Astronomical orientation of architectural monuments of Khorezm

Bolelov S.B., Kolganova G.Yu., Nickiforov M.G. (Moscow, Russian Federation)


             page 8596


The paper is aimed at studying the astronomical orientation of Khorezmic architectural monuments. By the term astronomical orientation, the authors understand the alignment of the building elements with astronomically significant directions corresponding to the directions of the world, sunrise and/or sunset azimuths at solstices and azimuths of the rising/setting of the Moon at its northern and southern extremes. Analysis of the accuracy of monument plans showed that they could not be used to solve the issue of determining astronomical orientation. The main reason for this consists in the lack of unification in determining the position of the north. Verification showed that both magnetic north and true north could be picked on archaeological plans, and in some cases, one might suspect an incorrect recalculation from magnetic to true meridian. The unsuitability of earlier archaeological plans for the analysis of astronomical orientation severely limits the number of objects that can be used, since many of the monuments described in the last century works do not exist today. Therefore, in order to analyse astronomical orientation, it is necessary to perform new ground-based measurements. However, due to the impossibility of conducting new measurements during the field studies, we took the satellite imagery of Google Earth, which, along with the obvious advantage, leads to some restrictions. For example, a monument should be visible from space and have geometrical dimensions much larger than the pixilation of the image. As a result, for studying astronomical orientation, it was possible to select 37 objects, which have the shape of a convex polygon. The use of statistical analysis allowed us to establish the presence of two significant azimuths: alignment of the monument with the meridian line and with the sunrise azimuth at the winter solstice. The remaining astronomical azimuths are met in isolated cases, but we cannot confirm their presence due to a small number. It should be noted that some researchers have already paid attention to the practice of orienting structures along the meridian line, so the detection of this azimuth is not unexpected. However, compared to previous works, we have obtained accurate azimuth estimates, which are suitable for statistical analysis. In addition, the considered monuments belong to a single cultural tradition and are located within the same historical region. The cultural significance of the winter solstice day in Khorezm and neighbouring regions can be proved by Birunis information. Following his descriptions, the residents of Sogd and Khorezm celebrated the same holiday associated with the onset of the winter solstice.

Key words: Central Asia, azimuths, astronomical traditions in architecture, astronomy and culture.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2019-45-2-085-096


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Submitted: 15.03.2019

Accepted: 01.04.2019

Article is published: 28.06.2019


S.B. Bolelov

State Museum of Oriental Art, Nikitsky Blvd., 12a, Moscow, 119019, Russian Federation



G.Yu. Kolganova

Institute of Oriental Studies, RAS, Rozhdestvenka st., 12, Moscow, 107031, Russian Federation



M.G. Nickiforov

Moscow State Linguistic University, Ostozhenka st., 38, Moscow, 119034, Russian Federation