Antiquities of Samarkand. Kurgan in the Vicinity of Samarkand. Location of Kafir Kala


This photograph of the ruins of the Kafir Kala fortress, to the south of Samarkand (Uzbekistan), is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s architectural heritage. There are a number of locations in Central Asia with the name “Kafir-Kala,” meaning “infidels’ fortress,” presumably in reference to fortresses built before the Arab conquest at the turn of the 8th century. This example was built in the 5th century by the Sogdian kings, to defend the southern approaches to Samarkand, or Maracanda, as it was then called. The passage of the Silk Road through Maracanda/Samarkand added to the necessity for such fortified settlements. The ruined walls rise from the surrounding plains, which were extensively irrigated in ancient times. The moist earth, in turn, provided an ample supply of building material that was used in a technique known as pakhsa (rammed earth), which compresses damp soil mixed with clay and gravel into durable blocks. Adobe structures could be added on top of this base. Such fortresses usually were sacked by the Arabs, and the walls eroded back into the earth.

Subject Date

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Курганы в окретностях г. Самарканда. Местность "Кафыр Кала"

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : albumen


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 2, plate 153.

Last updated: September 30, 2016