Surkhandarya, the most southern region of Uzbekistan, has been attracting many archaeologists and tourists from all over the world for more than half a century. And this is not for nothing. The ancient city of Termez, which recently celebrated its 2700th anniversary, is surrounded by ancient historical monuments, including the mausoleum of Hakim-at Termizi, the Sultan Saodat memorial complex, the ancient settlements of Fayaztepa, Kampyrtepa, Dalverzintepa, Karatepa and Ayrtam.
The Buddhist complexes
In 1968, a statue of Buddha was discovered on the territory of ancient Termez and since then this land has become the main object for the study of many scientists and archaeologists. Later, the most ancient Buddhist temple complexes were discovered: Fayaztepa (1st century BC -3rd century AD), Kampyrtepa, Karatepa. And the discovery of elements of the famous Ayrtam frieze with the image of ancient musicians was evidence that Buddhism was once preached in this region and elements of Hellenistic culture were revealed. Now the terracotta bas-reliefs of the frieze are stored in the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
The Fayaztepa Buddhist temple complex was named after the Uzbek scientist, director of the local Museum of local lore, R. F. Fayazov. He was the initiator of the study of this object and even the discoverer of this temple, who made a lot of effort to attract the attention of world science to the ancient object. The discovery of Fayaztepa was the first impetus for the discovery of new ancient Buddhist sites.
Residence of the Kushan kings
Among the monuments of the Kushan Empire (1-4 centuries AD), the ancient settlement of Dalverzintepa occupies a special place, which is located in the Shurchi district of the Surkhandarya region, 60 km from Termez.
A more detailed study of this object began in 1967 by historians Galina Pugachenkova and M. E. Masson. A temple of the Bactrian goddess and unique paintings were discovered in the northern part of the ancient city. The ruins of a Buddhist temple founded in the early 1st century AD were found on the territory of the settlement. This is the oldest Buddhist structure in Uzbekistan. In the era of the Kushan Empire, cities, districts, and residential districts flourished here.
In 1972, when studying the ancient quarters of the settlement, a treasure of gold products was discovered in one of the supposed houses, weighing 36 kg. In scientific significance, the Dalverzin treasure is not inferior to the famous Amudarya treasure, which is stored in the British Museum.
Recently Tashkent hosted the exhibition of items from the collection of the famous Dalverzin treasure.
During the excavations at the settlement, various ivory items were found here. A special place is occupied by the world’s oldest chess pieces (1-2 centuries AD), precious stone products, coins, and fine ceramics dating back to the Greco-Bactrian era.
Lost residence of Great commander
On the Amu Darya coast, 30 km from Termez, there are ruins of the ancient city of Kampyrtepa. In 2018, scientists and archaeologists proved that this was once the residence of Alexander the Great, ancient Alexandria on the Ox (the other name of the Amu Darya). This was evidenced by the discovery of new items and cultural layers related to the period of the great commander’s arrival here. The site of Kampyrtepa is a citadel, which is surrounded by a ditch and inner city, surrounded by a fortress wall with towers. The citadel of the ancient city was settled at the end of the 4th century BC. And the inner city was built in the beginning of the 1st century ad and existed until the formation of the Kushan Kingdom on this territory in the 2nd century AD.
On the territory of the ancient port city, scientists carried out unique works on conservation of objects. Now the fortress of Kampyrtepa is included in the List of cultural heritage monuments of UNESCO.
18 kilometers East of Termez is the ancient city-fort of Ayritam. Since the beginning of our era, with the penetration of Buddhism into the territory of Central Asia, the construction of Buddhist religious monuments begins here. In fact, Buddhist religious monuments were built on the ruins of Greek-Bactrian buildings.
During the Kushan period, a large Buddhist temple and monastery center was built here, occupying an area of almost 3 km along the Amu Darya coast. In the second half of the 3rd century, Ayrtam fell into decline and is no longer restored.
Under the leadership of academician M. E. Masson, in 1932, fragments of a frieze depicting people were raised from the bottom of the Amu Darya. A year later, 7 more frieze fragments and the ruins of a Buddhist temple were discovered. The images belong to the 1-2 centuries AD. They were images of musicians playing musical instruments, as well as wreaths of flowers on the heads of young men and girls holding dishes with fruit. On the friezes of Ayrtam reflected the goodbye scene with the Buddha (Parinirvana Jataka). According to Indian legends, “the sounds of five musical instruments should accompany the deceased Buddha with pleasant melodies, and donatrises should guide him on his last journey with fragrant flowers.”
An ancient fortress is located 3 kilometers west to old Termez. Archaeologists have indicated the approximate date of construction of the fortress: 9-10 century AD, but up to the 14th century, the fortress was repeatedly rebuilt. During excavations and research that began in the early 20th century, many artifacts were found here: fragments of household items, coins, plaster figures, etc.
An ancient legend is associated with the fortress of Kyrk-Kyz. In this fortress once lived the fearless Princess Gulaim with her retinue of 40 fearless Amazons. Hence the name of the ancient fortress. Fearless Amazons defended their fortress and mistress, repelled attacks from enemies and did not allow men to come to them.
But one day a young man named Kokildor-ota was able to enter the fortress. He grew long braids and thanks to them was able to get into the fortress. The insidious plan of the young man was revealed the Princess fell in love with him and they played a magnificent wedding.
This is probably why the ruins of the Kyrk-Kyz fortress resemble an impregnable castle, although in fact the building has always had a clear layout: a large Palace with a huge number of rooms with wide corridors.
If you visit the ancient fortress, you can see the remains of an unusual room that once served as a local chillahona. There is still an old tree there, the branches of which are tied with small handkerchiefs. According to legend, childless women who want to know the happiness of motherhood come here, with a prayer for posterity, they tie small ribbons with the names of future children here.