Ancient mysteries revealed in Turkmen desert sands
Archaeology News Network, 07-04-2013
Over four millennia ago, the fortress town of Gonur-Tepe might have been a rare advanced civilisation before it was buried for centuries under the dust of the Kara Kum desert in remote western Turkmenistan. After being uncovered by Soviet archaeologists in the last century, Gonur-Tepe, once home to thousands of people and the centre of a thriving region, is gradually revealing its mysteries with new artifacts being uncovered on every summer dig.The scale of the huge complex which spans some 30 hectares can only be properly appreciated from the air, from where the former buildings look like a maze in the desert surrounded by vast walls. Just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the celebrated ancient city of Merv outside the modern city of Mary, the ruins of Gonur-Tepe are an indication of the archaeological riches of Turkmenistan, one of the most isolated countries in the world.
Around 2,000 BC, Gonur-Tepe was the main settlement of the Margush or Margiana region that was home to one of the most sophisticated, but little-known Bronze Age civilisations. The site — which until the last century was covered by desert and scrub — was uncovered in Soviet times by the celebrated archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi who, at the age of 84, is about to spend another summer working on the site.
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