of the National University. In 2009-2010, the archaeological excavations conducted by a group of staff of General Directorate of Heritage Institute.
Traditionally the Central Asian city consisted of three parts – the citadel, shakhristan ( the township, the urban actual area) and its suburbs – the Rabat. But Kanka features by its layout which included three residential areas – shahristans, as if included in one another, each of which was surrounded with powerful defensive systems from the three sides. From the fourth side the high river bank along which also there passed a wall was their general border.
Small in size but also the most powerful is the fortress in the northern city core system (shahristan I). Having square form and about 7 hectares in dimension it is focused to the cardinal by its angles. Shakhristan I is surrounded with a 26 m high fortification and deep, wide (to 50 m) moat and the only entrance to the drawbridge over the moat was arranged in the center of the western facades. From here the ancient street ran straight towards the citadel dividing the city into two parts.
In the northern corner of Shahristan I there overtops citadel of the ancient settlement, the Ark which has almost regular square form and the area of 1 hectare and a height of almost 45 m. It is based on a powerful four-tower castle residence of the Ruler under the platform of which earlier constructions are hidden. From the north the Citadel was protected by the river and from other sides – by a wide moat. Along the fortification of Shakhristan I to the northeastern corner of the Ark there was stretched a special flat lifting ramp that lead to the gates.
Shahristan II has rectangular shape with three sides surrounded by the citadel and shahristan I. Its area is 45 hectares. The general view of its fortification is rather passive, walls have no moats. But as a whole the territory was inhabited densely. In a relief the city squares are easy to read. In the southwestern part the remains a large pool was are tracked. Two of the four gates Shakhristan II lead to Shahristan III defensive walls which cover the enormous territory of about 160 hectares.
Shakhristan III has a form of a rather irregular rectangle and in its turn surrounds Shahristan II from three sides. From the South to the north its territory is dissected by one of the central avenues surrounded with hills of dense urban residential houses and artisan quarters.
Unlike southern Shakhristan III, the northern part is much less built up. Here were located market squares and large areas with loose buildings which remained in the form of separate hills.
In general the layout of the Shakhristans II and III was far from the of the Shakhristan I`s unified and correct construction plan.
Around the fortified territory particularly in the south-eastern and south-western parts numerous hills rise and ruins scattered over a large area. All this testifies to the complicated multidimensional structure of Kanka which covers the area about 160 hectares only within the fortification and with the surrounding periphery – about 400 hectares.
Archaeological study of Kanka was begun with research of Shakhristan I and the Citadel, in the construction of fortifications of which was marked the observance of methods corresponding to the Hellenistic canons.
Stratigraphic excavations opened cultural layers capacity of about 20 m. The Stratigraphic excavations opened cultural imprinting capacity of about 20 m. In the lower layers dwelling-dugout were disclosed which included a set of ceramic articles of manufacture comprising molded containers with traces of cloth pattern, round-flat-bottomed pots and jugs, bowls and pots. Crock rough mixing with sand, on some vessels the traces of black paint was found. At the same time other type of ware made on a potter wheel and a sandy cushion of a good elutriated clay covered with bright daub, sometimes decorated with relief scratched ornament were also met. The shape of corolla of the vessels and quality of finishing of finds, as well as, a form of dwellings find analogies in residential architecture and material culture of Southern Sogda of IV-III centuries BC to Greek-Bactrian era.
At excavations of a defensive wall the system of early fortification of the city was revealed On a monolithic platform from a raw brick of the square standard (40x40x10 cm) the powerful wall with intra wall galleries and the roundish tower standing out to 8 m from a wall were put up. Before a tower the acting Before a tower there traced the protruding platform-berma with the low wall built specially to curb the of blows of battering machines of the advancing enemy. The square brick of the specified standard is known in antique architecture of Khoresm and Sogda since V—IV centuries BC. On a room floor the fragment of a thin-walled bowl is found in a complex of ceramic ware with fine striate glassing like the Roman fish vessels similar to vessels of Afrasiab of the III century BC.
The only Hellenistic city beyond Syr-Darya is precisely identified with Kanka. This can probably be attributed to the ancient sources which reports that after the death of Alexander the Great his general Seleucus and his son Antiochus I at the end of the IV BC created Eastern State. On their order the Greek commander Demodamus made a march against nomad saks for the first time crossed the river of Yaksart and as a reminder of the glory and valor “erected there altars to Apollo”. And on the ancient maps there emerged a city of “Antiokhiya of Transoxiana”. Demodam called newly fortified city Antiokhiya, in honor of Antiochus, the governor of the upper (i.e. eastern) satrapies, the son of Seleucus and Apamea, the daughter Spitamen. Perhaps tracks of this event could be traced in later name of the city known on the Arab road reference books and geographical compositions as Kharashket, “City of Imperial grace” or “Royal City”.
However as studies have shown that above described fortifications of Kanka were rebuilt with use of large rectangular bricks of other none Hellenistic standard, with a backfilling the galleries and towers and a powerful lining. Excavations of the walls Shakhristan III showed that the walls and towers of the city were built of brick and pakhsa, the same rectangular brick of none ancient standard.
History tells us that environmental stress and arid climate by the end of III/II cent. BC which caused reduction of the water balance of large rivers, led to a fight aggravation for pastures in the northern and eastern regions of Asia and the invasion of nomads and population of the lower Yaksart river to the oases deserted the cities. In Chach actively settles bulk of the population with its material culture dubbed Qovunchi with the architectural traditions of farming and ranching type.
Thus Kanka of that period grows rapidly. Its antique fortress transformed into a huge citadel city, its territory coved an area of about 160 hectares. It became a little inferior to the capital city of the ancient Sogdian Nakhsheba by the area. This fact was not casual. At this time in the historical arena the state of Kang-kü/Kangjuy emerged with the kernel in Yaksart valley. Chinese chronicles of the Han dynasty era (III BC – III century AD.) mentioned it initially as a small first patrimony, then as a major confederation composed of five small ancestral lands. One of them – Uni (Yueni) patrimony with capital of the same name on the river Iosha (Yaksart) identified with the Tashkent oasis. Its capital was located at the site of Kanka. The same Chinese sources reported, – “the Kangiuy Ruler has a stay in Loyueny country in the city of Bityani. From Loyueni seven days travel to a summer residence of the Ruler”. “Probably Kanka-Uni had become the winter capital of the Ruler of all Kangiuy.
Being a part of Kangiuy facilitated Euny’s inclusion into trade communications on the Great Silk Road, a special route of which passed through Syr-Darya to Kangiuy, Yantzy and Yantzay, up to the Aral and the Southern Urals.
In the first century AD the domain increases and its capital was strengthened again. The domain and its capital at this time appear under a new name – Chach – Shi – Chzheshi. Chinese sources reported that “the Ruler of Shi lives in Chzheshi, a place which belongs to Uni” (Bichurin, T. II, pp. 272, 330.)
During the excavations of the fortress walls of Shakhristan III powerful realignment works can be observed. Inside the city in southern neighborhoods metallurgists quarter was opened iron Kritz (steel bloom) processing and possibly steel melting. Along the main streets leading to the bazaar workshops excavated with bugles crescent-ferrous metals processing with traces of jewelry making. Chinese data sources allow us to determine that the nearest ore base of Chatkal and Kurama – Karamazar served as the resource base for metallurgical and jewelry manufacturing of the town.
From the beginning of the I millennium BC Chach minted its own coins hundreds of copies of which are found in Kanka and cities of the domain(see Appendix). A copper coin perhaps covered by a thin layer of silver. By its artistic execution it surpasses Sogdian coins of the satrapies, also with stable iconography. The portrait of the sovereign in profile on the reverse and with0 patrimonial stigma and an inscription with the name of the ruler similar to Kangyui. It should be noted that coins of Chach would be found in the neighboring estates, such as: Sughd, West Fergana, meaning that State coins of Chach were in circulation beyond the State.
Disintegration of antique states including Kangui in the III—IV centuries AD led to the disappearance of a number of domains, Chach among them was called “originating from the house of Kangiuy”. In the next centuries Chach was a part of the state Ephtalites (V—VI cent.s AD) and the Turkic Kaganate (VI—VIII cent.s AD) the City of Kanka was known as the political and cultural and cult center of the valley of Syr-Darya.
At excavation in a citadel the four-tower lock with many-sided bastions, reception halls and the intimate house temple were discovered. Walls of bastions look monumental as they were built of the large pakhsah blocks (clay) reminding a stone laying.
In a palace complex – a reception hall and the intimate rooms surrounded from fortifications with household services.
Nestled deep in the complex home-chapel represented small (5×5 m) a square hall with the false dome symbolizing the celestial dome. This false dome was built in the form of inclined wooden beams out of which only a complex system of horizontal and inclined belts survived. Inside along the walls – sufa and the center there was a fire altar. Entrance to the temple, by the canons of the Zoroastrian religion, the wall of the bent form blocked, “so that no stranger could see the sacred fire”. Over the temple there was towering monolith upper hall from where the entire city to its fortifications was visible.
If in the citadel the house temple of the ruler was discovered, the excavation in the Shakhristan I the monumental city temple was found. Nucleus of the temple – 14 x 14 m square hall surrounded by corridors with the entrance from the east side and inside sufa along the walls, opposite the entrance there was a large three-tiered sufa-stage in which the sacred fire burned. The walls were decorated with paintings and relief stucco molding. The eternal flame taken out to the hall during the cult celebrations was stored in a room behind sufa stage. On the floors and the sufas there were handful remnants of cereals, the remains of flowers, the small vessels, possibly with sacrificial food and in a side room on the floor cleared the remains of carcasses of victimized horses.
It is the capital temple about which the Chinese chronicles wrote. It was destroyed and burned during the storming the city. There remained only clay seals – bullas with which gifts were sealed up The press of an oval form labeled with inscriptions and names, spiritual titles and portraits of the priests similar to portraits on coins of Chach, i.e. the Rulers of Chach were the Supreme priests of the State temple.
The temple of ancestors wasn’t the only one in the capital, in residential quarters fire home altars ,as well as, terracotta figurines, the sculptures of sacred animals reflecting polytheism of cult views of citizens were discovered.
In the middle of the VI century AD in the east there a new formidable Empire – the Turkic Kaganate emerges.
However as a part of a Turkic Kaganate Chach revived quickly and acquired greater economic and political significance.
In the VII century after an unsuccessful attempt of the People of Chach to secede from Western Turkic Kaganate the capital was moved to the territory of modern Tashkent.
Excavation showed that the old capital reduces for some time, there are the fortifications which have captured only part of the city in the limits of Shakhristan II.
However already in the VIII century the city gets restored in its former borders and even the suburban areas gets assimilated where housing and craft workshops on processing and manufacturing leather, manufacture and calcination of ceramic ware and various metal products emerges.
With the IX-X centuries. city expands due to extensive rabad and the development of various craft classes – pottery, weaving, leather processing workshops, metallurgists, winepress. The area reaches 300-400 hectares. The city at this time carries the name Kharashket.
According to written sources Kharashet (modern Tashkent) becomes the second largest and most important city among the cities of Tashkent land estate after Binket. From this era in the citadel the architectural complex of Karakhanid rulers urban development remained in the center of Shakhristan I. In Shakhristan III there functioned craft shops and shops of merchants.
Excavations of a large city caravanserai (90 x 90 m) testify to vigorous trade activity of the city.
During the excavations of the city later habitation layers obtained rich composition of material culture: glazed and glass vessels, jewelry and articles toreutics unique metal chess piece and collected a large number of early medieval and medieval (Muslim) coins.
Abandoning the city and termination of life in it is connected with the change of the course of Akhangaran river at the end of the XII century.
Each shovel of the earth from an excavation is sifted through a sieve.
Represents ruins of the enormous city of a diamond-shaped form with the citadel up to 30 m high and separated by a moat around its area of Shakhristani — 440х800 m in size and with an extensive area of Shakhristanii was also walled. Inside the main street highways, craft and residential quarters, pools can be traced. Traces of the gates have also remained. Judging by a material the life here developed since the first centuries AD up to the beginning of the XIII century. It is identified with the medieval town of Kharashket.