The ancient settlement of Balasagun (Aktobe) (6th-13th centuries)

Situated in the Shuskii region of Zhambyl Province, 3km south-east of the village of Aktobe on both sides of the River Aksu, the ancient settlement of Balasagun comprises two shakhristans (1 and 2), a citadel and city outskirts. Shakhristan 1 is rectangular in form (380 x 250m) and 6-7m tall. The citadel is situated in the central area, is square in shape with sides of 100m, and 10m tall. Shakhristan 2 is sized 300 x 250m and is 3-6m tall. The city’s outskirts are surrounded by long embankments: the first embankment is 17km in length and the second is 25km. Four semicircular embankments are attached to the second embankment on the east and west sides.
According to certain renowned orientalists, the settlement can be identified as the medieval settlement of Balasagun.
The medieval town of Balasagun was the capital of the western wing of the Karakhanid Empire for a long time. It was a cultural, academic and spiritual centre in the enormous territory of the Eurasian continent. Prominent figures such as Iusup Balasaguni, Mahmud Kashgari and others lived and worked here; it was where Balasaguni wrote his encyclopaedic work ‘Kutadgu Bilik’ – ‘The Book of Moral Edification’.
Balasagun was a significant economic, political and cultural medieval centre on the Great Silk Road. Archaeological excavations carried out here have lasted at least a decade. Much has been uncovered over this time: a palace complex with a square and eastern bath house, water-carrying and sewerage systems, residential and agricultural buildings and centres of craftsmanship, where ceramic crockery and tools have been discovered. A unique archaeological find of more than 500 bronze coins was made here.


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