The Kazakl'i-yatkan wall paintings

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In 2008 the Karakalpak-Australian Expedition to Chorasmia continued work on the monumental building complex at Kazakl'i-yatkan. We found that the building had been extensively robbed out in antiquity, probably shortly after it was abandoned. Much of the gold leaf had been stripped from its mouldings and the stone column bases had been taken for reuse elsewhere. Destruction of the columns must have brought down the roof, exposing the site to the elements and causing some of the plaster to peel off the walls. Nevertheless, a great deal still remains. The painted plaster was of no interest to the looters. Some of it still lies where it fell on the floor, while much is still preserved intact on the walls, which still stand in many places up to two metres high.

The first building was constructed around the 2nd century BC in a style which bears strong echoes of earlier Bronze Age buildings from southern Central Asia. The structure was rebuilt in the mid-1st century BC. The latest calibrated C14 readings strongly suggest that the paintings date to the late 1st century BCE. The building complex comprises an apparently square central building enclosed, at least in the west, by long narrow covered ways and streets and a complex of smaller rooms. Mural art and plaster reliefs have been found across the excavated areas of the building. We have recovered an in situ procession scene showing animals and humans, a magnificent series of portraits, and more fragmentary remains of figurative and ornamental designs. The Kazakl'i-yatkan corpus is perhaps the best preserved early mural art in Central Asia. Thanks to generous funding from the Australian Research Council, National Geographic, the Uzbek Academy of Sciences and the support of our volunteers and unnamed donors, work will continue at the site until 2011 during which time we hope to uncover more of this impressive corpus of early Central Asian mural art.