A leading specialist of the International Institute of Central Asian Studies, consultant of the Kazakh Research Institute of Culture, architect Alim Feyzulaev told the correspondent of “ЭК” about the large-scale works on the conservation and restoration of the archaeological monuments of Kultobe, carried out on the territory of the ancient settlement by specialists of the KazRIC with the financial support of the Eurasian Resources Group.
- Alim Lumanovich, what does the process of scientific restoration of the historical sites of the settlement of Kultobe entail?
- It is probably not strictly necessary to define conservation and restoration as “scientific”. Work performed in accordance with professional standards and in compliance with national and international standards is by default a scientifically based process; and there can be no other approach. However, unfortunately, not every restoration project can be called scientific. In the case of Kultobe, the conservation and partial restoration of archaeological sites is a complex and multifaceted process involving many stages: from archaeological and archival-bibliographic research to the presentation of the results to the general public.
Its goal is a more complete understanding of the stages of urban development of Turkestan and the processes that accompanied them, as well as their competent truthful interpretation and presentation to the public. For a long time, the majority of the old city in Turkestan remained completely unexplored. The organization of the archaeological park, the concept of which was developed and implemented by KazRIC, will help solve many educational and socio-cultural problems.
- Please, describe the process of conservation and partial restoration work carried out at Kultobe.
- It includes the study and synthesis of the results of archaeological research, analysis of the architectural and planning structure of the identified objects, their structural properties and materials, understanding of their functions (with reference to the discovered finds), the relationship of different parts, and the place and role of objects in the fabric of the old city. An important stage is the search for analogies and parallels on a regional scale, since traditional architecture has a successive nature; and construction techniques and technologies carry features that reflect the lifestyle and climatic features of the region.
To accomplish these tasks, a truly multidisciplinary team is needed, consisting of archaeologists, architectural historians, architectural restorers, engineers, geologists and hydrologists, landscape and landscaping specialists.
- What is your role in the project?
- In 2020, I actively participated in the process of conservation and restoration of objects, providing advisory support, as well as providing technical supervision. Strictly speaking, the conservation techniques stipulated in the project documentation were worked out at the sites of the so-called background archeology in the north-eastern part of the site. Conservation and restoration work to preserve the monuments of the mudbrick architecture of the Kultobe settlement was carried out at the archaeological site No. 1, which, in particular, is compromised out of nine anchor objects, including buildings of the I–II centuries, a number of buildings of the early and late Middle Ages, and fragments of cobbled streets.
- Did you have to change the technological approaches in the process of working on the restoration of the historical objects of the settlement?
- No, we only perfected the methods of preparation and application of preservation materials.
- How long will the archaeological sites of Kultobe be preserved for after the process of scientific restoration?
- Science still does not have methods of preserving mudbrick architecture in a way that would completely eliminate periodic maintenance and subsequent repairs. The exceptions, probably, are the cases when the objects of archeology are covered with protective canopies, which protect the monuments as much as possible from the negative impact of the environment, erosion, waterlogging, etc. But even such measures cannot protect the monument 100%. The preserved monuments of the settlement will require careful monitoring and maintenance every few years.
- There are often cases when for the sake of a beautiful picture restorers modernize objects and neglect authenticity. What do you think about it?
- The main task in the process of preserving the historical monuments of Kultobe was the maximum preservation of authentic or original material, which carries an entire array of data about the past of the object and the city. The measures carried out are reversible. The preservation layers can be dismantled without much damage to the monument – for example, for its subsequent study.
- The proximity to the mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, imposes certain obligations on the project's executers to comply with international conventions. What is being done for this purpose?
- From the very beginning, the location of Kultobe within the boundaries of the buffer zone of the mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi imposed a special responsibility on KazRIC as the project executor. When planning the work, the provisions of the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972 and the Operational Guidelines for its Implementation were taken into account in the first place. In addition, special attention was paid to a variety of charters and international documents, including those developed by ICOMOS – the International Council on Monuments and Sites. These include the Venice Charter of 1964, the ICOMOS Charter for the Protection and Management of Archaeological Heritage of 1990, and the Salal Guidelines for the Management of Publicly Accessible Archaeological Sites of 2017. They are based on the principle of preserving the authenticity of monuments, the holistic process of turning artifacts into historical and cultural monuments, as well as emphasizing the demonstration of their authenticity.
- Are the research projects for this year's objects finished? In what order will they be restored?
- Final edits are made to the working draft. The order will be determined by the production calendar and the readiness of the objects, since they were re-preserved for the winter.
- How do you assess the potential of the open-air archaeological park "Kultobe Settlement" being created in Turkestan?
- The potential of the park is huge. It will, in fact, be one of the first professionally executed archaeological parks in Central Asia. Its role in raising awareness of both local residents and visitors of Turkestan about the new previously unexplored pages of the history of the city and the country is difficult to overestimate. In addition, it is expected that the park will help to develop new approaches in the management of historical and cultural heritage sites and will contribute to the socio-economic development of the city and the region.