2008 World Monuments Watch
The towering mud-brick walls of the three fortresses at Ayaz Kala, located in the Khwarezm region of Central Asia (modern Uzbekistan), rise dramatically from the surrounding plains. They were built on the edge of the Kizilkum Desert at different points between the fourth century B.C. and the seventh century A.D. as a means of protection from nomad raids. Within the forts are the remains of palaces and traces of the local agricultural population have been found in the surrounding areas. Abandoned for 1,300 years, the fortresses were rediscovered in the 1940s by the archaeologist S.P. Tolstov. While all the monuments of Ayaz Kala have suffered losses due to natural decay, the mud structures excavated by Tolstov in the 1940s are most at risk, having been left exposed and unprotected ever since. In addition, in recent years Ayaz Kala has become a tourist attraction, but few measures have been put in place to protect the structures from visitors. It is hoped that listing will encourage the development of a comprehensive plan for the site that will address the conservation of its mud architecture, as well as increasing tourist activity.