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.
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.
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
Many of these objects demonstrate how widely these ancient
people (3rd millennium BC) traded with other Central Asiatic
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
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,
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