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Russian archaeologists find long-lost Jewish capital

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    Russian archaeologists find long-lost Jewish capital Wed Sep 3, 2008 http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080903/lf_afp/russiahistoryculturearcha eology_080903160809
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 6, 2008
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      Russian archaeologists find long-lost Jewish capital
      Wed Sep 3, 2008
      http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080903/lf_afp/russiahistoryculturearcha
      eology_080903160809


      MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian archaeologists said Wednesday they had found
      the long-lost capital of the Khazar kingdom in southern Russia, a
      breakthrough for research on the ancient Jewish state.

      "This is a hugely important discovery," expedition organiser Dmitry
      Vasilyev told AFP by telephone from Astrakhan State University after
      returning from excavations near the village of Samosdelka, just
      north of the Caspian Sea.

      "We can now shed light on one of the most intriguing mysteries of
      that period -- how the Khazars actually lived. We know very little
      about the Khazars -- about their traditions, their funerary rites,
      their culture," he said.

      The city was the capital of the Khazars, a semi-nomadic Turkic
      peoples who adopted Judaism as a state religion, from between the
      8th and the 10th centuries, when it was captured and sacked by the
      rulers of ancient Russia.

      At its height, the Khazar state and its tributaries controlled much
      of what is now southern Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine,
      Azerbaijan and large parts of Russia's North Caucasus region.
      The capital is referred to as Itil in Arab chronicles but Vasilyev
      said the word may actually have been used to refer to the Volga
      River on which the city was founded or to the surrounding river
      delta region.

      Itil was said to be a multi-ethnic place with houses of worship and
      judges for Christians, Jews, Muslims and pagans. Its remains have
      until now never been identified and were said to have been washed
      away by the Caspian Sea.

      Archaeologists have been excavating in the area if Samosdelka for
      the past nine years but have only now collected enough material
      evidence to back their thesis, including the remains of an ancient
      brick fortress, he added.

      "Within the fortress, we have found huts similar to yurts, which are
      characteristics of Khazar cities.... The fortress had a triangular
      shape and was made with bricks. It's another argument that this was
      no ordinary city."

      Around 10 university archaeologists and some 50 students took part
      in excavations in the region this summer, which are partly financed
      by the Jewish University in Moscow and the Russian Jewish Congress.

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