Ayaz-kala (IV–III centuries B.C.) is one of the most beautiful and picturesque monuments in Karakalpakstan. Actually, Ayaz–kala is not a single fortress but a group of three that surround a dominant hill up to 100 meters high and located on the east side of the Sultan Uvays Dag mountain range.
The Ayaz-kala Settlement-1, also known as a “Fortress downwind,” is one of the defensive fortresses built on the edge of the Kizilkum Desert as a means of protection from nomadic raids. The monument is rectangular, while its 10-metres-high double walls are built from earth bricks. Even today looking at the walls one can clearly see the towers and two-storied galleries that ensured the ease of movement for the archers as well as loopholes located at an equal distance from each other. The Fortress Entrance in the southern wall is protected by the rectangular construction built in front of the gates. It has a passageway in the eastern wall that is also fortified by two rectangular towers.
An inscription was found on the northern side of an entrance. It had three signs inscribed in one line in ancient Khorezmian language in Aramaic print. Above the line was another symbol known as tamga – a sign of a master who was in charge of the construction.
According to legend, in ancient times one of the Khorezm Padishahs decided to build a magnificent fortress across the country borders to protect it from foreign enemies. He announced: “A person who builds such a large and impenetrable fortress will marry my beautiful daughter.” A shepherd Ayaz, who lived in this land, started building the fortress. It is still unknown how much time he spent on the construction, but Padishah did not honour his promise and gave his daughter away to another man. The fortress remained partially constructed. In this respect the legend is aligned with reality.
The Ayaz-kala Settlement-2 was probably founded during the Afrigid Dynasty, approximately at the end of the VII and beginning of the VIII centuries A.D. It has a complex configuration. A ramp that led downwards once linked the fortress gates with a large luxurious palace located at the foot of the hill.
This palace was described as the most beautiful and magnificent edifice of the medieval period in all of Central Asia. There were large audience chambers with columns, an elegant bench, a ceremonial ground, wall paintings and a fire temple. Coins of the Afrigid dynasty, in particular the coins of King Bravik, were found there.
The palace was constructed approximately in the IV century A.D. Later it was destroyed by two successive fires.
The Ayaz-kala Settlement-3 (IV–III centuries B.C.) is a large reinforced parallelogram-shaped structure surrounded by double walls with numerous rectangular towers on each side. The settlement entrance is located in the middle of the southern side and protected by cranked wall that formed a sophisticated labyrinth before the gates. The settlement courtyard is absolutely empty. Small constructions can be found only near the walls. In the northwestern corner of the settlement there is a large house with many rooms. Two intersecting corridors divided the house into four sectors. Each sector consisted of ten rooms.
Ayaz-kala 3 might have been used as a garrison or a monarch’s residence and an asylum for local farmers during the Kushan Empire. The old Fortress Ayaz-kala 1 could have been fully equipped with a small number of soldiers and used as a simple observation point. The remnants of farmsteads with several residential buildings, agricultural land, walls and vineyards were found around the fortress walls.