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Shakhristan (Ancient Bunjikat)

The road descends from the Shakhristan Pass through juniper woods; the valley broadens out and becomes arid. The first town is Shakhristan, by a river with irrigated fields. The interest is the ruins of the ancient city of Bunjikat. Just across the bridge to the west of the town is a narrow road to the left after 1 00 m, leading to a flat area below the ramparts. Bunjikat was a major Sogdian city. The ramparts are much eroded, but it is easy to discern the citadel and the size of a fortified city, divided by a small valley. The scale takes sonic getting used to; this was far bigger than any city in Europe at the rime of its heyday in the 7th century AD. The site has been extensively excavated, and there are several exhibits in the Museum of National Antiquities in Dushanbe, including burnt statues from a Zoroastrian temple and frescoes showing scenes from Aesop's Fables, similar to those at Panjakent. The most famous is of a she wolf suckling twins, probably showing that this town had some contact with Rome. (The mythical founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were said to have been suckled by a she-wolf.) There is a -statue of the she wolf and the twins on the way south. Hi is site is seldom visited, and you are almost certain to be the- only visitor.

Just 3 km before Shakhristan is the village of Jarqutan. Turn left, go across a causeway and follow a tarmac road for 1 km to where the road veers right up a small hill. A gate leads to a path through the cemetery for 200 m to Chehel Hujra, one of the best-preserved Sogdian buildings in the country. The castle stands on a bluff above the river and consists of two storeys with thick walls and a labyrinth of passages. The castle was continuously occupied from the 4th to 6th centuries AD, and intermittently to the 9th. Very seldom visited, it is worth the short detour.

The town Kal’a-i Kakhkaha or Bunjikat is the capital of Istarafshan, VII-IX centuries.

It is situated not far from the center of Shakhristan, Sughd region. It refers to VI-IX centuries, and was the center of feudal estate of Istarafshan, of Bunjikat town. The large palace with 20 rooms, big and small reception halls was excavated. The walls of the palace halls were pained by miniature paintings: scenes of battle, fiestas, and legends. In one of the wall there was painted a wolf, feeding two babies Wood columns, beams and consoles were covered by superb carving of geometrical and flora ornaments, scene compositions, images of people, animals, birds and fantastic things. The town was strongly fortified and had good conveniences. Despite the palace of Afshines it had residential buildings for various groups of population, the temple of idols, trade squares and ground.

Excavations were held under the leadership of Academic N.V.Negmatov   (1955-1960, 1965-1972).

Findings are preserved in the National museum of Antiquity of the Republic of Tajikistan.


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