The range of archaeological heritage across Central Asia (Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Republic of Uzbekistan, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China) is vast and much of it is undocumented, understudied, and under threat. Made possible by funding from the Arcadia Fund – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, CAAL is developing a digital inventory of these sites utilising the open-access Arches platform.
From megacities to religious sites, from nomadic camps to burial mounds, from mountain forts to complex water management systems, there is an astounding range of archaeological heritage across Central Asia.
While many of these sites are already protected by state legislation, a very significant number are not. This fragile record of the adaption of humans to the complex Central Asian landscapes is under threat from multiple activities: development projects, changing agricultural practices (especially given climate change and the changing patterns of irrigation as a result of the collapsing glaciers of the ‘third pole’ in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain ranges), urban expansion and rural depopulation. At present it is hard to estimate the scale of these threats, but this project will help to understand this. The future depends on strategic planning, where archaeological resources are considered as part of planning and sustainable development policies. This cannot happen unless there is solid, and more accessible, platform of information for the local agencies to work with and engage in this debate.
Some dozen teams from twenty institutions in seven countries are creating an open access digital inventory of archaeological landscapes in the region. Remote sensing teams are mapping and exploring from above. Archival teams are delving into often fragile and unpublished records of a century of research and digitising pages, glass plate images, films, colour renderings, hand drawn maps and field diaries, as well as annual reports. Together this data will provide a unique source of information for researchers and other interested parties with details about the contents of the archives, shifts in landscapes over time and the human interactions integral to all this.
Our project is generously funded by a grant from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. It stems from Tim Williams’ long time relationship with the archaeologists of Central Asia and their joint passion for exploring, preserving and sharing the immense knowledge produced through millennia of socio-economic, religious and environmental shifts.
International Centre for Central Asian Studies, Uzbekistan
Международный институт центральноазиатских исследований
Institute of Archaeology named after AH Margulan, Kazakhstan
Институт археологии им. А.Х. Маргулана
Archaeological Expertise, Kazakhstan
Institute of History and Cultural Heritage, Kyrgyzstan
Институт истории и культурного наследия
Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism Kyrgyz Republic
Министерство культуры, информации и туризма Кыргызской Республики
Cultural Heritage Center, Kyrgyzstan
Центр культурного наследия
Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography named after A Donish, Tajikistan
Институт истории, археолоии и этнографии им. Дониша
Board of Monuments, Inspections of Bukhara and Navoi, Uzbekistan
Инспекция по защите и охране памятников Бухары и Навои
Department of Cultural Heritage, Uzbekistan
Департамент культурного наследия (ГлавНПУ)
Institute of Art Studies, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Институт искусствознания Академии наук Республики Узбекистан
Khorezm Academy of Mamun, Uzbekistan
Хорезмская академия Мамуна