Ayaz-Kala Ancient Settlement

The ancient settlement Ayaz-Kala is situated at a distance of 20 kilometers to the northeast of Toprak-Kala, the capital of ancient Khorezm, between the drifting sands of the Kyzylkum Desert and the holy mountains Sultanuizdag. The choice of the site for this fortified settlement by its unknown builders deserves our admiration. Standing on a flat marbleized limestone hill, the fortress was almost unassailable. On the south, west and north the fortress is protected by steep slopes of the hill, whereas on the east it abuts on elevated plateau that is hard to cross on foot even for a lightly loaded man, let alone for a warrior with weapons.

Oriented on cardinal points, the adobe-brick double walls of Ayaz-Kala embrace the area of about three hectares. The thickness of the outer 10-meter-high wall, which has survived to the present day, is about 2.5 meters; the inner wall was a little thinner. The walls were fortified with semicircular turrets, standing at a distance of 11- 13 meters from each other. Inside of each turret there is a rather spacious room, evidently intended for the guards or warriors to rest in.

Between the walls, all along the fortress perimeter, there was a solid corridor covered by a torispherical vault. Over the corridor there ran a gallery for skirmishers, with narrow sloping portholes. The only entrance protected by amazy labyrinth, was arranged in the southern wall of the fortress. Thus,the southbound wind that prevails in this area blew the dust and litter from the settlement: the name of the fortress itself - Ayaz-Kala - can be translated as ‘fortress in the wind’.

By the shape of the bricks and the brickwork technique archeologists could date the foundation of the settlement – the 4th century BC. The bronze three-bladed arrowheads they discovered by the south wall of the gate labyrinth also date back to that epoch. As is well known such arrowheads at that time were in use with the Saks and Savromats who were roaming in the lower reaches of the Syr Darya River and frequently threatened ancient Khorezm towns.

There are several popular legends associated with Ayaz-Kala fortress. According to one of them, during the big civil disorder caused by the death of a local ruler and unavailability of his successor, priests announced to the crowd which gathered on the square that they would let the royal hunting falcon fly free and the person on whose arm the falcon would alight could be the new shah. But instead of alighting on one’s arm the bird perched on an ordinary warrior’s head. After they shooed the falcon, it anyway returned to the same place. The people appointed this warrior their shah, and it was him who began the construction of a new fortress on the hill. Having mounted the throne, this shah reigned long and was a fair king. So as not to forget his social origin, this ex-warrior who now became a shah ordered to hang prominently, close to the throne, an old worn boot.

At the beginning of the Common Era Ayaz-Kala residents tried to reinforce their fortress. They stored up bricks and began building new turrets at the western and southern outer walls. During the excavation works the archeologists found some large stacks of bricks lying on their edges. Why the construction was not completed and why the residents and garrison left the fortress is the riddle to be solved by the next generations of the scholars.