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Things were quite different, however, in the countryside and mountains. Certain Tajik agrarian rites can be understood thanks to the religious paintings at Panjikant (Marshak and Raspopova, 1987; idem, 1990). Certain practices in modern Tajikistan reprise rituals attested in Chinese sources for pre-Islamic Sogdiana (placing honey on the lips of newborns and a coin in their hand: cf. Chavannes, 1903, p. 134).
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Claude Rapin, “Nomads and the Shaping of Central Asia,” in Joe Gibb and Georgina Herrmann, eds., Proceedings of the Conference After Alexander: Central Asia before Islam, Proceedings of the British Academy Conference 133, London, 2007.
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Northward expansion. One consequence of the dynamic Sogdian economy was an expansion of Sogdian territory toward the north and, in the fifth century, the diffusion of Sogdian culture in the region of . Coinage, iconography, and literate culture thenceforth connected this region with Sogdiana (Rtveladze, 2006; Filanovich, 1983; idem, 1991; Buriakov, 1982; idem, 1991).
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The Bactrian heritage. In contrast to the impoverished artistic culture of the previous period, the afore-mentioned Sogdian urban development was matched by artistic development connected through several features with Bactria of the fourth and first half of the fifth centuries. The earliest murals at Panjikant strongly resemble the latest paintings at , in Bactria (Marshak, in Azarpay, p. 50). Architecture and urban planning also received a great impetus and imitated Bactrian models (Grenet, 1996; Semenov, 1996). Finally, Bactrian toponyms, notably that of the town of Košāniya (q.v.), located between Bukhara and Samarqand, appear in Sogdiana. This influence may be attributed to the possible presence of Bactrian refugees as well as the migration of craftsmen to Sogdiana under Kidarite power, which for a time united the two regions before being driven out of the south. The urban elites that emerged at the time in Sogdiana inherited refined tastes and lifestyles, which had long been developing in India and the Kushan empire, and which lasted throughout the Kushano-Sasanian period.
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This growth has been studied primarily at Samarqand and later at Panjikant. At Panjikant, some 50 km east of Samarqand and host to some of the most significant archeological excavations in Sogdiana, the town, established in the middle of the fifth century, outgrew its urban design very quickly and its walls proved to be too confining. A new line of fortifications, which departed from the original rectangular plan, was built at the end of the century to include the suburbs, so that the enclosed area grew from 8 to 13.5 hectares. The town continued to expand, although at a less constant rate, until the end of the seventh century, when a small marketplace appeared outside the walls to the northeast and a neighborhood of workshops were built to the south (Raspopova, 1990; on the recent excavations see Marshak and Raspopova, 1999-2006). At Samarqand, the town boasted an elevated citadel and a line of interior walls in the second half or the end of the fifth century; a century later, the entire plateau had already been reoccupied and new walls enclosing 218 hectares were built in place of the earlier walls (Shishkina; Belenitskiĭ, Bentovich, and Bol’shakov, p. 220; Grenet, 1996; idem, 2004). Samarkand then profited from a still greater wall protecting part of the oasis "oasis," 20 sq km in all. At Paykent, located at the other end of the valley of Zarafšān, a wall enclosing a 330 sq m on a side demarcated a town of 11 hectares close to the ancient citadel (Semenov, 2002). Accordingly, Sogdiana became the main center of agricultural wealth "agriculture" and population in Central Asia during this period.
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The nomad invasions. Several texts, Chinese and Byzantine, independently attest to the arrival of a wave of Eastern invaders in Central Asia in the second half of the fourth century. They were politically connected with the Huns (see ), who were attacking Europe at the same time (La Vaissière, 2005b). Several dynasties or tribal groups succeeded each other at the head of this nomadic agglomeration, most notably the , the (after 437) and the in Sogdiana (whether after 479 or 509 is not known; La Vaissière, 2007). As for the archeology, in the fourth century, we can observe the appearance of some new features that we can legitimately assign to this political upheaval. Integration of sedentary peoples and local nomads, who had been living together right on the edges of the oases, appears to have come to an end. On the other hand, alongside local forms that continued in use, a decorated ceramic appears in the archeological strata of this period that in the preceding period was characteristic of the Syr Darya region, suggesting that populations from the Syr Darya had had to seek refuge in Sogdiana from the pressure of the nomads, or they had come here to a land under cultivation that a depleted population had partly abandoned, and they brought their pottery with them (Buriakov, 1991). Kanka declined.