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Ancient Settlement Khalchayan

Time and again the attention of archeologists has been attracted to a few mounds located north of Dalverzintepa site, at Khalchayan village, near the town of Denau in Surkhandarya Province of Uzbekistan. The archeologists surmised that under the mounds there were buried ancient settlements. The excavations on the largest mound, which were carried out in the 1960s, revealed the ruins of an antique palace built at the turn of the first millennium.

After many-metre-thick cultural layer had been removed, it became apparent that the main façade of the building had a four-pillar aivan. The roof of the structure was tiled. The upper parapets were castellated, with arrow-shaped openings. Three large doorways at the end of the aivan opened into a large main hall. From the hall it was possible to get into a small room, which was probably a sanctuary. The pillars were wooden, but their pedestals were made of stone, bearing the resemblance to antique ones. There were also a large number of rooms and corridors in the palace. Some scholars believe that in the course of time the primary function of the palace as the ruler’s residence altered, and it became “the house of worshipping the ancestors”.

The aivan of the palace was decorated with wall paintings and statues. Only small fragments of the original painting have survived: white flowers, stalks, fruits and grapevines against a bright-red background. In some places there come in view indistinct silhouettes of men, with only their arms being clearly visible.

In the main hall there was sufa (built-in bench around the walls) to sit on, with the walls above being covered with white alabaster. At a height of three meters there were high relief sculptures. They were made of plastic loess clay on cane frames and were attached to the walls with special pins. The sculpture composition represented secular subjects: a royal couple, an audience with a ruler, brave Kushan warriors… All the sculptures were first primed with white paint and then coloured. The faces of the sculptures had mostly pink and dark-red colors; the eyes were bright blue and black against white. The characters’ attire was coloured orange, ochre, red and green. In a dimly lit hall, placed at a 3-metre height, these statues gave the viewers an impression of being alive… The most striking quality of the sculptures is that all the faces they show bear well-marked individual, portrait-like features which make apparent the ethnic origin of the characters – Parthians, Arians, Bactrians, Kushans, Yuezhis. Sculpture from Khalchayan is rather peculiar, though it evidently shows a noticeable influence of Hellenistic art.

Khalchayan site is far from being totally studied. But it is already clear that the sculpture from its palace is an outstanding example of ancient art.