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June 10th, 2024
Strategically located halfway between China and the Mediterranean along the first Silk Road, the ancient Kangju state prospered as a trading center in what is now southern Kazakhstan for nearly 1,000 years between the 5th century BCE and the 4th century CE.


Kangju is back in the news, as a team of researchers from Ozbekali Zhanibekov University, along with local government archaeologists, recently unearthed beautifully crafted gold jewelry and valuable household items at a burial site in the rural Karaaspan district of Kazakhstan. The finds illuminate the wealth and cosmopolitan nature of the Kangju society.

The researchers discovered three tombs, two which had been looted in ancient times. But the third tomb and its treasures had remained intact.

Believed to date from the first century BCE, the matching gold earrings are fabricated from a colorful alloy known as "polychromatic" gold. The earrings are inlaid with turquoise and rubies in a crescent shape that pays homage to the moon. The lower portion of the earrings is decorated with a grape motif that reflects sunlight in multiple directions.


Also found in the tomb was an ornate bronze mirror believed to have been made in China during the Han dynasty, which ruled from 206 BCE until 220 CE. The circular mirror displays a unique eight-arch design that is distinctively Chinese in origin.

The researchers believe the precious earrings and highly prized mirror almost certainly indicate the tomb belonged to a citizen of great wealth and nobility.

According to archaeologist Aleksandr Podushkin, who led the study, the Kangju state was populated by a federation of diverse peoples, including nomadic groups of Sarmatians (from the Urals, Caucasus and the Black Sea), Xiongnu (from northern China) and Saki (originally from Iran, and then from Central Asia and Siberia).


The researchers described Kangju as a multi-cultural melting pot that would have been an important stop on the first Silk Road, the 4,000-mile caravan track that linked the Han capital of Xi’an with Rome.

A statement from the press service of the governor of Turkestan region noted that Rome, Byzantium, Kushan and the Chinese Empire had equal diplomatic relations with the Kangyu state, which flourished as a trading hub on the Great Silk Road.

Podushkin noted that the recently recovered artifacts will now go on display in the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the city of Astana.

Credits: Images courtesy of Turkistan regional administration of Republic of Kazakhstan. Map by Google Maps.