Uch Kulakh: The Finds

The Finds

The findings of Uch Kulakh can be classified on typological and chronological basis and then placed within the different periods of life of the site, from the 3rd to 4th until 12th century.


The repertoire of the pre-Islamic ceramics includes small jugs of red ceramics hand made or wheel made with globular body and vertical handle (Fig 31), jugs with globular body, flat base and vertical handle flat in section; small jars (Fig 33); bowls of red ceramic (Fig 34 Fig 35). Of the latters were found enough samples to propose a chronology. The oldest type of bowls is globular with straight or incurved rim (Fig 36), this typology of ceramics appears in the region already during the Hellenistic period and persists also later during the Kushan and post-Kushan times and can be dated to the 4th or 5th century; these samples have been found also in Varakhsha and Paykend. The bowls with straight rim and flat or disk base are later and may have persisted up to the 6th-7th century.
The objects of the earliest period (4th century) include a cup and some flasks with hemispherical body, flat base and the rim on the side (Fig 37); they can be attributed to a type already known in the Oasis of Bukhara (nomadic tombs; site of Kizil Kir) and in other regions of Central Asia.
Of particular interest are the spindle whorls (Fig 38-39) (Fig 40-41) (Fig 42), found in large quantities inside the rooms, some of which having an incised decoration. And yet some small pots (Fig 43) (Fig 44), goblets (Fig 45), lids and kitchen crockery (Fig 46). To the Islamic period belongs a number of jars (Fig 47) (Fig 48) (Fig 49) and amphorae of exquisite craftsmanship, some of which being decorated with engraved patterns of lines, zig zag or semicircles. They were found in the upper levels, often buried in large holes. They conteined objects of various types especially jewelry, i.e. necklaces made in beads of glass paste or semi-precious stones. Have been found also some fragments of glazed pottery. The discovery of a basin and a millstone in schist indicates that between the 9th and the 12th centuries this area was used as a space for work activities.


The bone objects include jewels (Fig 51) pins, pots for essences (Fig 52), small spoon (Fig 53), the handle of a knife (Fig 54) and buttons decorated with incised motifs usually groups of circles with a dot in the center. These objects are in relation with those found in Paykend (Oasis of Bukhara) and in the Eastern Tokharistan. Among the particular finds we can mention a parallelepiped object, whose four faces are also engraved with circles, one on the front, two on the second face, three on the third and four on the fourth. This is presumably a die. Most of the coins belong to  the islamic period, except a  copper coin of the Kushan period with the image of the king (verso) and of Shiva and bull (recto) (Fig 56 a-b)


The repertoire of the Uch Kulakh fictile production includes also the finding of five anthropomorphic terracotta figurines. Three of them are found intact, while the other are in a very fragmentary condition. They differ from the production of the same objects found in Central Asia and in particular  in Sogdiana (at Afrasiab, for istance), except for their intrinsic meaning. In fact  terracotta figurines and their iconographic variants, represent goddesses, while some iconographic elements correspond to other figurines found in different sites of the Oasis of Bukhara such as Kizil-Kir or Varakhsha. These figurines were mould only in the frontal part, while the upper part (head and torso) was realized in detail, the bottom being often only sketched. There is no harmony in the proportions; the upper part is usually larger than the bottom.
The first descovered terracotta (UK45, Fig 57) was made of red depurated clay; number of iconographic elements like the proportions, the rigidity of the pose and the fact that the figurine was armless, correspond to the other Sogdian figurines like a finding of Kizil-Kir and others of Dalverzine-tepe (Tocharistan).
The iconographic features of some figurines (a large face, eyes shape, prominent chick bones and chin, the headdress and the ornaments) (UK240, Fig 58 or UK357, Fig 59) are very similar to a female figurine of the 3rd-4th century AD found by V.A. Shishkin in the shahristan of Varakhsha.
Some other fragmentary figurines (UK263, Fig 60 and UK178) present a physiognomy that reminds another figurine found in Varakhsha.
The date suggested for this material corresponds therefore to the 4th-5th centuries.


A rich number of lacerti of black, red, white and blue paintings have been found in the different sectors of the archaeological monument: inside the castle, in the eastern and western living areas. The most important of them has been discovered in the room A14 of the western living area, and in the rooms A83 and A84 of the eastern living area. Even if they are only partially preserved, these fragments allow to give an interpretation on the iconographic and stylistic basis.
The south-western wall of room A14 (western sector) included  the figure of a leopard (Fig 61), now exhibited at the Museum of the Ark of Bukhara. When it was discovered, this figure was in a bad condition and the only visible elements of the animal were  the elongated shape of its body and its four  paws. The lines were drawn in a very stressed manner, while the coat was characterize by dark blue circles, that were roughly disposed on the body of the animal. The knees were drawn with two concentric circle shighlighted with a central  point. The tale was just sketched. On the wall and under the body of the animal were some lacerti of white and red color.
The most important remains of mural paintings were found in the eastern area (2009 excavation campaign). The imagine on the western wall of the room A83 represented probably a fight between animals, maybe camels, whose survived the lower part of three legs of an animal with a red coat, walking or standing in profile to the right. One of the three legs seems to have been bitten by an animal with gray paws. An horizontal black band with a wavy white ribbon, was decorated by two parallel lines of red color. The lines of this band were also preserved on the eastern and northern walls. The iconography with fighting camels is typical of the Eurasian steppes.
Some patches of murals were also preseved on the western, eastern and northern walls of room A84. The western wall presented a partial image of an harnessed horse with a phalera (Fig 63) and  on the eastern wall the image representation of two horsemen facing each other (Fig 64), on two harnessed horses at gallop, with the tails wraped with white bands. Of the two horsemen only part of the pants are still visible; one of them wears a caftan with a vegetable decoration. This iconographic subject could found a source of inspiration in the Sassanian dynastical art.