Sultan Palace Merv

Merv (Marv, Marw) is the oasis in the delta of Murghab (Murgh) river, in present day Turkmenistan

Nowhere else in all Central Asia are ruins so abundant or so vast, wrote the American archeologist R. Pumpelly in the early years of the 20th century when describing the Merv oasis.

The China source, author Du Huan, in 765 after his return from 10 years of captivity in Merv described it – a big river which flows into its territory, where it divided into several hundred canals irrigating the whole area. The area of this kingdom from east to west is 70 km and from north to south 90 km.

The Merv oasis is formed of alluvial silts deposited by the river Murghab. Starting in the Afghan mountains, the river descendes the hills and enter the desert of the oasis at its southern end, eventually draining in the desert to the north. The Merv's long and distinguished history can be accounted by its strategic position in Central Asia, on the ancient Great Trade Routes, in a large and fertile oasis in the Kara Kum desert.

The ruins of Merv include five settlements: ancient Gyaur Kala (Antiochia in Margiana) and its citadel Erk Kala (Alexandria in Margiana), medieval city of Sultan-Kala, post-medieval Addallah Khan Kala and 18th century extension Bairam Ali Khan-Kala. In 1883 new administrative center – Mary founded 26 km from Merv and Bairam Ali Khan Kala. Another, the little known city of Merv was Shaim Kala, square walled area some 110 ha, 1 km south-east of Gyaur Kala, now completely destroyed.

Merv has the unusual pattern of urban development as a consecutive series of cities gradually developed on adjacent virgin land zones. These extensive remains offered a unique opportunity to record the varying plans of the cities, since their walls define its size and general layout, gateways, principal roads, some buildings and the courses of main canals. All these near the surface having the time cultural levels divided into the cities.

The archeological evidence reveals that the Merv Oasis was a craft and trade center by the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE. By the end of the 5th century BC Merv had become the urban center of the oasis.