Quantcast
Connect with us

Archeological dig in remote Turkmenistan reveals rare advanced civilization and Bronze Age treasures

Published

on

Over four millennia ago, the fortress town of Gonur-Tepe might have been a rare advanced civilisation before it was buried for centuries under the dust of the Kara Kum desert in remote western Turkmenistan.

After being uncovered by Soviet archaeologists in the last century, Gonur-Tepe, once home to thousands of people and the centre of a thriving region, is gradually revealing its mysteries with new artifacts being uncovered on every summer dig.

The scale of the huge complex which spans some 30 hectares can only be properly appreciated from the air, from where the former buildings look like a maze in the desert surrounded by vast walls.

Just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the celebrated ancient city of Merv outside the modern city of Mary, the ruins of Gonur-Tepe are an indication of the archeological riches of Turkmenistan, one of the most isolated countries in the world.

Around 2,000 BC, Gonur-Tepe was the main settlement of the Margush or Margiana region that was home to one of the most sophisticated, but little-known Bronze Age civilisations.

ADVERTISEMENT

The site — which until the last century was covered by desert and scrub — was uncovered in Soviet times by the celebrated archeologist Viktor Sarianidi who, at the age of 84, is about to spend another summer working on the site.

“I remember so well my joy when I first encountered this archaeological Klondike. A sensation right under your feet,” the Russian professor told AFP.

Every digging season at Gonur-Tepe yields new discoveries showing the quality of the craftsmanship of the Bronze Age artisans in the town which at the time would likely have been home to thousands of residents.

ADVERTISEMENT

The town’s craftsmen could mould metal, make silver and gold trinkets, create materials for cult worship and carve bone and stone.

“It’s amazing to what extent the people possessed advanced techniques. The craftsmen learned how to change the form of natural stone at a high temperature and then glazed it so that it was preserved,” said archeologist Nadezhda Dubova.

“This year, Gonur has given us another surprise, a fantastic mosaic,” she said, noting that such an object pre-dated the standard era of mosaic-making in Greek and Roman antiquity.

ADVERTISEMENT

The ruins of Gonur-Tepe are the centrepiece of a network of towns and settlements in the delta region of the river Morghab that flows through Turkmenistan from its source in Afghanistan.

Gonur-Tepe is a three-hour drive from the provincial centre of Mary — two hours along a bumpy asphalt road that passes former collective farms that have now fallen into disuse, and then another hour-long slog through the desert scrub.

Mary, 380 kilometres from the capital Ashgabat, is a typical Turkmen provincial city, home to 200,000 people and largely built in the Soviet style with a railway connection and low-rise apartment buildings.

ADVERTISEMENT

Some 30 kilometres (19 miles) outside Mary lies the other great glory of the region — the great ruined city of Merv, whose importance goes back to the time of the Achaemenid Persians and reached a peak under Turkic rule in the 12th century AD.

Merv went into terminal decline after it was sacked by the Mongols in 1221 in a deadly conquest that left tens of thousands dead. Its ruins are as deserted as those of Gonur-Tepe.

Its greatest treasure is the still preserved mausoleum of the Seljuk Sultan Sanjar under whose rule Merv was a city of 200,000 people and briefly one of the most heavily populated settlements in the world.

ADVERTISEMENT

The mausoleum, which is crowned by a cupola with a diameter of over 17 metres, was revolutionary in its design, Turkmen architectural historian Ruslan Muradov told AFP.

The design of the dome “anticipates by 300 years the ideas of the great Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi” who designed the great dome of the cathedral in Florence, he said.

Unlike the ruins of Gonur-Tepe, ancient Merv was excavated as far back as Tsarist times when today’s Turkmenistan was a far-flung outpost of the Russian Empire. It has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1999.

ADVERTISEMENT

Archaeologists have only just begun to scratch the surface of the huge riches of the Mary region, said Viktor Turik, a historian who works at the Mary history museum.

“In the region there are 354 archeological monuments, 95 percent of which have, until now, not been studied by experts,” he said.

Turkmenistan remains one of the most isolated countries in the world but still sees a trickle of foreign tourists every year, mostly on organised special interest tours.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mary has just three hotels although President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has recently ordered the construction of a new 350-bed hotel in an apparent bid to boost tourism.

Meanwhile the question remains about what to do with the extraordinary silver and gold artefacts that are being unearthed in the region but which need painstaking restoration and conservation.

An employee of Turkmenistan’s national heritage department said a joint project had been mooted with the antiquities department of the Louvre in Paris, but had fallen through.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Many unique discoveries which are like nothing in the world are waiting their moments in the storage departments of Turkmen museums,” said the employee who asked not to be named.


Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

George Conway declares ‘Trump is a racist president’ in brutal Washington Post column

Published

on

Prominent Republican attorney George Conway blasted President Donald Trump in an op-ed published by The Washington Post on Monday evening.

Conway explained how he avoided thinking of Trump as a racist, despite the president's actions.

"No, I thought, President Trump was boorish, dim-witted, inarticulate, incoherent, narcissistic and insensitive. He’s a pathetic bully but an equal-opportunity bully — in his uniquely crass and crude manner, he’ll attack anyone he thinks is critical of him. No matter how much I found him ultimately unfit, I gave still him the benefit of the doubt about being a racist. No matter how much I came to dislike him, I didn’t want to think that the president of the United States is a racial bigot," he explained.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

‘He’s the one who hates out country’: Rep. Rashida Tlaib rips Trump’s ‘failed presidency’

Published

on

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) ripped President Donald Trump for his "failed presidency" during an interview on CNN following her press conference with the three other young women of color in Congress known as "The Squad."

"You’re a child of immigrants here to the United States," CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer noted. "I’m a child of immigrants here to the United States as well. And all of us can relate specifically to what’s going on, because I’m sure you’ve heard basically most of your life go back where you came from."

"As you point out, you are the first of two Muslim women to serve in the United States Congress. Why do you think President Trump specifically chose to paint the two of you as disloyal?" Blitzer asked.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump tries to change the subject by blaming Obama — then accidentally admits he’s putting kids in ‘cages’

Published

on

President Donald Trump was the target of a Democratic press conference with four Congresswomen of color who were calling him out for racist tweets telling them to go back to their countries.

The women attacked every policy that Trump seems to be losing on. Trump seemed to try and pivot to another issue entirely, blaming former President Barack Obama for building the cages that he's putting children in after he takes them from their parents.

The Obama Administration built the Cages, not the Trump Administration! DEMOCRATS MUST GIVE US THE VOTES TO CHANGE BAD IMMIGRATION LAWS.

Continue Reading
 
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

close-image