During 2012 and 2015, based on the cooperation contract, Archaeological Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS) set up a special archaeological team and cooperated with experts from Archaeological Institute of Uzbekistan Academy of Science. Together, we made four excavations in Mingtepa ruins and gained a batch of important archaeological data. Based on the previous four excavations, the fifth excavation was made in fall 2016. This excavation focused on exploring and identifying the layout of the walled site as before. The excavation mainly took place at the workshops area in the south of the ruins as well as the west gate. The exploration of the possible outer city was also carried out. Through this excavation, the wall of outer enclosure firstly came to light and a new understanding of the walled ruins’ scope was achieved. Meanwhile, during the excavation in workshop area in the south of the ruins, we got to know the architecture features and cultural connotation. Besides, we made prominent breakthrough in the excavation of west gate of inner walled enclosure, the discovery and excavation of tombs near the east wall of outer enclosure and so on.
Satellite image of the Mingtepa site in 2016
The outer walled enclosure of Mingtepa site was discovered through exploration and excavation for the first time. The archaeological team found remnants of east, south, west and north walls and made trial excavation of the east wall of outer enclosure. The east wall was well preserved and the remaining width was 11 meters. There were associated cultural accumulation and the four outer walls can be roughly enclosed. The discovery and confirmation of the outer walled enclosure enlarged the area of Mingtepa from 500×800 square meters to 2100×1300 square meters, making it the largest ancient walled ruin in Fergana Valley around Year One. This discovery confirmed with solid proof the existence and scope of outer walled enclosure of Mingtepa ancient ruins. It has magnificent effect on the verification of the nature of Mingtepa ruins as well as its status in the ancient urbanization of Fergana Valley and even the whole central Asia.
Workshop remains of Mingtepa site in Uzbekistan
A handicraft workshop ruin was discovered and excavated inside the south wall of inner walled enclosure. Within the 400 square-meter excavated area, more than five adobes were cleared and there were hearths, earthen jars, piled rocks as well as millstone and animal bones. We preliminarily speculated it as a leather-processing workshop remains with complete functions. There were similar earthen jar remains in Fergana Valley but we found 14 jars here, with the amount surpassing the former total amount. This excavation confirmed the symbiosis of the earthen jars and the surrounding hearth, piled rocks, deserted pits and other remains. Moreover, the excavation showed that these remains were separated into five rooms, exhibiting clearly the distribution and condition of architecture in the remains. In this way, we gained a clear understanding of the architectural layout of the site as well as the cultural connotation of this workshop ruin and Mingtepa ancient walled remains.
Mingtepa site in Uzbekistan
The inner west gate of Mingtepa site was discovered and excavated. The west gate is the only known gate till now. The west gate was grand, with tall tower-like bastion on both sides, exhibiting the high-level defense system and displaying the privilege status of this site among local ancient walled sites and ancient culture in this region.
A cemetery was found next to the east wall of outer walled ruins and an intact tomb was cleared. The skeleton was perfectly preserved and the funeral objects included 4 earthen jars, one copper ring and 7 glass beads. The tomb broke the outer wall and was built on the ruin of it, providing crucial proof to latest date of the abandon of the walled ruin. It also offers important material for the exploration of burial system, funeral custom and features and connotation of ancient culture in Fergana Valley.
The major archaeological discovery in fall 2016 shows that as the largest walled site in Fergana Valley around Year One, Mingtepa ancient walled site also ranks among the largest ancient walled sites in Uzbekistan. It had defense facilities like well-functioned walls, gates, bastions and double walls. There was also grand-scale architectures and traffic system, well-organized and complete-functioned workshops. The cemetery found outside the wall further expanded the cultural connotation of the ancient walled site. A series of important archaeological discoveries brought a new understanding of the Mingtepa ruin in central Asia and redefined the status of Mingtepa ancient walled site in Fergana Valley and even ancient Central Asia history. (Translator: Yuan Yuan)