Wealth of medieval Talgar

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Kazakh archeologists tried to strain Almaty age up to millennium (by conviction, not by common sense), but Talgar, a satellite town of the Southern capital, is over thousand years old already. And no one has any doubts about that. However, that Prototalgar is related to the modern one like, for example, the famous novelist Agatha Christie to the Russian rock band "Agatha Christie". But it has existed and this is certain.

Talkhir (Talkhiz) city which nascence is referred to the VIII century, the heyday – to XIII, and the decline ... - when the Mongols came; has been located on the southern border of the modern district center, where Talgar river exits the mountains.  The hill fort still impresses by its size. But what you can see now is only the most fortified part of the ancient Talgar. While its suburbs, located to the north, are long ago hidden by modern buildings. So locals digging in their gardens, sometimes find outstanding things lost over a millennium ago. In the past when this happened, that happy countryman immediately carried his finding to a museum. But now, the same lucky one would rather be looking for antiquarian, or for reseller-antiquarian to sell finding.

Massive medieval settlement near Almaty could become a tourist rarity. But authorities generally prefer to keep quiet about the existence of archaeological site near the regional metropolis. Why is this so? It is hard to explain. Actually, the fort and the excavation are more interesting for specialists than for tourists. There are no impressive ruins, only gutter ramparts and clay walls of houses (quite nominal) dug up by archaeologists. So, showing Talhiz to travelers is stupid and dangerous. There was a case, when a group of organized tourists nearly lynched the guide because they were sure that he scoffed at them for their own money. They were promised the ancient ruins but were brought to some modern trash place.

Trash, however, was almost removed, but the sight is still the same – not for everyone. The only exception is cleared by archaeologists pavement dated back to XI - XII centuries, that crossed once the city from east to west. Some kind of medieval prospect built from river cobblestones, three meters wide and several hundred meters long.

Despite everything, the study of the settlement started in 1939 by Semirechensk expedition under the direction of A.N. Bernshtam - continues. For many years, Tamara Savellieva from the Institute of Archaeology headed the research. And every season always brings new findings and discoveries, more often expected and planned. But sometimes completely random. This is why the archaeology is interesting, here is always a place for occasion.

For example, how would you react to the several chess pieces found in different parts of the settlement? Looks like people here  have enjoyed playing chess (though love for playing chess in modern Talgar citizens is not noticed). Once ivory Buddhist figure was found. Epigraphic findings periodically occur - ancient Talgar citizens were literate people. Once a true masterpiece of medieval art was found - Iranian copper dish. It was covered with sphinxes looking like Sirins, and a whole zoo of other beasts engraved by masters somewhere in Merwe or Nishapur.

And once, already at the very end of the season,  the archaeologists unexpectedly stumbled upon a treasure. Valuable belongings hidden by Prototalgar citizen ten centuries ago remained in the same iron pan in which it was buried by the owner. Rumors of a "treasure" spread out around the area immediately. Glitter of gems and glimmer of gold coins drove children of the market era to the state of permanent ecstasy. When archaeologists went away for while, the excavation was instantly dug over and shoveled. And even dumps were rummaged and sifted by local treasure hunters.

Meanwhile, there was nothing precious for a petty person. It was valuable for the science, for realizing the level of culture of the ancient Talgar people, to understand the life style of the inhabitants. "Treasure" in archeology and "treasure" in the popular perception are two completely different things. The one that was found by archaeologists consisted of iron and bronze household items: tools, mirrors, floor lamps, etc. The one that local amateurs were looking for looked more like chests of gold from Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Research is going. And, what will next season bring – no one knows.

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