,also spelled Shebirghan
, is the capital city
of the Jowzjan Province
in northern Afghanistan
Sheberghan is located along the Safid River banks, about 130 km (80 miles) west of Mazari Sharif on the national primary ring road Herat-Kandahar-Kabul-Mazari Sharif-Sheberghan-Maymana-Herat. Sheberghan airport is situated between Sheberghan and Aqchah.
Sheberghan was once a flourishing settlement along the Silk Road. In 1978, Soviet archaeologists discovered the famed Bactrian Hoard in the village of Tillia Tepe outside Sheberghan. In the 13th century Marco Polo visited the city and later wrote about its honey sweet melons. Sheberghan became the capital of an independent Uzbek khanate that was allotted to Afghanistan by the 1873 Anglo-Russian border agreement.
Sheberghan has for millennia been the focal point of power in the northeast corner of Bactria. It still sits astride the main route between Balkh and Herat, and controls the direct route north to the Oxus/Amu Darya, about 90 km away, as well as the important branch route south to Sar-e Pol.
- "Huge storage tanks and modern housing settlements, about 20 km; 13 mi. before reaching Shibarghan, apprise one of the approaching capital of Jozjan Province, once a prosperous independent Khanate. Jozjan was the name of a most populous western district of Balkh during the Middle Ages and Shaburkhan (Shibarghan) was the capital of this extremely fertile province in the 9th century."
- "Shibberghan is a town containing 12,000 souls. Uzbeks and Parsivans, the former being in a great majority. The town has a citadel, in which the governor Rustem Khan resides, but there are no other fortifications. It is surrounded by good gardens and excellent cultivation. The population of Shibberghan has a high character for bravery, and I may safely say it is one of the finest towns in Turkistan on this side of the Oxus, enjoying, besides its other advantages, an excellent climate. It is, however, subject to one very serious inconvenience: the supply of water, on which all this prosperity depends, comes from the mountains in the Khanat of Sirpool; and as there are frequent disputes between the tribes inhabiting it and those living in the town, a complete interruption of the supply is often threatened, and a war follows, to the very great injury of the place. Shibberghan maintains permanently a force of 2000 horse and 500 foot, but, in case of necessity, the town can arm 6000 men."
The heavily fortified town of Yemshi-tepe, just five kilometres to the northeast of modern Sheberghan, on the road to Akcha, is only about 500 metres (547 yards) from the famous necropolis of Tillya-tepe, where an immense treasure was excavated from the graves of the local royal family by a joint Soviet-Afghan archaeological effort from 1969 to 1979.
- "At the very outset of our project, ten years back, our eyes had been drawn to the majestic ruins of an ancient metropolis in this region, which the local Turkic-speaking inhabitants call Yemshi-tepe. Its tall, mighty walls pierced by several narrow gateways were fortified by defence towers and formed an impregnable ring of some two thousand feet (5 km) in diameter [sic – 2,000 feet = only 0.6096 km. There is some mistake in the figures - see quote from Leriche below]. Inside, in the northern section, stood the citadel, at whose foot were the remains of what had apparently been the palatial residence of the local ruler. Some 50 acres (20 ha) in area, this ancient city, indubitably a vast one for its time, comprised, along with the small villages of its sprawling suburbs, the administrative seat of the entire neighbouring region, once part of the legendary empire of Bactria. The narrow strip of the Shibarghan oasis, which is sandwiched between the northern foothills of the Hindu Kush Mountains and the sandy deserts along the left-hand bank of the Amu Darya River, was in its day part of the fertile Bactrian plain.
- "In the west near Shibergan we find the core of the Kushan town of Emchi Tepe (18 ha, ramparts with a circumference of 1.5 km) and the small fort of Jiga Tepe 5 km from Emchi Tepe (D. 150 m).
In 1977 a Soviet-Afghan archaeological team began serious excavations three miles (5 km) north of the town for relics. They had uncovered mud-brick columns and a cross-shaped altar of an ancient temple dating back to at least 1000 B.C.
Six royal tombs were excavated at Tillia Tepe revealing a vast amount of gold and other treasures. Several coins dated up to the early 1st century CE, with none dated later.
Sheberghan was the site of the Dasht-i-Leili massacre in December 2001 during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan where between 250 and 3,000 (depending on sources) Taliban prisoners were shot and/or suffocated to death in metal truck containers, while being transferred by American and Northern Alliance soldiers from Kunduz to Sheberghan prison.
Sheberghan was the stronghold of Uzbek warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who had been vying with his Tajik rival General Mohammed Atta for control of northern Afghanistan.
The name of the city might be a derivative of Shaporgan--"City of Shapor." Shapor or Shapur, was the name of two Sasanian kings, both of whom built a great number of cities. However, Shapur I was the governor of the eastern provinces of the empire, and it is more likely that he is the builder of a great many cities in this general area that bear his name. These include, in possible addition to Sheberghan, Nishapor/Neishabour ("Good deed of Shapor") and Pishapor/Bishapour in Iran and Peshawar in Pakistan
Sheberghan is surrounded by irrigated agricultural land.
With Soviet assistance, exploitation of Afghanistan's natural gas reserves began in 1967 at the Khowaja Gogerak field, 15 kilometers east of Sheberghan in Jowzjan Province. The field's reserves were thought to be 67 billion cubic meters. In 1967, the Soviets also completed a 100-kilometer gas pipeline linking Keleft in the Soviet Union with Sheberghan.
Sheberghan is important in the energy infrastructure of Afghanistan:
- The Zomrad Sai Oilfield is situated near Sheberghan
- The Sheberghan Topping Plant processes crude oil for consumption in heating boilers in Kabul, Mazari Sharif and Sheberghan
- The Jorqaduk, Khowaja Gogerak, and Yatimtaq gas fields are all located within of Sheberghan.