Founded over 2.500 years ago, the ancient city of Panjakent survived as a wealthy trading city in the silk road until the 8th century AD. The city, as told by historians, was inhabited by the Sogdian civilisation who were skilled merchants and craftsmen. It is believed that at its peak, five to ten thousand people used to live there. Evidence on site shows that merchants in Panjakent were in constant trade with India and China. The Sogdians were known for their excellent fur and fabrics. By exchanging luxury goods for silver articles, the city of Panjakent was able to develop a great level of wealth.
Being abandoned after the Arab conquest in the 8th century AD, today the only remains of the city are ruins. Even though it is hard to distinguish what used to be what, a proper guided visit will help tourists grasp how big the city used to be. The site was divided in four main areas: the residential quarter, the citadel, the suburbs and the necropolis. The layout of the town is pretty similar to other ancient cities. In the residential quarter, the biggest area of the city, the houses used to vary in size depending on how wealthy the family living there was. The wealthiest houses, counted with two floors and a room that served for religious purposes. According to the archaeologists all walls showed evidence of paintings and many of these paintings made reference to Zoroastrianism. The citadel area was much smaller than the residential quarters. It was composed of a walled palace where royalty used to live.
It is interesting to point out that the ruins of Panjakent were found completely by accident. A local pastor accidently found an artifact in a pit as he tried to help a ship that had fallen into it. The man then contacted the authorities who started an investigation on the site. The excavations started in 1934 by soviet archaeologists however it was only in 1948 that major findings were reported. Today the site counts with a museum that displays some of the objects found on the site as well as photographic evidence of crafts and painted walls.