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Margush / Margiana
Gonur Depe



The smooth, mirror - like surfaces of split takyrs (clay soil empty of plants) with light sand waves drifting from the great northern desert of Karakum, stretch to the horizon. It seems that lifeless silence has always reigned here. But this is only an illusion. Driving off-road for what seems several hours and leaving clouds of dust behind, your car climbs a hill from where you can see excavations into the ancient country Margush. In the shimmering heat of the desert you see many sand Hills, the remains of ancient settlements.

Air View Gonur DepeThe first agricultural settlements appeared in the delta of Murgab river as back as 7 millennium BC. Fertile silt coming from mountains, abundance of water and moderate climate had created favourable conditions for good crops and the progress of the ancient economy was continuing for several centuries. The name of that state in the Murgab river area we've never known and the culture of that state did not know the written language. However, several centuries later the state was mentioned in the old Iranian texts under the name of Margush. In the ancient epoch, the Greek authors had transformed the ex name into Margiana. Archaeological discoveries of the second half of XX c. in the north Afghanistan and Southern Turkmenistan gave exact proof for close relations between Margiana and Baktria.The Margiana country occupied an area of more than 3000 sq. Km and consisted of 78 oasis and more than 150 compact settlements.The American newspaper "Boston Glob" wrote that before we knew the four oldest centers of the world's civilization: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China, and now due to the fantastic results of the Margiana expedition its quite possible to think that there was another, the fifth center. Among the sands of the eastern Kara-kum the archeologists found and excavated the monumental castles and temples, in size competing with the buildings of Assiria and Babilon. For the first time in the world's archeology here were found the remnants of poppy and hemp. In the past,people inhabited this area used to prepare a ritual drink "Khaorna", mentioned in the Avesta and worshipped Zoroastrism. V. Sirianidi /Soviet Shliman/ thinks this religion, the essence of which is an opposition of two bases - good and evil, could appear in this area. Gonur-depe was the capital of Margiana. It was a rectangular fortress with powerful defensive walls, semicircular bastions, adobe con-structions and cult buildings for Zoroastrian ceremonies.


Gonur Camp From 1992 the joint Ligabue Research and Study Centre and Turkmenistan Ministry of Culture archaelogical mission pinpointed and began excavation work on the Gonur necropolis as part of the research programme in the fossil delta of the River Murghab.
The tombs brought to light contained various spectacular grave goods: mirrors, large pins, cosmetics bottles, bronze armillas, silver ornamental objects, and alabaster and ceramic vases.
Many of these objects demonstrate how widely these ancient people (3rd millennium BC) traded with other Central Asiatic regions.
The discovery of such a large Bronze-Age cemetery opens an important new chapter of knowledge about proto-historic Turkmenistan cultures. Moreover, the unique nature of the find means considerable light will be cast on related regions such as Northern Afghanistan, Southern Tadzhikistan and Central and Eastern Iran. Such an important archaeological and historical discovery has not been made in the Middle East for at least twenty years. The last significant excavations were those of the large Iranian necropolises of Shahdad and Shaahr-i Sokhta.
The Gonur necropolis is destined to fill many lacunas - caused by systematic unauthorized digs - in our knowledge about the ancient history of the Middle East and Central Asia.


The ancient country of ancient Margush or Margiana and medieval Merv are essentially one and the same country through different chronological eras. Scientists assume that the first worldwide religion Zoroastrianism is connected with the country of Margush. Archeologist discovered four monumental fire temples there. Perhaps suffering indignity as the prophet of a new religion, Zoroaster strolled along the dusty roads of Margush. Perhaps there he began his religious mission, and there the ideas included in the holy Avesta were bom and first became well known. In the Avesta, seven regions are named where the Zoroaster's followers lived, including Mouru.

The golden age of Margush lasted from the sixteenth to the thirteenth centuries BC. The advanced city of Gonur was the capital of this great agricultural civilization. It's ancient citizens built it on a great natural elevation. In the center of the city a fortified palace enclosed by a great wall was built. The unique architecture of this construction has no corollary and represents a singular phenomenon in the history of ancient Oriental architecture. Not far from this palace a fortified temple was located, and its walls and floors were coated with white gypsum. There were several special rooms in the temple where great jars, more than one meter in height, called khums, stood lengthwise along the walls on an elevated platform. The special cult beverage khoma - saoma was kept in these. This beverage was prepared either from poppy seeds or mandrake roots. Cult beverages were widely used in Zoroastrianism. A recipe for such a drink is even given in the Avesta.

Up until now, nearly 300 large and small settlements, and 30 temples have been found in the legendary country of Margush. The most astonishing part of our travels was viewing the silent witnesses to the glory and collapse of a great culture, and literally touch these antiquities, without fear of being caught by a custodian and his shout of "hands off, without fear of facing the warning of "All rights reserved". You can breathe ancient dust, which has not changed for three milleniums, and still draws intricate patterns on halls, behind which appear fantastical mirages linking the past and the present like dappled shadows.

Anahita Arts Gallery - Gonur Depe at http://www.anahitagallery.com/aharch01.html

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