Nearly a thousand ancient monuments have been marked on an archeological map of the Murgab delta, several sheets of which have just been completed.
Few years after the fateful year 476, commonly regarded as the end of the classical age, Martianus Capella finished his work devoted to the "four liberal arts", the last encyclopedia of Antiquity. What interests us in this work is a small passage in its geographical section: "...The region of Margiana alone in this land has vineyards, mountains 1,500 stadia long all around, hard to reach because of desert sands stretching for 120 miles. Alexander the Great chose this region for its beauties and here he founded his first city, giving it his name. However, the city was soon destroyed, to be rebuilt by Antiochus, the son of Seleucus, who gave it his father's name now. The city was 75 stadia around." That was the last description of the regions which we are exploring within the international (Russian-Turkmenian-Italian) project, the Archeological Map of the Murgab Delta.
We refer to a relatively small area in Turkmenistan, where the river breaks out of its narrow mountain valley confines on to a plain, the great Kara Kum (Black Sands) Desert, only to fork out into numberless streams and be lost in the barren sands without a trace. But life thrives where water has not seeped into the sands. A small patch squeezed between the river valley exit and the sands supports a lush oasis called Merv. Field work was started here by project participants in 1990 to map it and explore its archeological sites.
The region was for millennia considered the westernmost outpost of civilization, at the boundary with a world of barbarians. We are not going to review the thousands of pages devoted to the oasis and its central city, Merv, in medieval Arabian and Persian literature. It is enough to recall that it was, at that time, given a reverential epithet of Merv Shahijan, or Merv the Sovereign. We will only confine ourselves to des ... Читать далее