Open Conference Systems, Kainua 2017

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A city and its landscape across time: a perspective from Samarkand (Uzbekistan)
Simone Mantellini

Last modified: 2017-03-21


Samarkand has always been considered as one of the most important centers along the ancient Silk Road, playing a crucial role in the trade between the major ancient Central Asian cities. However, no city can survive and develop without its hinterland and Samarkand is no exception to this rule. Since 2001 the Uzbek-Italian Archaeological Expedition has been investigating the city and its surrounding in order to reconstruct both the regional and local settlement dynamics and their connection to the exploitation of resources.

The research approach combined remote sensing and cartographic analysis, with traditional archaeological activities and geo-archaeological field investigations. The results hitherto available unveiled a more complex relationship between the urban landscape of the city and its regional connections, making it an unprecedented case study for the complementarity between urbanscapes and landscapes. It is commonly accepted that the full urbanization of this area occurred as early as the Achaemenid period (7th-6th centuries BC). Fresh data from field surveys, confirmed also by stratigraphic excavations and 14c dating, are here used to suggest that it took place in the Hellenistic-Kangju periods (3rd-2nd centuries BC). At that time, a complex network of canals was created to supply the city and to irrigate the fields. A clear master-plan ensured a rational exploitation of the territory, with urban spaces around the city and areas for irrigated agriculture in the plain and breeding in the foothill. According to this scenario, the growth of Maracanda is explained in a perspective that considers it the result of a mutual symbiosis between the settled farmers and the semi-nomadic pastoralist.