The history of Uzbekistan, rich in dramatic and epoch-making events, can be traced back to the dawn of mankind. There is archaeological evidence that the area of present-day Uzbekistan was populated by humans as early as the Palaeolithic Age (500,000-1,000,000 years ago).

During the Neolith (6000-4000 BC) three extensive archaeological cultures developed in Central Asia: Jeitun, Gissar and Keltiminar. Settled crop growing cultures progressed during the Neolithic (circa 4000 BC) and especially Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC), when bronze tools and weapons came into use.history_1

Female statuette bearing the kaunakes. Chlorite and limestone, Bactria, beginning of the 2nd millennium BC.In the second half of the 2nd millennium BC the first city-states appeared in the most advanced regions in Central Asia. Their structure resembled that of ancient Egyptian city-states which included a large settlement (administrative centre) surrounded by oases and several smaller settlements situated along a canal or river.

In the 7th-6th centuries BC the historic provinces of Bactria, Margiana, Khoresm and Sogdiana first emerged, as did the ancient cities of Maracanda, Kok-Tepa, Uzun-Kyr and Er-Kurgan, which had an area of hundreds of hectares and were surrounded by fortified walls.

In 539 BC (or 529 BC, according to other sources) Central Asia came under the control of the Achaemenid king Cyrus of Persia. The king himself was killed in a battle with the Sakas under Queen Tomiris. During the next two c enturies the southern part of Central Asia was annexed by the Persian Empire and divided into satrapies which paid tribute in silver to the kings. Three of the satrapies – Bactria, Sogd and Khoresm – lied within the territory of present-day Uzbekistan.

The rule of the Achaemenids was ended by the advance of Alexander the Great who, having crushed the main body of Persian armies, invaded Central Asia in 329 BC in pursuit of Bess, satrap of Bactria and the last heir to the Achaemenid throne. Alexander spent three years (329-327 BC) subduing Central Asian peoples, faced by fierce resistance from the Sogdians led by Spitamen. Probably, the same period saw the rise of the first Uzbek political entity ? the kingdom of Khoresm. After the death of Alexander and subsequent turmoil, in 306 BC the southern portion of Central Asia became part of the Seleucid Empire. Later, in the mid-3rd century BC, the rebellious Bactrian satrap Diodotus established an independent kingdom which became known as Greco-Bactria. In the second half of the 2nd century BC, Greco-Bactria fell to the invading Sakas and Sarmatians, and then was overrun by the Yue-chi (Kushans) who were driven into the region by the Huns. Eventually, a loose confederation of virtually independent petty states was established in the area.

A like state, Kangyui, emerged in the 2nd century BC in Transoxiana which, according to Chinese sources, consisted of five domains, each coining its own money.

Later in the 2nd century BC Han China familiarised itself with “the Western Land” (i.e. Central Asia), and the Great Silk Road emerged as the first major transcontinental route connecting the West and the East.

Throughout the period of local antiquity (1st century BC ? early 3rd century AD) Northern Bactria was a province of the powerful Kushan Empire, which was founded in the 1st century AD by the Yue-chi chieftain Kadphises. Sogd (present-day Kashkadarya and Samarkand oblasts of Uzbekistan) at that time was an independent kingdom under the Girkoda dynasty, who are also believed to be of Yue-chi origin. In Khoresm, the Afrigid kings rose to power; judging from their dynastic symbol ? a horseman ? their rule continued for 700-800 years. Bukhara, Davan (Fergana) and, possibly, Chach enjoyed virtual independence, although these Transoxianian kingdoms might have been nominal dependencies of Kangyui.

The 3rd and 4th centuries AD saw the fall of the great Parthian and Kushan empires, the rise of a host of petty kingdoms in Central Asia, intrusions by nomadic tribes, the destruction of the ancient social formation, and a decline in economy, arts and culture.

Radical changes to the antique social structure took place over the early Middle Ages (5th-8th centuries), when large landowners, dikhans, formed into an influential class. The political situation in this period was determined by the struggle for control of Transoxiana between the neighbouring powers: Sassanidian Iran and the Ephthalite kingdom (5th-6th centuries), Iran and the Turkic khanate (6th-7th centuries) and, finally, the Turkic khanate, Tang China and Arab caliphs which ended with the region’s inclusion in the Abbasid caliphate in the 8th century.

In the 7th-8th centuries Transoxiana was divided into a number of ethnically non-uniform city-states; the most prominent of them were Gurganj (present-day Kunya-Urgench), Bukhara, Samarkand, Chaganian (near present -day Denau) and Chach. Religious beliefs were as diverse. Zoroastrianism dominated the region; Manichaeism and Christianity also spread widely, and Buddhism was practiced in the south.

In the mid-7th century Arabs came to play an increasingly important role in Central Asian politics. They captured Merv in 651 (near present-day Bairam-Ali, Turkmenistan) and made it a stronghold from which to raid Transoxiana. Since then, this land was known as Maverannahr (Arabic for “that which is across the river”). Military expeditions by the Arabs, especially under Kuteiba ibn Muslim in 704-712, resulted in all of Transoxiana becoming part of the Abbasid caliphate. The conquerors brought Islam to the region, and in the 9th century it became the state religion for the peoples of Central Asia.

The 9th-13th centuries. This dramatic epoch, which corresponds to the climax of medieval culture in the West, can be divided into two periods: the 9th-10th centuries, when the Takhirid and then Samanid rulers hold power under the religious and to some extent political leadership of Abbasid caliphs; and the 11th-13th centuries, when the Persian dynasties were replaced by a succession of Turkic rulers (the Karakhanids, Seljukids, Gaznevids and Anushteginids), and the influence of the caliphs was confined to spiritual leadership. Restoration of the native Central Asian state systems occurred in the 9th-10th centuries, when the unity of the Arab caliphate was broken both in the West (in Morocco, North Africa and Andalusia) and East (in Khorasan and Maverannahr).history_2