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Historical informatics

Virtual Reconstruction of the Medieval Settlement of Koshoy-Korgon Ц a Fortress of Nomads on the Great Silk Road

Batyrbaeva Shaiyrkul Dzholdoshevna

Doctor of History

Professor, department head, Balasagyn Kyrghyz National University 

kab. 330, 547, ul. Frunze, g. Bishkek, Kirgiziya, 720033

ƒругие публикации этого автора

Soltobaev Orozbek Azekovich

Senior lecturer, Kyrghyz National University

aud. 330, 547, ul. Frunze, g. Bishkek, Kirgiziya, 720033

Tursunova Elizat Turakunovna

PhD in History

Senior lecturer, Balasagyn Kyrghyz National University

kab. 330, 547, ul. Frunze, g. Bishkek, Kirgiziya, 720033




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The article discusses the role and importance of computer modeling in the reconstruction of historical and cultural monuments in Kyrgyzstan's part of the Great Silk Road. Due to a number of objective and subjective causes all monuments of ancient and medieval ages of Kyrgyzstan demonstrate that the abundant historical and cultural heritage has either not been preserved or has been partially or fully renovated thus resulting in its changed appearance. The authors have tried to carry out a 3D reconstruction of Koshoy-Korgon settlement on the basis of former practices aimed at reconstruction of fortification complexes, ancient settlements and historical landscapes. This settlement dates back to the 10th-12th centuries and was the nomadic and administrative center of the At-Bash Valley in the Karakhanid State. The process of Koshoy-Korgon virtual reconstruction was accomplished by stages on the basis of historical and archaeological studies with the help of  such programs as ArchiCAD, Photoshop CS3, Unity3D, Autodesk 3D Max, 3DWorldStudio. 3D virtual reconstruction of disappeared monuments of Northern Kyrgyzstan traditionally considered a region of nomadic cultures  will allow us to take a fresh look at architectural features of monuments along the Great Silk Road and scrutinize social, economical, cultural and political aspects of historical objects. 3D  reconstruction based on comparative analysis will provide for drawing parallels to find out the interpenetration of architectural styles of states along the Great Silk Road in Central Asia.

Keywords: cultural heritage, virtual reconstruction, Kyrgyzstan, 3D technology, modeling, horde, the Middle ages , Koshoy-Korgon, nomadic culture, settlement

Introduction. All monuments of ancient and medieval ages of Kyrgyzstan demonstrate that the abundant historical and cultural heritage has either not been retained, or, otherwise, has been renovated, partially or fully, resulting in a change of their (historical) surface appearance. Thus, our country and culture has been perceived of as a region of nomadic civilization. However, on the track of the Great Silk Road various cultural elements spread from different areas of the world. Consequently, this territory comprises a compound of the vast synthesized architectural environment. Multiple analogies in typological and architectural style can be found in cities and settlements throughout all Central Asian countries. In this case, researchers should make use of recently developed 3D technology which enables a virtual reconstruction of a number of architectural objects basing on objective and impersonal information in order to substantiate the understanding of the national culture of that region.

The virtual reconstruction of historical monuments.Virtual reconstructions of architectural monuments of ancient periods simulates the initial shape of their historical appearance. Modelling in three-dimensions unites written information, photographs, videos and graphic materials. It also simplifies constructive work process with this data. Here, the unlimited correction of models on the computer and the construction of real landscapes are possible as well as the simulation of architecture and decoration of ancient and medieval cities. The modelling of historical monuments is a tedious task, whatever the method employed, and requires interdisciplinary scholarly cooperation. The increased public interest in the preservation and transference of historical cultural heritage in electronic-digital format allowed using three-dimensional modelling technology in scientific research activities. 3D modelling is based on contemporary computer programs.

The modelling of historical monuments in three dimensions is a painstaking task. The complexity is of several types. The first complexity stems from the architectural elements themselves. It might be considered as common. Many types of componentsexist: not only walls, openings and roofs but also towers, gates, pediments, columns, vaults, ditches, eastern ornaments, different sculptured elements and so on. It is enough to observe some classical or gothic facades to have an idea of the number of different elements. Each architectural element can be by itself a complex object. It can be a compound of elements. Variations throughout the ages and among architectural styles are often considerable. An ancient window, a new age one, a gothic one and a modern one may have in common, in terms of appearance, only the hole in the wall. The first complexity arises from a number of architectural elements required to create a given monument. To comprehend the building scheme (from plans, pictures and point clouds) is important to place each piece of the puzzle correctly and relatively to its neighbours. Modelling a historic monument in three dimensions takes a long time whatever the method employed.

We have also noticed some complexities of the virtual modelling of historical monuments while studying and rebuilding them. They relate to the historical sources which describe historical heritages, asserted opinions of researchers and program equipment. The next complexity is the historical source or the process of studying several groups of historical sources. In the process of virtual reconstruction there were several controversial opinions and scientific disputes about the historic settlement (the fortress of nomads Koshoy-Korgon). They are mainly about the historical sources for the monument reconstruction. For example, there are several opinions in written historical sources of the Middle Ages and monographs of historians, archaeologists about the period of Koshoy-Korgon existence and its relation to local nomads or another culture [1. p. 6-21].

Methods and technology. 3D modelling technology has already achieved a high level of interactivity and visualization during its short history. Today the field of its application is broad: projecting, planning, designing, construction, visual effects in different computer programs and cinema, etc. The 3D modelling technology was adopted by western historians in the early 2000s within the formation of a new trend or field (historical information science or digital history) in the historical science [2, 3].

Scientific reconstruction within the historical perspective is realized by historians (researchers) and is achieved through merging historical, scientific and research procedures. For this reason, the researcher bases on historical sources, applies historiographical analysis of the results of historical and archaeological studiers and employs methods and techniques of the humanities. Simultaneously, the researcher has to consider the consequences of each method used in the virtual reconstruction of historical and cultural objects.

Various projects of rebuilding historical objects with the help of three-dimensional modelling have been carried out within the last decade. Among them: 1) virtual reconstruction of disappeared historical heritage sites on the base of archaeological and historical sources; 2) virtual reconstruction of the present day historical monuments with the option of virtual visits; 3) virtual reconstruction of historical landscape; 4) virtual reconstruction of historical events (wars, migration, etc.); 5) re-creation of the lost items, etc.

In order to reconstruct historical monuments we use these methods which had used in other spheres before [4]. Various ways exist to model architectural buildings in 3D. The use of 2D architectural plans with a CAD tool is the most time consuming method. Photogrammetry techniques (Debevec et al. 1996; El Hakim et al. 2002) allow constructing the main parts of a building more rapidly [3, 4, 5, 6].

The process of virtual reconstruction of medieval historical and cultural monuments can be divided into several stages. 1. The definition of goals and tasks of virtual reconstruction, i.e. the setting of the main aim of rebuilding a particular architectural object. 2. The collection of sources for virtual modelling. In this step one should collect all available graphical, pictorial, written and narrative sources the accomplishment of the reconstruction of three-dimensional models depends on. 3. Theanalysis of the collected materials. This is the most difficult stage of virtual historical reconstruction. Due to the inconsistency and lack of materials and resources, the problem of a scientifically accurate reconstruction of cultural heritage emerges. Following the third step the next stage involves specialists from other fields. Results of analysis have to be verified by specialists such as archaeologists, architects, philologists and information scientists. Combining scientists from different fields requires special organizational activity. The last stage is the selection of the appropriate programs for the historical virtual reconstruction and creation of objects of 3D modelling (creation of models and terrain). In the last stage one constructs three-dimensional models of historical monuments on the basis of different sources.

3D modelling of the historical heritage of Kyrgyzstan. This subject was paid attention to in Kyrgyzstan in early 2015. For the first time the creative group “Kliometrika” of young researchers and students at the department called Study of Historical Sources, Historiography and Historical Information Science under the guidance of professor Sh. Batyrbaeva at the Kyrgyz National University paid attention to the virtual reconstruction of historical monuments [7].

The purposes of virtual reconstruction of different historical cities, settlements, and caravanserais are to study features of the genesis of urban infrastructure, to virtually rebuild lost cultural monuments as well as to study the spatial structure of cities in Kyrgyzstan during the ancient period and middle ages. To reconstruct landscape will not only allow a simulation of historical events. It will also make it possible to find out what influence different natural-climatic factors had on the studied historical object.

Figure 1. Ruins of the settlement

Figure 2. Koshoy-Korgon nowadays

Figure 3. R uins of the settlement wall

Figure 4. Ruins of the settlement wall

Figure 5. Layout of the settlement

Figure 6. Ruins of Koshoy-Korgon tower

There are lot of historical monuments on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic about which very little information has been preserved because comprehensive historical-archaeological and cultural scientific studies have not been carried out. These are caravanserais, fortresses or whole settlements. Of these particularly architectural buildings of the urban culture need to be highlighted which served political, socio-economic, spiritual and cultural purposes. These comprise famous monuments such as the caravanserai of Mynakeldy, the historical settlement of Koshoy-Korgon, the historic-cultural monument of Burana, etc., in the Kyrgyz Republic. The settlement of Koshoy-Korgon was chosen by “Kliometrika” members as the first attempt of virtual reconstruction of a historical monument [8].

Figure 7.Stage of reconstruction

Figure 8. The east side of the settlement

Figure 9. Reconstruction the from north-east side

Figure 10. Overall plan

Figure 11. Separated tower of the settlement

The settlement of Koshoy-Korgon.The settlement of Koshoy-Korgon was built approximately between the VIII and ’II centuries. It wasthe fortress of nomads and the administration centre of the At-Bashy region of the Karakhan state [9]. Its name "Koshoy-Korgon" in Kyrgyz language means the castle of Koshoy baatyr (baatyr-hero) [10, 11, 12]. Koshoy was a close comrade of the great epic hero Manas. According to folklore sources and oral history the settlement was built by Koshoy for defence purposes. Modern archaeological expeditions could excavate only ruins of that settlement. We used reports of the pertaining archaeological research and the results of field surveys for the virtual modelling of this object.

Figure 12. The wall of the settlement

Figure 13. The entrance of the settlement

Figure 14. The top view

Figure 15. The south side nowadays

According to the results of historical and archaeological investigation the monument had the following features. The length and the width of the building were 250x245 meters correspondingly. Its height was about 12 meters. The thickness of the wall was 7 meters. The fortress of Koshoy-Korgon had an L-shaped entrance. Every 17-20 meters there were towers on the wall. It was surrounded by a three-meters deep moat that was from 10 to15 meters wide [10. P. 103].

Figure 16. T he overall view of Koshoy-Korgon

After several field surveys and research projects in the Soviet period the archaeologists Soltobaev O.A. and Moskalev M.I. elaborated the layout of the fortress later in the independence period. The findings of several archaeological expeditions which excavated the site between 1937 and 1989 discovered the main characteristics and features of the local nomadic culture and the ancestors of the contemporary Kyrgyz in the middle ages [9]. Their findings connectthe Fergana valley, Jeti-Suu and the coast of Lake Issyk-kul with Kashgar in the East Turkestan. From there the road went to Tibet and China. The settlement’s heyday, however, was in the X-XII centuries.

Figure 17. The reconstructed object

Figure 18. The reconstruction of Koshoy-Korgon and nowadays

Conclusion. In this paper we have presented the first try of the virtual 3D reconstruction of cultural heritage monuments. We have taken the settlement of Koshoy-Korgon (a fortress of nomads in the Middle ages) as an example. This project allowed us, on the one hand, to prove the usefulness of new computer technologies in homeland history science and, on the other hand, to declare the existence of the local nomadic urban culture in Kyrgyzstan on the Great Silk road.

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