The fortress Janpik Kala is located southwest of the Sultan-Uwais mountain range and northwest of the small Aktau mountain range, 564 metres from the right (northern) bank of the Amu Darya River, 8.3 kilometres southeast of the village of Karatau and 10.4 east and slightly north of the village of Kuyuk Kupir in the northeastern part of the Baday-Tugay reserve in the Qorauzak district of the Republic of Karakalpakstan.
The fortress is dated to X – XI century, XIII – XIV century AD. It is one of the picturesque monuments of the right bank of the Amudarya, bordering the northern part of the Lower Amudarya Biosphere Reserve.
The vast area of the reserve is to the south on the other side of the Kok Darya River. The distance from the town of Beruniy on a straight road through the settlement of Aktau is 51 kilometres, on the main paved road it is 77 kilometres.
The historical fortress of Janpik Kala is located 7.1 kilometres southeast of the fortress of Gyaur Kala and can be reached by the same route. In plan, the fortress has a complex construction.
In the eastern part, the citadel is preserved in the form of rectangular pahsa walls.
The walls are decorated with grouped half-columns and the tops end in pairs with stepped arches. Archaeological excavations are used to establish the chronology of the fortress. The oldest pottery dates from the 4th century BC. – I. century AD.
The date of the last occupation of the fortified stronghold is determined by coins from 1319-1320 and 1345-1346. Numerous artefacts previously brought from various countries in the East and West (China, Egypt, Russia, Europe and India) are found in the excavations.
The hill served as a river port city in the Middle Ages. On the outskirts of Janpik-Kala, you can see the endless expanses of the Baday Tugai Reserve. S.P. Tolstov, a prominent researcher of Khorezm history who discovered dozens of unique ancient settlements along the lower reaches of the Amudarya River in the 1930s and 1950s, believed that the fortress of Janpik-Kala at the foot of the Sultan Uvaysdag Mountains (commonly known as “Karatau”) was the most beautiful and exotic archaeological site in this area of Karakalpakstan.
Closer to the riverbank, on one of its peaks, one suddenly discovers the sharp top of a tall clay tower, clearly man-made, albeit crumbling. The watchtower, visible from the Nukus-Beruni highway, pointed towards the fortress, which was separated from the banks of the Amudarya River by a green strip of the Baday Tugay Reserve, a realm of waterfowl, pheasants, wild cats, jackals and a refuge of noble Bukhara deer.
Located directly on the border between desert foothills and impenetrable Tugai forest, the fortress once closed a strategically important passage between the waterless mountains and a navigable river whose fertile silt formed the basis for the emergence of agricultural civilisation two thousand years before Christ.
Here, on the naturally irrigated coastal areas, the first sedentary culture developed in close contact with the hunting and nomadic peoples – first from the Urals, then from the Scythian tribes of the Saks and Massagetae.
Later, the interactions between nomads and peasants were extremely complex and dynamic. They engaged in fierce feuds with each other, at the same time exchanging information for mutual benefit and joining forces to repel the conquerors together.
According to archaeologists, the oldest pottery remains in the vicinity of Janpik-Kala can be dated to around the IVth century BC, when Khoresm had already gained freedom from the Persian Achaemenid Empire and escaped the conquests of Alexander the Great.
It was the time when the most stable dynasty of local rulers from the legendary Afridi family established itself on the right bank of the Amudarya, which maintained a relative independence from the great powers of antiquity until the early Middle Ages.
Scholars date the construction of the surviving mighty fortress walls of Janpik-Kala to the IX-XIII centuries AD, when a wave of Arab conquests had already spread throughout Central Asia.
For the right bank of Khorezm, it was still the Afridi period. Qutayba ibn Muslim, who conquered the fragmented principalities of Bukhara and Sogdiana in 709, waited according to his preferred tactics until internal unrest broke out in Khorezm, started in 712 by the governor’s rebellious son, Hurrzad.
Hurrzad, contrasted the old aristocracy with dependence on the poor, infected with sectarian sentiments, almost like the fifth century, Mazdak’s time in Sassanid Iran. After Qutayba’s first campaign, the people revolted again and killed the ruler, and the Arabs had to return to put his loyal son Ascajamuk II on the throne, who recognised vassalage dependence on the khalifate.
It was only towards the end of the eighth century that his grandson Shaushaffar adopted the Islamic name Abdallah. When the dynasty of the Mamunid Arab viceroys had already established itself on the left bank of the Amu Darya, the last of the Afridi ruled on the right bank, in ancient Kyat, until the end of the Xth century. Century.
The fortress of Janpik Kala in Karakalpakstan, whose massive conical bastions and double walls are easily recognisable as a medieval fortress, apparently dates from this period. The remains of the high walls of the inner citadel, decorated with the image of ancient columns, preserve the kinship with the architecture of the famous palace and fortress buildings of the thousand-year-old Afridi Empire, which preceded the fortress at the foot of Karatau by five to seven centuries.
The building material in the region has not changed during this time. Like the huge Ayaz-Kala and Toprak-Kala near ancient Kyat (“Kas”), the relatively small citadel of Janpik is built of pahsa – large blocks of compacted clay.
Only the wall bases and entrance arches were fortified in some places with stone masonry made of unhewn boulders, and even that probably not because of the change in building traditions, but because there was enough stone in the neighbouring mountains.
In the late XI century, the Great Khorezm Shah Dynasty came to power in Khorezm, whose founder Kutbitdin Muhammad I achieved de facto independence from the Seljuk sultans. His descendant Ala ad-Din Tekesh repelled the Karakitay invasion and almost ascended the throne of the Baghdad Khalifs.
His son Muhammad II ruled a vast empire stretching from Kashgar to the Caucasus and the Persian Gulf. This empire was devastated by the invasion of the hordes of Genghis Khan. However, the last archaeological finds within the walls of Janpik-Kala date from around the forties of the XIV century.
This may indicate that the fortress and river port on the banks of the Amu Darya River was not subjected to final destruction under the Mongols, who did not survive the aftermath when the rulers of the Temurid Empire competed with the khans of the Golden Horde for Khorezm.
It is also possible that the fortress of Janpik-Kala was abandoned and fell into disrepair when the wayward river diverted its course far from its walls and gave birth to what is now a wonder of nature – a many-kilometre-long strip of floodplain forests of Baday-Tugai in Karakalpakstan, whose protected status today protects the tranquillity and secrets of this fairytale place.
Currently, the monument is a historical and archaeological site for cultural and hiking tours.