Scholar claims to have found medieval Jewish capital
A Russian archaeologist has claimed that he has found the lost capital of the Khazars, which was a nation that adopted Judaism more than 1,000 years ago, only to disappear not too long after, leaving little trace behind.
Dmitry Vasilyev, a professor at Astrakhan State University, said his nine-year excavation near the Caspian Sea has finally unearthed the foundations of a triangular fortress of flamed brick, along with modest yurt-shaped dwellings, and he believes these are part of what was once Itil, the Khazar capital.
By law Khazars could use flamed bricks only in the capital, Vasilyev said. The general location of the city on the Silk Road was confirmed in medieval chronicles by Arab, Jewish and European authors.
"The discovery of the capital of Eastern Europe's first feudal state is of great significance," he told The Associated Press. "We should view it as part of Russian history."
Kevin Brook, the American author of "The Jews of Khazaria," e-mailed Wednesday that he has followed the Itil dig over the years, and even though it has yielded no Jewish artifacts, "Now I'm as confident as the archaeological team is that they've truly found the long-lost city,
The Khazars were a Turkic tribe that roamed the steppes from Northern China to the Black Sea. Between the 7th and 10th centuries they conquered huge swaths of what is now southern Russia and Ukraine, the Caucasus Mountains and Central Asia as far as the Aral Sea.
Itil, about 800 miles south of Moscow, had a population of up to 60,000 and occupied 0.8 square miles of marshy plains southwest of the Russian Caspian Sea port of Astrakhan, Vasilyev said.
It lay at a major junction of the Silk Road, the trade route between Europe and China, which "helped Khazars amass giant profits," he said.
It is strange that this nation left almost nothing behind them, so their culture has been shrouded in mystery, well, maybe until now.
Russian scholars are now free to explore Khazar culture, so that is how this discovery came about.