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Ancient mausoleum discovered near Kazakhstan’s capital

An ancient mausoleum has been discovered in Kazakhstan that may contain the ashes of one or both founders of the Kazakh khanate.

Madi Asanov


KAZAKHSTAN — On Oct. 12, archaeologists announced the discovery of an ancient mausoleum 120km from Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. They believe that the ashes of one or both founders of the Kazakh khanate may rest there.

Sultans Djanibek and Kerey, who were related, left Central Kazakhstan in 1460 to break away from the rule of the nomadic Uzbeks of the Abulkhair Khan. After several decades, the rebellious sultans returned to their homeland and overthrew the Uzbeks. As a result, tribes loyal to the Abulkhair Khan moved south and retained their identification as “Uzbek,” while those who remained, the allies of Djanibek and Kerey, were referred to as “Kazaks.”

Archaeologists studying the mausoleum have come to the conclusion that it belongs to a family, because the grave has two tiers. At present, only Sultan Djanibek, who became Khan after his older relative, Kerey, held the post, is considered the first Kazakh ruler.

Archaeologist Sergazy Sakenov believes that a clue to the grave’s occupants is the neighbouring lake’s name, Djanibek-Shalkar. He also notes that the River Kerey is located nearby.

The archaeological monument was found in the Kurgaldjin reserve by a hunter on Sept. 5. He said he found three multicoloured stones that he sent to Astana to be examined by experts.

On analysing the discovery, archeologists immediately mounted an expedition to the site. An excavation of the well-preserved foundation showed that 600 years ago there was a majestic mausoleum on the site that may have housed one of the rulers, judging by the luxurious (for the times) construction materials and skillfully constructed framework.

The mausoleum itself was destroyed long ago, as none of the local long-time residents knew of its existence. Only notes of 18th and 19th century Russian travelers make vague mention of the site. Archeologists hope to recreate the appearance of the vault using computer simulations. They also promised to conclude the investigation and publish their findings within a year.

The separation of the Djanibek and Kerey states is considered to be the beginning of the formation of the Kazakh nation, which included many tribes living in the area of the historical Golden Horde and Mogolistan, created by the descendants of Genghis Khan. Djanibek and Kerey are also descendants of the conqueror, and their own successors ruled the Khanate until 1847, when the last ruling Khan was killed fighting for Kazakhstan’s independence from Russia.


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