Among the earliest settlers of this area are the Indo-European speaking Tocharians,who had populated the Tarim and Turfanbasins no later than 1800 BC. From the years 108 BC to 450 AD the city of Jiaohe was the capital of the Anterior Jushi Kingdom, concurrent with the Han Dynasty, Jin Dynasty, and Southern and Northern Dynasties in China. Jiaohe is a bit less than 2000 years old.
The ruins were visited by the archaeologist and explorer Aurel Stein, who described "a maze of ruined dwellings and shrines carved out for the most part from the loess soil", but complained that a combination of local farmers' use of the soil and government interference in his activities prevented examination. The site was partially excavated in the 1950s and has been protected by the PRC government since 1961. There are now attempts to protect this site and other Silk Road city ruins.
Both the Nara National Cultural Properties Research Institute and the Xinjiang Cultural Relics Bureau have been cooperating in a joint venture to preserve the ruins of the site since 1992. In 2014, the Jiaohe Ruins became part of the Silk Road UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after several years of preparation.