Kultobe (settlement)

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Kultobe (kaz. – Күлтөбе) – is the ancient fortified settlement and archaeological site located in Turkestan, Turkestan region of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The object is located in the buffer zone of the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmet Yasawi. The Mausoleum inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Geographical coordinates: 43°17'35"N 68°16'15"E


The first written sources about the ancient settlement of Kultobe are found in Arab-Persian sources of the IX–X centuries. The Arab traveler al-Istarkhi [1] mentions it as a “Shavgar settlement”: “from Kedera to Shavgar one day journey, from Shavgar to Savran one day journey”. Shavgar is mentioned by the Islamic historian and theologian At-Tarabi in the History of the Prophets and Kings [2]. This period was the time of the highest prosperity of Shavgar and it was localized in a high interactional of settled and nomadic culture zone. This town at the end of the Х century al-Maksadi described as: “Shavgar is a big city with an extensive rustaq and around it is a wall. The mosque is at the edge of the market. He is far away from the highway” [3].

In the XII century Shavgar decayed and Yasi becomes the center of the region. According to the opinion of M. Masson, “Yasi was not found in the historical literature of the pre-Mongol period and according to the nickname of Khoja Ahmed, we may assume that it was already in use” [4]. Yasi (Ason) was first mentioned in the middle of the XIII century in the diary of the Armenian king Getum [5] who traveled to the headquarters of the Mongol khans Batu and Mongke. The modern name of the city of Turkestan has been used since the XVI century.

The first archeological evidence of the Kultobe site was collected in 1973 by the Turkestan archaeological group of the Institute of History and Archeology named after C. Valikhanov Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR under the supervision of T. Senigova.

In 1980–1982, Turkestan archeological group of the Institute of History and Archeology named after C.Valikhanov, Science Academy of Kazakh SSR under supervision of Y. Smagulov continued work on the Kultobe settlement. The new step of archeological research of the settlement continued in 2010–2012 by Turkestan archeological group of the Institute of Archeology named after A. Margulan under the supervision of Y. Smagulov From 2019, the “Kazakh Research Institute of Culture” LLP under the supervision of Dr. A.Khazbulatov, PhD, associate professor, started the “Restoration of historical sites of the Kultobe settlement” project. The project works with the financial support of Eurasian Resources Group (ERG). The main purpose of this project is to create a unique “Kultobe Settlement” open-air archaeological park.


The Kultobe settlement is the most ancient cultural, religious and trade center of the Great Silk Road and in at different times was called Shavgar – Yasi – Turkestan. On the territory of the settlement, archaeological sites of four main historical periods of Kazakhstan were discovered:: I–V centuries – Kangju period, christcrosses temple, citadel and defensive wall; VII–IX centuries – early medieval period, residential and public buildings surrounded by a defensive wall; X–XII centuries – the medieval period, characterized as the golden age of urban culture and the life of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi; XVI–XIX centuries – the period of the Kazakh khanate, fortification of the geopolitical and spiritual meaning of the city for uniting nomadic tribes into a strong state association. Every epoch of the settlement is represented by specific archaeological objects from sacred places to residential premises and many artifacts.


1. I. Krachkovskyi, Arab geographic literature. T. IV. М. – L.: Publisher SA USSR, 1957. – p.965

2. L. Kubbel, V.V.Matveyev, The ancient and medieval sources on ethnography and the history of sub-Saharan Africa. Volume I. Arab sources of the VII–X centuries. М.-L.: Publisher SA USSR, 1960.

3. History of Yasi-Turkestan city. http://old.unesco.kz/natcom/turkestan/r06_yassy_city.htm

4. Y. Masson, the Mausoleum of Khodja Ahmed Yasawi. – Tashkent, 1939. – p.25

5. Turkestan in medieval sources. http://nm2000.kz/news/2007-09-13-1302

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