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Historical and Archeological Complex Mizdakhan

Nukus. Karakalpakistan

Historical and Archeological Complex Mizdakhan

Mizdakhan is a complex of historical monuments located on three hills and a plane between them. The flat top of the west hill is crowned with the ruins of Gyaur-Kala Fortress, built in the 4th century BC. This fortress was used to defend a large town that occupied the eastern hill. Scholars identify Mizdakhan with the town Mazda built in honor of Akhura-Mazda - the main fire-worshippers’ deity who was mentioned in the holy Zoroastrian book Avesta. Today the eastern hill hosts the oldest Central Asian necropolis. The necropolis spreads over an area of about 100 hectares and historians believe it is over two thousand years old. On the slopes of the hill there is a large number of clay ossuary – urns or chests to keep the bones of the deceased Zoroastrians. There was also discovered a rich burial place with a ceramic sarcophagus; some ossuaries contained gold ritual objects, religious symbols and inscriptions made in Ancient Khorezmian language. A big part of Zoroastrian necropolis is overlapped by a Muslim graveyard; its earliest graves date back to the times when Khozem was conquered by the Arabs.

On the top of the eastern hill in the 12th-13th centuries there was built the unusual semi-underground mausoleum Muzlumkhan-Sulu. According to a legend, Khorezmian ruler’s daughter Muzlumkhan was buried here. She was a very beautiful girl, and the noblest men strived for her hand. But she fell in love with an ordinary architect. The khan agreed to give his daughter in marriage to him if only he could built a sky-high minaret in a night’s time. The man fulfilled this condition but the khan did not keep his promise, and the man threw himself from the top of the minaret he had built. And so did the princess, right after her beloved. The khan ordered to destroy the minaret, and to bury the loving couple together, and above their burial ground to build a mausoleum from bricks once used for the construction of the minaret.

Today only the domes and the portal of the mausoleum rise over the ground. Through a vaulted corridor down to a small room and further down to the main hall there run stone stairs; the passages from the hall lead to scantily lit small rooms covered with octahedral vaults. On a hot day, when outside the temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, it is really cool in here; the sunlight getting in through the windows in the vaults illuminates blue mosaics on the walls and the vault of the mausoleum.

The niches of the main hall contain two tombstones covered with white and blue glazed tiles containing gilt patterns. The tombstones are decorated with Arabic epitaphs made in naskh script and quoting the lines from the Koran. There are neither names nor death dates of the people buried inside.

At a distance of 120 meters south of Muzkumkhan-Sulu Mausoleum are the ruins of the most mysterious Mizdakhan structure – Erejep Caliph Mausoleum. According to the legend, it is the burial place of an Islamic saint who preached in the area when Islam only began spreading in the region. However, many people believe that it is the burial place of Biblical Adam. Yet scientists reckon that this is the grave of Gayomard – the first man on earth in Zoroastrian mythology. This is not the only reason why this mausoleum became a pilgrimage place for so many people from all over the world. Archeological excavations revealed that the solid foundation of the mausoleum, built in the 9th-10th centuries, has a cane base to protect the building from ground water and to make it earthquake-resistant. However, only three walls and fragments of the dome have survived. The only surviving part of the façade is represented by brickwork piece of the former portal and at the entrance there lies a heap of polished baked bricks. An old legend, which can be traced back to pre-Islamic times, relates that it is the place of ‘the world clock’, which ticks mankind’s life away. Every year a brick falls off the walls of the mausoleum, and the day it gets to the last brick will become the doomsday, and the life on the earth will come to an end. Pilgrims who come here to beg from God for realization of their cherished wishes have built thousands of little pyramids by putting the fallen bricks one atop the other. The number of the bricks in such a pyramid must be only ‘seven’, and one must not take bricks from other pyramids – destroying the happiness of someone else you cannot build your own happiness. To take away from Mizdakhan even one brick means to commit a sin. Nobody has ever seen brick falling off the walls of the mausoleum, and nobody has counted the bricks that are still in the walls.

The magic power of the number ‘Seven’ is also connected with the mausoleum of Shamun-Nabi, a legendary magician. His mausoleum stands on the northern hill of Mizdakhan. They say that the saint Shamun worked wonders, healed the sick, controlled the weather and the movement of the heavenly bodies; he understood the languages of animals and preached the belief in God. The mausoleum was built in the 18th century on the ruins of an ancient structure. Inside the mausoleum with a tall portal and seven domes there is a tombstone of over 25 meters in length. However, when archeologists opened the tomb, no remains were discovered inside.

Next to Shamun-Nabi Mausoleum there is a 5-metre-high burial mound supposedly built over the grave of the saint Jumart. According to popular belief, a woman who wants to be healed from sterility should tumble down the slope of Jumart hill with seven somersaults of hers.

The mystery of ‘the world clock’ and the magic power of numbers, history and folk beliefs are all intertwined in the legendary hills of Mizdakhan; they are equally attractive for pilgrims, scholars and tourists.

Sightseeing Places in Karakalpakistan and Nukus

Nukus: Muinak:
Savitsky Art Museum Muynak: a graveyard of ships
Khojeyli region: Ellikkala region:
Historical and Archeological Complex Mizdakhan Jambas-Kala
Gyaur-Kala Ancient Settlement Toprak-Kala Settlement
  Ayaz-Kala Ancient Settlement