Tadzhikistan is a land of old and rich culture. Archaeological excavations of the site of the palace that once belonged to the rulers of Usrushana in Bunzhikat (present Shahristan) and of a town site in the ancient Sogdian principality (Pyandzhikent) have shown that the Tadzhiks' ancestors were already highly civilized as early as the fifth to the eighth century.
That period's art was amazingly varied and original. On the territory of Pyandzhikent, with its palaces and town streets, statues, paintings, fine jewelry, and wood carvings have been unearthed. The abundance of coins suggests highly developed commerce, while numerous amber, coral, and pearl objects corroborate written evidence of the extensive foreign trade maintained by the country.
Two distinct trends are observable in Tadzhik folk arts from the tenth to nineteenth centuries. The first of them is represented by handicraft industries based on highly developed skills and conventions; the second, less sophisticated, but more original and archaic, was connected with the making of domestic utensils within the household. The first trend was particularly strong in northern Tadzhik art, where urban handicraft industries were important, while the second was characteristic of the arts of the republic's mountainous regions. Owing to their geographic position and historical background, certain settlements there kept their life-style intact for centuries. Perched in the impenetrable Karategin, Darvaz, and West Pamir Mountains, there are small settlements where until recently subsistence farming had been the norm, and old customs, traditions, and rites, with their symbolism and archaic mythological beliefs, had survived.