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Burana tower

Welcome to Burana tower

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Situated 10 km to the South of Tokmok – the tower is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasugan set at the foot of the Shamshy valley. The Karakhanid kaganate in the 10-12th centuries was a great feudal state in Central Asia. It was founded by the Karakhanids, “black khans”, who conquered a vast territory that stretched from the Ili river in the east to the Amudarya river in the west. One of the capital cities of the state was the city of Balasagun, founded by the Karakhanids in the middle of the l0th century in the eastern part of the Chu valley. The history of the town was a short one. In 1218 Balasagun yielded to the front line troops of the myriad Mongol horde and by the middle of the XIV century ceased to exist. The present-day name of the tower – Burana, comes from the Arabic “monar”, minaret. Quite a number of legends are bound up with the history of the construction of the tower. One of them has it that a mighty local khan ordered its construction as a refuge for his only daughter, for a prophet had foretold her death from the bite of a karakurt – a poisonous spider. These insects were in profusion in the area. Despite the father’s efforts to foil the fates, the prophesy came true and the daughter perished from the bite of the spider brought inside the refuge together with black grapes. The tower became the mausoleum of the khan?s daughter.Burana Tower. The minaret of the archeological site dates to the 10-11th centuries. It is among the oldest constructions of this type in the whole of Central Asia. Its original height was about 45 miters, the upper part of it was adorned with a lantern dome with four doorways looking out the four cardinal points. The present height of the tower is 24,6 m; the upper part of it collapsed during an earthquake that took place about the 15th or 16th centuries. There were major archaeological surveys of the site in the 1920s, 1950s and 1970s. The archaeologists discovered that the town had a complicated layout covering som 25-30 square kilometers. There were ruins of a central fortress, some handicraft shops, bazaars, four religious buildings, domestic dwellings, a bathhouse, a plot of arable land and a water main (pipes delivering water from a nearby canyon). Two rings of walls surrounded the town. Now the Burana archeological site has become an open-air historical and architectural museum. The collection of the museum includes real sculptural masterpieces of the medieval fine arts dating from the 6-10th centuries. Burana Tower. The entire museum complex today covers some 36 hectares. It includes the tower itself, reconstructions of mausoleums found on the site, a mound that is all that remains of the palace/citadel, a collection of balbals (grave markers used by nomadic Turkic peoples who used to roam Central Asia) and petroglyphs (paintings on stones) and a small Museum. An embankment on which were built the town walls, made of wattle and daub, would have surrounded the town. On the outside of the tower is pattern of relief work in brick. The diameter at the bottom of the tower is 9.3 meters and the top is 6m across. The remains were «canabalised» by local people who took the bricks from the base for their building – photographs of the tower before reconstruction in the 1970s can be seen in the small museum and show this clearly. Inside is a narrow spiral staircase that is said to be original, leading to the top. Access would have been by removable stairs, or through the roof of the mosque – now there is a metal staircase leading to the door nearly 7 m above ground on the southern side. From the top it is possible to get a good view of the Chu valley and Tokmok. Also, it is possible to make out the lines of the walls of the settlement in the fields surrounding the tower. At the foot of the tower are some reconstructions of the foundations of several ancient mausoleums made out of burnt brick. These foundations were uncovered in the 1970s. The different shapes and sizes indicate the different status and numbers of occupants.Burana Tower. Nearby is a small hill, measuring 100 metres square and 10 metres high. It apparently hides a palace complex (or a temple – the archaeologists aren’t sure), which existed in the 10th century – that is before the town itself came into being. A little further away is a collection of «bal-bals» small statues of the dead – gravestones of the nomadic Turks) dating from the 6th century, and petroglyphs dating from the 2nd century BC, brought and placed here from all around the Chu valley. There are other collections around the Chu valley and in Southern Kazakhstan.

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