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Shirkent

Location – Tursunzoda District.About 60km west of Dushanbe.

Not far from the town of Tursunzoda the Shirkent valley begins, where the historical-natural park with the same name is located. It was established in June 1991 for the purpose of preserving the area’s unique flora and fauna, ecosystems, and natural and cultural structures as well as for careful study of the South-West Hissar area.

Natural and historical monuments in the Shirkent River valley are of great scientific and recreational importanceand, together with the scenic landscapes, form themain content of the historical-natural park. The most significant geological objects are three sites of dinosaur footprints from various eras containing more than 400 footprints. The first location with the footprints of these giant, ancient reptiles is located in one of the right tributaries of the Shirkent River, slightly above a village with the same name. Two lines of pterodactyl footprints are seen here on the surface of erinaceous limestone. The length of the footprints is 0.5m on average, the width up to 30cm, and the step length about 75cm.

Since there are no footprints known elsewhere like those in Shirkent, the animal that left them was placed in a new species of dinosaurs which is a suborder of Theropoda and was given the name Macropodosaurus Gravis (lit. heavy kangaroo-anteater).

The second group of dinosaur footprints is approximately 5km from the mouth of the Shirkent River, near the watershed on its left side. Footprints here are from a Tridactylous, and most are about 50cm long, but there are also some about 65cm long and up to 45cm wide. The third group of footprints is near PashmiKuhna village and has the footprints of only one Tridactylous, but it was a real giant. The length of its feet exceeds 70cm, the width 60cm, and the depth of ground depression under its footprints is up to 10cm. Rare fossil tracks of boring-mollusks, giant signs of wave ripples, fissures of dried sea-silt and other relics from the Dinosaur Age are also here. Within the Shirkent Barrier area original and pictorial sculptures of towers, peaks, balconies and cornices are widely visible. The overhanging edges of riverbeds have undergone erosion and been smoothed to form numerous canyons, beautiful waterfalls and large caves.

This whole mountain structure, formed out of red sandstone, is decorated with groves and individual dark-green juniper trees. Stone Age and Middle Ages monuments such as the sites of primitive peoples, ancient mining of copper and copper-tin ores, cemeteries and irrigation facilities are interesting archaeological sights in this valley.

Interesting ethnographic objects, localized mainly in PashmiKuhna village, demonstrate some of the cultural and religious traditions of the present-day population of the Shirkent River valley. The main waterway of the valley is the Shirkent River and its tributaries, the Sandal Darya and HazorKhona River. The Shirkent River flows into the Surkhan Darya River and is 47km long. Above the PashmiKuhna village there is a path along the Sandal Darya River; there is no path along the HazorKhona River; a canyon blocks the way to its upper reaches.