Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ancient Balkh ....Bahlika, Daxia, Altyn-Depe, Paktra


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"The reports of Zhang Qian were put in writing in the Shiji ("Records of the Grand Historian") by Sima Qian in the 1st century BCE. They describe an important urban civilization of about one million people, living in walled cities under small city kings or magistrates. Daxia was an affluent country with rich markets, trading in an incredible variety of objects, coming as far as Southern China. By the time Zhang Qian visited Daxia, there was no longer a major king, and the Bactrian were suzerains to the nomadic Yuezhi, who were settled to the north of their territory beyond the Oxus (Amu Darya). Overall Zhang Qian depicted a rather sophisticated but demoralized people who were afraid of war.

"Following these reports, the Chinese emperor Wu Di (seventh emperor of the Han Dynasty of China, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC) was informed of the level of sophistication of the urban civilizations of Ferghana, Bactria and Parthia, and became interested in developing commercial relationship with them: "The Son of Heaven on hearing all this reasoned thus: Ferghana (Dayuan) and the possessions of Bactria (Daxia) and Parthia (Anxi) are large countries, full of rare things, with a population living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical with those of the Chinese people, but with weak armies, and placing great value on the rich produce of China" (Hanshu, Former Han History). These contacts immediately led to the dispatch of multiple embassies from the Chinese, which helped to develop the Silk Road.

ANAU....."one of the things that intrigues us all is to imagine a system that we had previously thought may have existed only 2000 years ago when the Romans were in power in the Mediterranean and the Han Dynasty was the great Imperial power in China. Now we are pushing that thousands of years back earlier than that into the Bronze Age. One of our questions is about how much trade was going on among them? Was there actually a Bronze Age Silk Road, a 4000 year old Silk Road? I don't think we're yet able to answer that, but we can talk about the importance of these desert oases as a pre-Silk Road civilization."....Prof. Fredrik Hiebert and oldest ceramic pottery chard dated around 3,500 B.C. from the Anau, Turkmenistan (Russia) archaeological site.

Kamsabhoga and Bahilika country......In Kamsabhoga, the prefix 'Kamsa'- implies that the country was noted for its Bronze or copper. If this is correct, then Kamsabhoga may have been so-called because it was noted for its copper or Bronze metal. According Professor Lokesh Chandra, Kamsa or Kamsabhoga country is identified with the area now known as Balkh; and the country got its name after the metal Kamsa (or Bronze) for being the place of its origin. He further suggests that Bhallika is a kind of copper enumerated under the eight kinds of Pisakalohani or the metals coming from the Pisaca country, as described in the Vibhaga Athakatha. He further suggests that Bhallika became the name of a metal after the town Bahlika or Balkh. It is also suggested that 'Bhalluka' or 'Bhallika', the name of younger brother of Tapassu may have derived from Bhahlika or Bahlika (Balkh).

"The Oxus civilization was a Bronze Age Central Asian culture dated to ca. 2300–1700 BC and centered on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus). In the Early Bronze Age the culture of the Kopet Dag oases and Altyn-Depe developed a proto-urban society. This corresponds to level IV at Namazga-Depe. Altyn-Depe was a major centre even then. Pottery was wheel-turned. Grapes were grown. The height of this urban development was reached in the Middle Bronze Age c. 2300 BC, corresponding to level V at Namazga-Depe. This Bronze Age culture is called the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC).

Balkh: Bala Hissar (Citadel)....Balkh Province. 21 kilometers west of Mazar-i Sharif.
Dates: Achaemenid, 6th-4th century BC;
Graeco-Bactrian, 3rd-mid 1st century BC;
Kushan, 1st century BC–3rd century AD;
Sassanian, 3rd-7th century;
Turk, early Islamic, 7th-12th century;
Timurid, 15th century
Balkh (ancient Paktra or Baktra or Bactria), a UNESCO World Heritage Site candidate (2004), is an urban site of some 11 square kilometers, situated 21 kilometers west of Mazar-i Sharif and 74 kilometers south of the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, which ran close to the city during antiquity. Reputedly the birthplace of Zoroaster, Bactria was for a long time the spiritual center for the Zoroastrian religion and was said to have rivaled urban centers such as Babylon. Accounts of visitors to Balkh in ancient times include Alexander the Great, a succession of Graeco Bactrian kings, pilgrims, countles Silk Road traders and pilgrims attracted by the many Buddhist monasteries in the Balkh region during the 4th-7th centuries, Genghis Kahn (who sacked the city 1220), Marco Polo (who declared Balkh a "noble city and great" in 1271) and Timur (who destroyed the city again in 1370). Accounts from the 10th century AD onward indicate that Balkh was ringed with earthen walls, within which stood a fine citadel, mosque and other buildings necessary for Balkh to become an important trading center (a necessary stop on the Silk Road with links to India and China) and a center of education (in 980 AD the philosopher-scientist Ibn Sina was born in Balkh, as was the poet Ferdowsi). Those same earthen walls can still be seen over a length of some 10 kilometres, to the north of which lies a secondary fortified area, the Bala Hissar. Other notable sites needing protection in or near Balkh include the tiled Timurid-era Shrine of Khwãja Abu Nasr Parsa, the Samanid-style Haji Piyadi (No Gumbad) Mosque from the second half of the 9th century, and the 17th century Madrasa of Sayyid Subhan Quli Khan located in Balkh City, the Khwaja Aghacha Mosque located some three kilometers to the south, and farther south, the Buddhist monastery Takht-i Rustam and the associated stupa of Tepe Rustam, of which an earth-brick base, 40 meters in diameter, still survives. See also the Minaret of Zadyan. Looting at Balkh since 2001 has been extensive.

Bala Hissar.....Balkh Province. On the northern edge of Balkh City.....Dates: Achaemenid period, 5th-4th century BC; frequently rebuilt; last rebuilt during the Timurid era, 14th-15th century AD
The crumbling walls encircling the fortress area were built for the most part in the Timurid period upon earlier foundations which may date back to the early Kushan period, 1st century AD. The great knot of ruins to the east of this ruin was the ancient Arg, or Citadel. The entire site is extensivly pockmarked with looters holes.


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….June 2014


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