The ancient settlement of Otrar was one of the biggest and the most developed cities in the territory of Kazakhstan in period of the 11th-17th centuries. The Otrar oasis is located in present Otrar district of South-Kazakhstan region in 10 kilometers to the west of the railway station of Timur nearby with the present village of Talapty in 57 kilometers to the south of the city of Turkestan not far from influx of the river of Arys into Syr Daria river. The settlement is a remain of the ancient city of Otrar also known as Farab, center of medieval trade. Besides Otrar the territory or such cities as Kuiruktoba, Kok-Mardan, Altyntobe and Mardan-Kuik are also adjoins to territory of the oasis.
The first city settlement in the place of Otrar dates back to the 2nd century BC. The kangju people are considered as the founders of it. In the ancient Turkic runes (6th-8th centuries) the city is mentioned as Kangu-Taraban. In 737-748 Kangu-Taraban was conquered by the Arabs and was under their control. In the period of the Arab control the city becomes a centre of culture and science in Central Asia. Famaous scientists lived here. Abu Nasr Al Farabi, famous scientist and mathematician, philosopher of East known as the Second teacher after Aristotle was born here. In the period of the Kara-Khanid governance in 9th-13th centuries the city reached the highest level of development. In 1219 the city was beset by the Mongol army under the leadership of Jochi, eldest son of Genghis khan. Dwellers of the city under the auspices of Kair-khan defended the city during seven months. The betrayer named Karadja opened gate of the city. Otrar was destroyed and declined for some time. By the middle of the 13th century Otrar turns into big trade centre. During Timur's times it was newly reconstructed. In 1405 Timur dies in one of the palaces of Otrar. The life of Otrar continues until the 18th century.
The city as many other medieval cities consisted of a citadel and a shakristan. They represent pentagonal hill of 18 meters high. The area of the hill is 20 hectares. It was surrounded with the wall that had escent angle of 70-80 degrees. The citadel is located in the centre of the hill and has got a triangle form with sides of 220x220x230. The hill of citadel and shakihristan adjoins the territory of fortified rabid with area of 150 hectares. The results of excavations prove about developed municipal culture. In the 9th-12th centuries there were constructed such buildings as bath-houses. In the territory of Otrar's rabad were explored two bath-houses. The scientists explored a unique block of ceramists who lived in the city in the second half of the 13th-14th centuries. Nine workshops were found here. Crafts were also developed in the city. Findings of bronze mirrors and jewelries prove about it. One of the interesting archeological findings is a excavated palace of governor that dates back to 7ht-9th centuries. On the floor of the palace were found charred wood boards with carved images of various stories related to life of citizens.
Excavations of Otrar prove about prosperity of the city in the 9th-11th centuries. There were collected rich collections of glass wares – pieces of water-bottles, cups, wineglasses, flacons. There are many jewelry including beads made of andradite and carnelian, glass, rings bronze bracelets. A treasure containing jewelry, bracelets, rings and coins were found in 1974. All coins were silver. They are of various types, monetary courts and periods. During the excavation of late Middle Ages Otrar there were collected many ceramics, metal wares, coins and jewelry, stone wares. Glazed and unglazed ceramics are also various. There are many jugs, plates, dishes covered with transparent, blue and green enamel. There is notable decline of the quality of glazes and inscriptions between the ceramics of the 16th and first half of 17th centuries and the ceramics of the 17th-18th centuries.
The first explorations of Otrar were conducted by members of Turkestan section of amateur archeologists of A.K.Klar and A.A.Cherkassov in 1904. They excavated a range of trench in hope to find remains of palaces and monuments. But they were disappointed as they found only pieces of ceramics and glass. Further explorations were continued in the end of the 40s of the 20th century under the auspices of professor A.N.Bernshtam. The Otrar archeological expedition was organized in 1969, in 1971 it was renamed as Southern Kazakhstan archeological expedition of KazSSR. The main object of their exploration was Otrar-tobe. Since 1991 Baipakov K.M. led the excavations in Otrar. The new project under the auspices of UNESCO, Kazakhstan and Japan Target Fund “Conservation and preservation of the ancient city of Otrar" started in 2001. The key goals of the project: formation of documents base and conservative measures. Implementation of the project allowed museumification of the range of memorials: theFriday mosque in the 16th century, a city block of the 16th century, a building of the 11th-12th centuries, walls, central gates and the gates “Darvaza-i sufi", stratigraphical pit, bath-house of the 14th century.