By Miriam Shaviv
September 5, 2008
"This is a hugely important discovery," expedition organiser Dmitry Vasilyev told AFP... "We can now shed light on one of the most intriguing mysteries of that period -- how theactually lived. We know very little about the Khazars -- about their traditions, their funerary rites, their culture," he said.
At its height, the Khazar state and its tributaries controlled much of what is now southern Russia, western Azerbaijan and large parts of region., eastern Ukraine,
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.
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."