Skip to comments.Central Asia's Lost Civilization
Posted on 11/01/2006 11:47:33 PM PST by SunkenCiv
Where others see only sand and scrub, Sarianidi has turned up the remnants of a wealthy town protected by high walls and battlements. This barren place, a site called Gonur, was once the heart of a vast archipelago of settlements that stretched across 1,000 square miles of Central Asian plains. Although unknown to most Western scholars, this ancient civilization dates back 4,000 yearsto the time when the first great societies along the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Indus, and Yellow rivers were flourishing. Thousands of people lived in towns like Gonur with carefully designed streets, drains, temples, and homes.
(Excerpt) Read more at discover.com ...
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...
In Ruin, Symbols on a Stone Hint at a Lost Asian Culture
Source: The New York Times
Published: May 13, 2001 Author: JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Posted on 05/12/2001 11:44:35 PDT by sarcasm
archaeologist Says Central Asia Was Cradle Of Ancient Persian Religion
AFP/Yahoo | 3-18-2005
Posted on 03/19/2005 11:59:31 PM EST by blam
Archaeologist Tells Of Digs In Central Asia (Greeks)
Kathumerini | 5-19-2005 | Effi Hadzioannidou
Posted on 05/19/2005 6:13:36 PM EDT by blam
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Archaeologist tells of digs in Central Asia
Victor Sariyiannidis has spent his life searching for traces of Greeks...
What an inspiring story that was...it's going straight into my FR Favourites.
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The Bacterian Treasure (also known as the Bacterian Gold) is a treasure cache that lay dormant under the "Hill of Gold" (or "Golden Hill"), or Tillya-tepe, for 2,000 years until Soviet archeologists exposed it shortly before the 1979 invasion. The hoard then went missing during subsequent wars in Afghanistan, when it was "rediscovered" and first brought to public attention again in 2003.
The hoard is a collection of about 20,600 gold ornaments that was found in six burial mounds near Sheberghan, in the northern Afghanistan province of Jawzjan, and was excavated in 1978 by a team led by the Greek-Russian archaeologist Victor Sariyannidis, a year before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The ornaments include coins, necklaces set with gems, belts, medallions and crowns. A new museum in Kabul is being planned where the Bactrian gold will eventually be kept.
As of 2005, preparations are under way to exhibit some of the 20,000 pieces. The U.S., France, Germany, Japan and Greece are interested in hosting the exhibit. The collection has never been seen outside Afghanistan.
It was thought to have been lost at some point in the 1990s, but in 2003 it was found in secret vaults under the presidential palace in Kabul.
The collection is particularly valuable to the Afghan people, as much of their heritage was looted from museums during the civil wars after the fall of the Soviet-backed regime.
The Cybele Plaque, among the Bactrian treasure on display at the presidential palace in Kabul
Gold Crown, 1st2nd century CE, from Grave 6 in Tillya Tepe
The collection is particularly valuable to the Afghan people, as much of their heritage was looted from museums during the civil wars after the fall of the Soviet-backed regime.That's impossible! There weren't US troops involved! /sarcasm
Interesting. Central Asia is the likely origin of Indo-European and Altai-Uralic language family.
"...Why the Oxus culture vanished may never be known. But researchers think they have pinned down the origin of these mysterious people. The answers are turning up in traces of mound settlements bordering the rugged Kopet-Dag mountains to the south, which rise up to form the vast Iranian plateau. The most prominent settlement there lies a grueling 225-mile drive from Gonur. At this site, called Anau, three ancient mounds poke up from the plains. Volunteer Lisa Pumpelli is working there in a trench at the top of a large mound with a spectacular view of the Kopet-Dag mountains. She is helping Hiebert, who is now an archaeologist with the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., track down the precursors to the Oxus culture. Both are following in the footsteps of Lisa Pumpelli's grandfather, Raphael Pumpelly, and great-grandfather, also named Raphael Pumpelly (Pumpelly is an alternate spelling of the family name). "I'm digging in my great-grandfather's back dirt," Pumpelli quips.
Trained in geology, the elder Pumpelly believed that Central Asia in ancient times was wetter and more fertile that it is now. He hypothesized a century ago that "the fundamentals of European civilizationorganized village life, agriculture, domestication of animals, weaving, etc.were originated on the oases of Central Asia long before the time of Babylon." Such assertions sounded radicaleven outlandishat that time, but Raphael Pumpelly was persuasive. An adventurer and son of an upstate New York surveyor, he convinced industrialist Andrew Carnegie to fund his expedition, charmed the authorities in Saint Petersburg into granting permission for a dig in 1903, and was even provided with a private railcar. He was 65 years old when he arrived.
The mounds at Anau, just off the Trans-Caspian railway, immediately caught Raphael Pumpelly's eye. A Russian general searching for treasure had already cut through the oldest of them, so Pumpelly and his son began there, using methods that were surprisingly modern in an era when most archaeologists were fixated on finding spectacular artifacts. "A close watch was kept to save every object, large and small . . . and to note its relation to its surroundings," Pumpelly wrote in his memoirs. "I insisted that every shovelful contained a story if it could be interpreted."
The close scrutiny paid off. One shovelful yielded material later determined to be ancient wheat, prompting Pumpelly to declare that Central Asian oases were the original source of domesticated grain. Although that claim later proved falsesubsequent Near Eastern finds of wheat date back even earlierit was the first recorded instance of serious paleobotany.
In 1904 a plague of locusts "filled the trenches faster than they could be shoveled," Pumpelly wrote, and plunged the area into famine, forcing him to abandon the dig. Traveling east, he noted the mounds dotting the foothills of the Kopet-Dag, indicating the sites of ancient towns similar to Anau that had survived on the water flowing down the slopes. Venturing northeast into the forbidding Kara-Kum desert, he examined locales along the ancient course of the Murgab River but turned back amid heat so brutal, he wrote, that "I gasped for breath." He had come just a few miles short of where Sarianidi would later find Gonur.
Pumpelly clung to his vision of an early civilization that thrived along the rivers flowing down from the Kopet-Dag. Years later, Soviet archaeologists working along the mountain foothills confirmed that as early as 6500 B.C., small bands of people were living in the Kopet-Dag, raising wheat and barley and grazing their sheep and goats on the mountains' foothills and slopes. That's a few thousand years after these grains were domesticated in the Near East but much earlier than most researchers had thought likely, supporting Pumpelly's view that Central Asian culture developed much sooner than commonly believed.
By 3000 B.C., the people of the Kopet-Dag had organized into walled towns. They used carts drawn by domesticated animals, and their pottery resembles the kind later found in Gonur. Many Soviet and Western archaeologists suspect that the Oxus civilizationat least in Margiana, the region in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistanevolved from this Kopet-Dag culture.
What prompted the settlers to abandon the Kopet-Dag and migrate into the area around Gonur? One possibility is drought, says Yale University archaeologist Harvey Weiss. He theorizes that the same drought that he claims destroyed the world's first empirethe Akkadians in Mesopotamiaaround 2100 B.C. also drove the Kopet-Dag peoples from their homes. If the small streams that poured out of the mountains stopped flowing, life in the arid climate would have been impossible. That would have forced the people of Kopet-Dag to head toward Gonur and settle by the Murgab River, the only reliable source of water in the Kara-Kum. With its headwaters in distant Hindu Kush glaciers, the river would have continued flowing even in the hottest summers or longest droughts.
Another possibility is that population growth forced people down from the mountain slopes and onto the plains, where the Murgab then flowed lazily into a delta, creating an oasis of dense brush teeming with game, fish, and birds. That could explain why so many Oxus sites are built on virgin soil, as if carefully planned in advance. "The people came from the foothills of the Kopet-Dag with baggage, a knowledge of agriculture, irrigation systems, metal, ceramics, and jewelry making," says Iminjan Masimov, a retired Russian archaeologist who once excavated Oxus sites in Margiana.
Indeed, many Kopet-Dag sites appear to have been abandoned about 2000 B.C., just around the time Gonur and nearby sites took root. Hiebert's excavation at Anau, however, shows that it at least remained inhabited even as Gonur flourished.
While scholars debate the relationship between the Oxus culture and other early urban settlements, there is no dispute about the importance of the Kopet-Dag as a natural highway for nomads, traders, and armies between the Central Asian steppes and the Iranian highlands. The evidence is unmistakable when Hiebert shows me around the ruins of a medieval mosque on the summit of one of Anau's mounds. Damaged by time and earthquakes, the edifice is still famous for the two serpent-dragon mosaicsshowing more the influence of China than of Meccathat once guarded its facade. Around us are hundreds of mysterious little constructions, Stonehenge-like, each made of three small bricks. Hairpins and bits of clothprobably linked to Central Asian shamanismare scattered about the hilltop. Women come here to pray for children. One family, three generations of women, sits silently in a row by a tomb. Hiebert casually picks up glazed Iranian ware and a bit of Chinese blue pottery. "Here is your Silk Road," he says.
The find dovetails with Sarianidi's work at Gonur, where he has found a Mesopotamian cuneiform seal not far from an Indus Valley stamp bearing symbols above an etched elephant. Both lay near small stone boxes similar to those manufactured in southeastern Iran. These items provide tantalizing hints of commercial traffic on a Silk Road predating by two millennia the trading route that eventually linked China to Europe in the early centuries A.D. Hiebert likens the Oxus civilization to Polynesiaa scattered but common culture held together by camels rather than canoes.
An Indian archaeologist (N. Narain) thinks it is home to the Indo-European people.
Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.
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