Head of the project and a group of scientists who arrived in Turkmenistan, chief researcher at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology named after. N.N. Miklukho-Maclay of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), Doctor of Historical Sciences Nadezhda Anatolyevna Dubova, kindly agreed to give an interview to the editors of the Voice of the CIS online information publication .
Recall that this sacred object was discovered in 1972 by a group of scientists headed by the famous archaeologist, Doctor of Historical Sciences Viktor Ivanovich Sarianidi (1929-2013). Over the following years, in the ancient oasis of the old delta of the Murgab River, which had long turned into a desert, several dozen more settlements were discovered, the largest of which is Gonur-Depe. All of them existed more than 4 thousand years ago, in the Bronze Age.
Nadezhda Anatolyevna, please tell us how fate brought you to the Margiana expedition?
— At the end of the last century, we came to Turkmenistan practically as tourists. I wanted to come to Central Asia and nothing more. From this trip, my acquaintance with Gonur-depe and cooperation with Viktor Ivanovich Sarianidi began. When we first came here, he gave us a tour of the entire monument, and the excavated city made a fantastic impression with its scale.
What was your first serious find at Gonur Depe?
— My first discovery happened in the spring of 2002. It was linen, which I found in one of the opened burials. Despite the fact that I am an anthropologist, I did not deal with bones, but studied the modern population. And then my hands just trembled when I worked on extracting the miraculously surviving fragment of the fabric cloth. It was preserved due to the fact that a bronze plate was wrapped in it, and due to bronze oxides, the fabric literally bronzed. When I took it out, it was unusually silky, like the wings of a butterfly.
Allow me to congratulate you on the resumption of research activities at Gonur Depe. How is work going in the new season?
– Thank you. It is very gratifying that our expedition was able to continue its work. I am the head of a joint expedition from the Russian side, and from the side of Turkmenistan it is headed by the head of the National Directorate for the Protection, Study and Restoration of Historical and Cultural Monuments, Doctor of Architecture Muhammed Annaevich Mamedov.
We really had a big break in excavations. But Alexei Fribus, an archaeologist from the Institute of the History of Material Culture (St. Petersburg), and I used this forced idle time at home to analyze our old materials and prepare publications based on the results of excavations of past seasons. And this spring there was a very interesting and intense work, we discovered very interesting artifacts.
So, in one of the burials they found clay balls in which pieces of ceramics were stuck; such balls had never been found at Gonur Depe before, there were seven or eight of them, and they stood in a certain order. This suggests that they were clearly used for a specific ritual.
Also this time, very interesting burial structures were discovered, not on the main monument, but in a neighboring small settlement. Moreover, we are trying to understand for what or for whom this settlement was. So far, it is rather difficult to determine this, since the buildings, which are very uncharacteristic for that period, are small, unprepossessing, and there are almost no grave goods in them.
There are many oddities there – a huge pit has been dug, a descent-ramp leads into it. And obviously it was some kind of entrance that was bricked up. And all this inner space of about 20 square meters was littered with hundreds of fragments of ceramics, and human bones.
There were also burials that we had not seen before during excavations at Gonur-Depe, that is, they differed in their original design.
For clarity, I note that 10 types of burials have been identified at Gonur-Depe, presumably this indicates the social strata of the population. People of different incomes were buried in different ways and in different types of graves. It is difficult to understand all the reasons for what was happening four and a half thousand years ago. Therefore, we have one of the thematic areas that will be devoted to this.
Were there any unusual objects in the burials themselves?
– Yes, interesting finds have been found that can be interpreted as figurines for some kind of game. We even found playing boards in very rich graves. They are cellular, made from wood or bone.
Also in one of the burials, for the first time, we found stone figurines of different colors. They were truncated cones, standing in a certain order parallel to each other. And what is most interesting, they are made of the same material from which the mosaic inserts are made, which Gonur Depe is famous for.
This set of figures is somewhat reminiscent of chess. The ancient inhabitants of Margiana took blanks of one mineral, heated it, cut something out, then heated it again, and as our team member, candidate of geological and mineralogical sciences Anatoly Yuminov from Chelyabinsk State University, proved, then they covered them with glaze.
Is it possible to concretize the connection with other civilizations on the basis of the finds?
– Earlier, small ivory sticks were found, square in section, with a circle on one side, and two circles on the other, three on the third, and a cross on the fourth. The most interesting thing is that this kind of game still exists in India.
I note that the same sticks were found on a monument in the valley of the Indus River, on the ancient settlement of the same era, Mohenjo-Daro(Pakistan). In general, this proves direct links with the ancient Indian civilization. There is an assumption that these were divination sticks.
How many years did Gonur-depe settlement flourish?
– It existed in flowering form from about 2500 to 1800 BC, that is, about seven centuries. All life was concentrated around the Murgab River. However, in Central Asia, all the rivers move, and the water began to leave here.
It was not an ordinary city, but a large ritual center in which almost no one lived. Apparently, only the supreme ruler and those people who served the temple complex lived there.
Are there any hypotheses about the confessional affiliation of the inhabitants of Gonur-Depe?
– We can’t say anything for sure about the attitude towards a certain denomination, but seals were found here, on which there were images of women in beautiful Mesopotamian dresses, which are considered goddesses, there are other goddesses who sit on an armchair, there are images of female figures from which corn-ears and other plants grow. All this testifies to some pagan fertility cults, common in ancient times among many peoples of the world, the worship of the mother goddess.
At one time, Sarianidi put forward a hypothesis about proto-Zoroastrianism in ancient Marigan, that is, about the presence of elements of the religion of fire-worshippers that arose much later – the Zoroastrians.
How would you explain the term Bactrian-Margian archaeological culture?
– Victor Sarianidi, working here even before the discovery of Gonur Depe, began to pay attention to the fact that a lot of similar objects were located within a very large territory from Margiana in the southeast of Turkmenistan to Bactria in northern Afghanistan, where he also worked in the seventies last century. In this regard, he put forward the idea of the existence of a single cultural community in the Bronze Age, which was spread over a geographically gigantic space and had a lot of similar elements.
French explorer Henri-Paul Francfort suggested calling it the Oxus Civilization. He worked on similar monuments in Northern Afghanistan and believed that the Amu Darya River was the center of it all. However, many people did not agree with this idea (Oxus is the Greek name for the Amu Darya).
Viktor Ivanovich spoke of Bactria and Margiana as two different territories. Then the accumulation of data began, people began to find identical elements at very large distances, at present there are such elements both within the Gulf of Oman and in India. A lot of monuments are now discovered in the west of Turkey, some of the artifacts found there are identical to the artifacts found at Gonur Depe.
The American researcher Gregory Possel proposed a name for this vast space – the Central Asian sphere of interaction, that is, in a vast space, different cultures interacted with each other. It was a kind of cultural synthesis.
And when did the world scientific community get acquainted with the culture that flourished over 4 thousand years ago on the territory of Turkmenistan?
– Viktor Ivanovich in 2006 addressed the leadership of Turkmenistan with the initiative. It was to let everyone know about the unique Margian finds. According to his arguments, it would be desirable to invite experts in this field from all over the world to Turkmenistan so that they personally get acquainted with the architectural monument and the artifacts found.
And in the fall of 2006, a large archaeological conference was held in the city of Mary. Outstanding experts, researchers and archaeologists of world renown arrived. The leadership of Turkmenistan organized the arrival of more than 200 specialists. It was an impressive sight. Gonur-depe “came to life” and it was great, everyone was in a good shock from what they saw here.
The main goal of that conference was achieved. Many countries of the world learned about the existence on the territory of Turkmenistan of another, previously unknown center of the civilization of the ancient East.
The spring field season is over, what do you think about the future?
— This protected area has not yet fully revealed its secrets to scientists. There is a full understanding that in the future there is a lot of work and many new discoveries. And I am sure that our findings will be analyzed by scientists from different countries for more than one century.
At the same time, for my part, I want to express the hope that next autumn we will again arrive in warm and hospitable Turkmenistan to continue our research.
///Originally published here: https://sng.fm/26964-rossijskie-arheologi-vernulis-v-turkmenistan-na-gonur-depe.html
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