Prior to this year, references to a medieval Christian community in ancient Kazakhstan were limited to a few historical documents and stories from travelers along Asia’s famed Silk Road. All that has changed, however, thanks to a team of archeologists that included Phil Webb, a graduate of Grace College’s history program who is now working on a PhD in Archeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). We now have hard evidence for those stories. Earlier this summer, the team began work at Ilyn Balik, the site of an ancient city not far from the Chinese border.
In addition to uncovering the city’s original location, the team found unique examples of pottery and other indications of settlement. The smoking gun, however, was the discovery of seven gravestones inscribed with Nestorian-style crosses dating to the 12th century. Webb and his team members pursued the dig after archaeologists from SWBTS heard reports from a local resident who discovered one of the curious stones back in 2014. A press release by the Tandy Institute for Archeology had this to say about the recent finds:
This discovery is the first archaeological evidence for a Christian community in the borders of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This discovery supports the understanding of ancient Kazakhstan as a multi-cultural center between the East and West, with Muslims, Buddhists and Christians living among the local herdsmen and nomadic tribes. (You can find the full press release here.)
Current and future students in Grace College’s history and archeology program have the opportunity to join future digs with the Tandy Institute for Archeology at SWBTS. For more information, contact the Grace College Office of Admissions or the Department of History and Political Science directly.