Sultan Palace Merv

Margiana Bronze Age Country in Karakum desert, the close neigbour of Bactria

The Oxus civilization or the Bactria- Margiana Archeological complex (BMAC). This civilization included the large urban centers and rural settlements flourishing between 2400-1600 BCE, in the alluvial basin of the Amu Darya river in the northern plains of ancient Bactria (modern Afghanistan) and in the endorheic alluvial fan of the Murghab river of the ancient Margiana (southern Turkmenistan), with extensions into southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan.

Margush is the Persian name of the region and Margiana is the Greek name applied after Alexander the Great conquest of the Central Asia in end of IV century BCE. It was an ancient agricultural oasis in the delta of the Murghab irrigated by its waters. The location of monuments from the Bronze and Early Iron Ages shows that the boundaries of the lands under irrigation gradually shifted southward. In antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, Margiana was the site of a complex system of canals fed by tributaries of the Murghab.

Margiana colonized simultaneously over a large area. The similarities in the ceramics, small finds, and architecture between the sites suggest the same period of construction. In the early periods, the cultural tradition remained very close to the foothill culture of Namazga V and Altyn Depe sites (the east of Turkmenistan), that suggest the migration of people from these sites and close interconnection with new settlements.

The first difficulties to settle in Margiana concerned the clearing of space from thickets and the construction of irrigation canals. Done that, it shifted the agriculture from dry farming to irrigation agriculture. The settlement pattern suggests the construction of large canals, dams and levees characteristic of agriculture in the oasis from this time onward. These environment actions strongly altered the ecology of the delta area.

The Margiana settlement plan is something new for the region and for Central Asia. These settlements appear to be spaced to maximize the agricultural potential of the canals. Settlements remain isolated in comparison with the contemporary urban settlements of the foothill zone. The shared courtyards packed into a fortified building is also a distinct pattern of Margiana. By 2000 BC, both Margiana and Bactria used irrigation agriculture and construction of large fortified building complexes. In Margiana, the development continued within the oases at Kelleli, Gonur, Togolok and final period at Takhirbai. New complexes built on new substructures, but only few overlay the earlier period structures. This practice continued also in Merv.

The ceramics in Margiana are clearly connected to earlier period of foothill zone and to earliest period. Also, it witnesst the appearance of small changes in existing forms and new, distinctive but rare shapes. The new motifs on steatite amulets, distinctive compartmented copper alloy or bronze seals, handled cylinder seals and the rich metal and stone assemblage. The ceremonial axes, small vials, but disappearance of V-shaped figurines. The emergence of a new set of symbols found on seals, metal, stone and terracotta objects.

The oasis model spreads to similar deltaic oases in northern and southern Bactria. The new aspects of iconography often related to the desert environment: snakes, scorpions, and boars. Objects such as axes and mace-heads, which were used earlier, are transformed into ceremonial objects. Miniature columns, staffs and mace-heads are found in new contexts, reinterpreted in the oasis culture. There appears to be an emphasis on the materials of the imported stones, which leads to deliberate juxtaposition of exotic materials, such as alabaster and steatite.

The new system of production reorganized to craft activities, occurring within a certain settlement to work on distinctive objects from exotic materials, such as imported stone and metal. Round and sylinder seals are started to be used. Sealings on ceramics may indicate control of production as well.

The initial occupation of Margiana was very complex and well organized. The first settlements of Margiana are spaced and are well fortified. There was a high degree of communication and information flow between them. This is reflected in the successful agricultural and irrigation systems as well as in the uniformity of material culture over the area of Margiana.The inhabitants were sedentary people practicing irrigation farming of wheat and barley. They left the impressive material culture including the monumental architecture, bronze tool, ceramics, and jewelry of semiprecious stones. The figurines of Bactrian princess, Goddess of Fertility (made of limestone, chlorite) reflect the agrarian side of Bronze Age society. The rich corpus of metalwork objects witness to a sophisticated tradition of metalworking experience.