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Hulbuk Settlement – 9th-11th century

Hulbuk is the former name of a city now called Kurban-Shaid, located 7km north-west of Vose (Kulob region). The city, now almost completely built over, covers a large area – the central part alone occupies about 70 hectares.  In the south-western part of the settlement is a citadel.  A little excavation work has been done in Shahristan (a town), and extensive work at the citadel site.  During excavations in Shahristan it was learned that most of the residences were made of baked bricks.  Adobe bricks were used in combination, with or without baking.  The houses were well organised with walls covered in white or coloured plaster, parquet floors, curved terracotta tiles and water piped from the town’s supply.  There were also several handicraft workshops in the town. (

The rectangular citadel (50m x 150m) consists of two parts: the southern part (50m x 50m) is higher (15m above the surrounding terrain) and has been almost completely excavated, and the northern part which is much lower (10m above the surrounding terrain) has not yet been so thoroughly excavated.  A palace existed in the citadel in two different eras – the lower palace in the 9-10th centuries and the upper in the 11-12th centuries.(

Hulbuk’s excavations have greatly enriched our understanding of the architectural and decorative arts of medieval Central Asia.  More than five thousand pieces of carved pictures, including complete or near-complete works have been found.  In Hulbuk’s pictures you can see basic vegetation, zoomorphic (animal-god) and epigraphic images painted.  Hulbuk also had rich and diverse treasures of bronze, glass and ceramic tableware.  (

The most significant findings were the mural paintings.  Many scientists believe that the art of mural painting disappeared in Central Asia with the advent of Islam.  However, as the 11th century writer, Bayhaqi, reported, this style of painting still existed in the Gaznevid palaces of Afghanistan, and this has been confirmed by the Hulbuk palace findings.  Now, thanks to discoveries in Hulbuk and Sayod, it is possible to demonstrate that the art of mural painting definitely continued into the medieval ages in Central Asia.  This shows a deep continuity and sustainability of cultural traditions.(

The excavations of the ancient Hulbuk settlements in Kurban-Shaid (Hulbuk) were conducted in 1953-54 by E.A. Davidotschch, 1957-94 by B.A. Litvinskaya and in 2003-06 by Yuri Yakubov.

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