The Form and Abandonment of the City of Kuik-Mardan, Otrar Oasis, Kazakhstan in the Early Islamic Period


  • Giles Adam Dawkes University College London
  • Willem Toonen University of Aberystwyth
  • Mark Macklin University of Lincoln
  • Gaygysyz Jorayev University College London



Islamization, Central Asia, urban archaeology


A joint Kazakh-British archaeological initiative undertook a survey and excavation of the city of Kuik-Mardan, one of the largest of the seventy or so known settlements in the Otrar oasis on the Syr-Darya river, Kazakhstan. Several complimentary field techniques were employed including unmanned aerial vehicle photomapping and an extensive programme of radiometric dating. The radiocarbon dates obtained are the first for any city in the oasis and allow more confident interpretations of the experience of the city to be ventured. Also undertaken was a geoarchaeological investigation of the surrounding irrigation and water supply canal system. Key results include its wholesale destruction during the 6th to 7th century and the form of the later occupation of the city.

Author Biographies

Giles Adam Dawkes, University College London

Giles Dawkes (Senior Archaeologist, University College London) started working in commercial archaeology in 1993, and has worked principally in the UK but also in the USA, Australia and Ireland. He was the director of the Silk Road Cities of Kazakhstan Project from 2011–2017 and is now the co-director of The Lost Fort of Castle Pinckney, South Carolina: from American Revolution to Civil War. His principal research interests are Roman Britain, Central Asia and the historic period in North America.

Willem Toonen, University of Aberystwyth

Willem Toonen (KU Leuven, Belgium) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Egyptology Unit of KU Leuven. As a fluvial geomorphologist, his research focusses on the reconstruction of Holocene extreme flood chronologies, their sedimentary products in alluvial river valleys (such as the Rhine and Nile rivers), their non-stationary occurrence due to climate change and human intervention, and their effect on modern and ancient societies.

Mark Macklin, University of Lincoln

Mark Macklin (University of Lincoln, United Kingdom) is Head of the School of Geography and Director of the Lincoln Centre for Water and Planetary Health. His research focusses on river channel and floodplain responses to climate change and long-term human-river environment interactions, alluvial archaeology, flood-risk assessment, metal mining pollution and its impact on ecosystem and human health, and the hydrological controls of malaria.

Gaygysyz Jorayev, University College London

Gaygysyz Jorayev (Research Fellow, University College London) undertook the UAV photomapping of the site and has a background in heritage management, planning and public archaeology, and he has worked with international heritage management and research projects since 2004.


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How to Cite

Dawkes, G. A., Toonen, W., Macklin, M., & Jorayev, G. (2020). The Form and Abandonment of the City of Kuik-Mardan, Otrar Oasis, Kazakhstan in the Early Islamic Period. Journal of Islamic Archaeology, 6(2), 137-152.