miércoles, 21 de marzo de 2012

Extensive Medieval Town in Azerbaijan Uncovered by Archaeologists

A rich assortment of artifacts and architectural remains speak to a city of productive enterprise and widespread trade and cultural contacts.
Large-scale archaeological excavations conducted in 2010 and 2011 at the site of Agsu in Azerbaijan have revealed an extensive medieval 18th century town rich in architectural remains and artifacts, depicting a settlement with solid trade and cultural connections to other parts of the world. The uncovered remains have been organized for public viewing through a major exhibition sponsored by Azerbaijan's MIRAS Social Organization in Support of Studying Cultural Heritage.

The 18th century Agsu town as revealed by the investigations represented a settlement of inhabitants who had been resettled or deported in 1735 from another city, known as Shamakhi, destroyed as a result of military conquest by Nadir Shah, who ruled as Shah of Iran (1736–47) and was the founder of the Afsharid dynasty. The city eventually developed into one of the largest cities of Azerbaijan by the end of 18th century.

Although Agsu city was repeatedly exposed to feudal attacks, destruction, and inhabitant deportation during the turbulent 18th century, enough remained to show the features of a city that was circumscribed with fortified walls, a castle with round defensive towers, and other dwellings that were erected very close to each other with narrow streets, along with other comparatively wider central streets.

The excavations, conducted by archaeologists and excavators from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan (NASA) and the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan, explored a large area in three directions and uncovered fortress walls, large streets, water and sewage lines, a bathhouse complex, dwellings, shops, workshops, ceramics, numerous numismatic materials (coins), unique art patterns, and other materials evidencing trade and cultural relations of Agsu with a number of countries and cities of the world. In addition, numerous metal ingots and industrial hollows and production pits, as well as instruments used in metallurgy were discovered, indicating a thriving metallurgical production industry in Agsu during the 18th century. In all, the excavations covered an area of over 9000 square meters. Azerbaijan's history was thus enriched with new archaeological finds illustrating life there at the time, and the Azerbaijani museums (the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan, the Agsu History and Local Lore Museum, the Museum of Music Culture of Azerbaijan, etc.) have been enlarged with these new artifacts.
As a benefit for the visiting public, the MIRAS Social Organization in Support of Studying Cultural Heritage of Azerbaijan established a “Medieval Agsu Town” archaeological tourism complex beginning in March, 2010. The open-air exposition displays restored buildings, workshops and streets as they were laid out during the 18th century. Reports Dr. Fariz Khalilli, Chairman of the MIRAS Social Organization in Support of Studying of Cultural Heritage: "The artifacts revealed from these workshops and shops, buildings and their yards, streets and squares were directly placed into their places and the primary look of the town was restored. Big exhibits are presented openly--the site that excavations have uncovered, and small exhibits and rare finds are displayed in reconstructed shop windows. There are views of excavations conducted in the town; information panels relate exhibitions and conferences, seminars and excursions and finds, and monitors show 3D formatted film, placed on the walls."

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Azerbaijan Republic has now included the restored Medieval Agsu Town archaeological tourism complex into tourism routes, and the complex will be open through all seasons of the year for visitors.

For more information about Agsu and the excavations, see the related websites at www.miras.org.az, www.agsuexpedition.org, and http://archaeotourism.az/.

An extensive article about the Agsu archaeological discoveries and work will be published in the upcoming June issue of Popular Archaeology Magazine

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