Kalas and Urbanism in Western Central Asia


Kalas (qalas), as iconic fortified enclosure sites, were nodes within dispersed and low-density settlement patterns of Central Asian oases. The largest kalas functioned as the equivalent of urban centers for mobile, agro-pastoral societies. A complex and diversified system of agro-pastoral subsistence and production strategies were employed within the oases in response to extreme climatic and environmental conditions. This paper will focus on the transition from the Late Antique to Early Medieval periods in the oasis of Khorezm which saw major changes occur in the Khorezmian settlement pattern. Kala sites were abandoned, some were re-used for different activities, and new kalas were established on smaller scales. The hydrological system underwent major changes, with some new areas of the oasis being occupied. There were far fewer large enclosure sites, and this period saw a modification of the kala as a type and the beginnings of centralized urbanism with the Arab conquests of the 8th century AD. Groups with different socio-economic organisation inhabited the oasis and constructed different types of sites. This paper will examine themes of permanence, tenure, abandonment, mobility and decentralization.

Cite this Record

Kalas and Urbanism in Western Central Asia. Michelle Negus Cleary, Elizabeth Baker Brite. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431714)


Geographic Keywords
West Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17114