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Stratum plus. 2005-2009. №2

L. B. Kircho (St.-Petersburg, Russia)

Main Directions and the Character of the Cultural Interactions of Southern Turkmenistan in 5th – 3rd Millennium BC

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Pages: 374-392

Archaeological investigations of the 20th century have demonstrated that one of the points of origin of the ancient farming cultures during the palaeo-metallic epoch (5th – 2nd millennium BC) was situated on the territory of Southern Turkmenistan. By the last third of the 3rd millennium BC the historical development of that centre had resulted in the appearance of the most ancient urban civilization of Central Asia – at Altyn-Depe.
Cultural foundations of the early Bronze Age urban civilization in southern Turkmenistan arose during the Late Eneolithic period (c. 3100–2800 BC). They were formed on the basis of the mid-Eneolithic Anau culture of the herding communities of the second half of the 4th millennium BC. That process was taking place under the cultural influence and possibly with infiltration of certain groups of populations from south-western and central Iran to the southern territories of Central Asia. Simultaneously, the contacts and migrations within Central Asia itself were intensified. The activation of Iranian tribes and regional interactions were related to the expansion of the proto-Elam civilization and international trade in valuable mineral materials (lapis lazuli, alabaster, and metals). The latter were exported to various centres of the Near and Middle East via the mediation of populations of the Central-Asian and Iranian regions. During the Early Bronze Age (2800/2700–2400/2300 BC), the process of concentration of the population at the largest settlements in southern Turkmenistan was continued. The cultural and economic progress of the society was promoted by the already established technological base for the main kinds of specialized handicrafts. These processes were favoured in addition by contacts (both direct and mediated) with technologically more advanced cultures of south-eastern Iran, southern Afghanistan and northern Baluchistan.
In the last third of the 3rd millennium BC, the South-Turkmenistan society reached a new level of its development – as early as the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, Altyn-Depe (as well as possibly Namazga-Depe) became a large centre of the early urban type. It had an advanced communication net and a spatially differentiated layout with specialized potters’ quarters and a monumental all-urban religious centre. Also, the social structure was becoming more complicated. Intensified were cultural interrelations both with the major centres of the civilization of that period (the early Indian and those of the Mesopotamia-Elam circle) and with all the surrounding cultures and raw-material regions in general.
In the late 3rd millennium BC, the growing aridization of the climate resulted in gradual dwindle of the occupation of large settlements at the northern piedmont zone of the Kopet-Dagh. The major centres of the South-Turkmenistan culture moved to the ancient delta of the Murghab River. There, the society came to a new stage based on the technological and cultural levels reached before, on active cultural interactions with centres of the Ancient East and (as suggested by anthropological data) with the participation of certain new populations. The hierarchic settlement pattern within the oases with fortified sites as the centres, monumental palace and cult complexes, differentiation of the material and social status of different groups of the population (as suggested by finds from burials) and the appearance of the elite “royal” burials at Gonur-Depe, all that attests a proto-state system of organization of the community for which Victor I. Sarianidi proposed a well-grounded name of the Ancient Eastern Kingdom of Margush.


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