Believers in the Highlands: Burying the Muslim Dead at the Qarakhanid Site of Tashbulak


This is an abstract from the "Living and Dying in Mountain and Highland Landscapes" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Islam spread into Central Asia via the Arab invasions of the 7th century CE. According to current historical narratives, Islam’s first footholds were lowland urban centers, with Islam only slowly infiltrating the highlands. New research, presented here, challenges the idea that highland areas were a barrier to Islam. This paper presents a study of the cemetery at Tashbulak, a Qarakhanid site in the Malguzaar Mountains of southeastern Uzbekistan. The Qarakhanid state (9th-13th c.), the first nomadic Turkic polity to convert to Islam, held its power in the highlands of Central Asia, during the period when Islam was thought to be practiced primarily in the lowlands. Burials at Tashbulak are some of the earliest directly dated Islamic burials in the region, and adhere to Islamic burial practices documented in mortuary communities across Central Asia. Through the burial of the dead in visibly Islamic fashion at Tashbulak, this Qarakhanid population expressed a dual nomadic and Islamic identity. The highland location of Tashbulak was not a barrier to Islam, but instead allowed the Qarakhanids to integrate their nomadic heritage with the practice of Islam, and assert a claim to the region rooted both in their ancestry and the divine.

Cite this Record

Believers in the Highlands: Burying the Muslim Dead at the Qarakhanid Site of Tashbulak. Elissa Bullion, Michael Frachetti, Farhad Maksudov, Ann Merkle. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 452168)

Spatial Coverage

min long: 46.143; min lat: 28.768 ; max long: 87.627; max lat: 54.877 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23751