History of Khiva - Part 3

Irrigation development in Ancient Khorezm

The construction of large irrigation systems played the decisive role in the development of town civilization and the high farming culture of ancient Khorezm. Creation of complicated irrigation systems was possible under strong centralized state power and the wide use of forced labor.

Ancient Khorezmian civilization flourished from the fourth century B.C. to the third century A.D. The Khorezmian state freed itself from the Akheminid yoke in the second part of the fourth century B.C. It developed farming, town handicrafts, and trade as its economy grew. On the right bank of the Amu Darya, the Koi-krilgan-kala and Djanbaskala canals were constructed, from which many arks, provided water to the surrounding fields. In the fourth century B.C. the area of irrigated land in the low reaches of the Amu Darya and the Sir-Darya was approximately 3.5 million hectares. Millet, wheat, barley, watermelons, melons, gourds, and industrial crops were grown. Apricots, plums, peaches, grape, pomegranate were also grown in gardens.

In the reaches of the canals and tributaries of the Amu Darya, many settlements and fortified towns were built, with powerful walls and complex labyrinthine gates. These centers of trade, handicraft, and culture included Djanbaskala and Bazarkala on the left bank of the Amu Darya, - the fortified towns of Khazarasp, Sadvara, Djigirbent, Khiva, Kaparis and the cult center Elkaras.

An important site from this period is Koi-Krilgan-kala, which was probably a temple or burial complex. It consists of a round central two-storied building with arched passages, surrounded by an outside wall with nine towers. The area surrounding the wall features domestic dwellings. In some of them, rows of large vessels (khums) for keeping products.