Kafirkala archaeological site was a strategic fortified settlement that in the 1st - 9th centuries controlled the south-north passages along the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor of the Silk Roads that connected Samarkand and Penjikent on the shore of important Dargham canal. It was an administrative and economic center and probably a royal residence of the ikhshids (pre-Islamic rulers) of Samarkand (Rewdad) with unique planning and fortifications, many outstanding examples of carved wood decoration, other important finds such as coin hoards and variety of sealings of now lost documents. It represents the early Islamization of the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor of the Silk Roads, as the settlement retained its economic role after the Arab conquest, while the fire that destroyed citadel is surely dated to Qutayba’s campaign of 710 (Begmatov, 2018). It is an example of use of water resources in irrigation and fortification system. It is a prominent production center on the Silk Road, especially with its kilns, the origin of late Sogdian pottery production with mica imitating silver, which has many similarities in metal and pottery vessels traded along the Silk Roads in the 7th and 8th centuries.
The settlement Kafirkala

The site of Kafirkala is located on the left bank of the Dargom canal, on a hill overlooking the surrounding area.
The site of Kafirkala is located on the left bank of the Dargom canal, on a hill overlooking the surrounding area.
The settlement has a three-part division and includes a citadel-palace, a shakhristan, a rabad adjoining it from the west, towers and fortress walls.
The citadel of Kafirkala is large in size and almost square in shape. Its dimensions at the base are 76 × 76 m (at the top 58 × 58 m), with a height of 20-25 meters. It is inscribed in the shakhristan and is separated by a moat and an outer (second) defensive line of rectangular towers along the outer border of the moat. The only entrance to the citadel was located in the center of the southern facade, the outer side of it was marked by a portal.
A large courtyard (40x40m) with aywans around the perimeter was in the core of the monumental-palace complex. The roof of the palace was supported by multiple wooden columns. The interior was richly decorated with wood carvings, as evidenced by numerous wooden beams and planks damaged by fire. As a result of a large fire, the columns, beams and bases of the columns burned down. Until recently, only the southern part of this large aywan type building was studied. The remaining structures comprised the central entrance and the bases of the columns (only the bases survived).
Shakhristan is quadrangle in shape with each side 360 m long. It is separated from the citadel by a moat and an outer (second) defensive line of rectangular towers along the outer border of the moat. To the south of the shakhristan, along the edge of the ravine, a chain of burial structures – naus once approached. To the east of the shakhristan, behind the riverbed of Ilansai river, a quarter of potters was discovered.

The ancient site of Kafirkala and the data obtained in the course of the survey have repeatedly attracted the attention of researchers, and, moreover, were repeatedly used for wider reviews and publications on the craft and art of Sogd. Special focus was given to the ceramic craft (Grigoriev, 1946; Marshak, 2012) and spiritual culture (Meshkeris, 1989). An important outcome of the research at Kafirkala was a great number of artifacts of tremendous historical and cultural significance. The numerous fragments of ceramics, coins and finds from stone, bronze, iron and wood located in the course of archaeological surveys, which date back to the early Middle Ages, reveal the material culture of the Sogdians, the degree of development of the technologies and skills, the main directions of cultural and trade links.
Documentation of the site within the framework of drafting the nomination dossier "The Great Silk Road: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor", the following data was collected:
§ over 1,400 photographs (including detailed aerial photographs of facades and roofs of architectural elements, perspective and artistic aerial photographs, panoramic photographs, as well as photographs revealing visual points in the context of the surrounding urban environment at the level of the human eye);
§ 2 video fly-overs, conveying a complete picture of the volume of the monument and the town-planning (urban) context;
As a result, the following has been obtained:
§ detailed orthophotomosaics and 3D-model of the territory of the monument, where the architectural, infrastructural, household and other elements are available for detailed visual examination;
§ digital elevation model (DEM), which allows the most complete assessment of the features of the urban and natural landscape, as well as obtain a detailed topographic map of the territory;
§ detailed 3D models of architectural objects, fully transmitting the entire spectrum of visual perception, both of the object as a whole, and of its individual elements (high accuracy of shape and geometry in real scale with georeference, high-resolution texture that allows for visual assessment of the state of conservation of minor details, etc.)

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