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Bill Thayer

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This webpage is an article
published in the Supplementary Papers
of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome,
Volume I, pp196‑216 (1905)

Text and images are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p196  Report on Archaeological Remains in Turkestan

The discoveries of archaeological remains made during recent years in Crete, Egypt, and Mesopotamia have carried our knowledge of the early stages of the development of human activity in Western Europe back to a period far beyond what was known or even suspected a generation ago. Much of the new material thus found is of substance and style so rude as to be of instant interest only to the specialist; but there is also much, as, for instance, the objects from Crete, that possesses a charm of style that is apt to claim the attention of the student, blinding him to the larger interests that all this material, the rude as well as the artistic, contain, — interests, that is, connected with the intercommunication and relations of the earliest known tribes and races that later developed into the historical peoples of Europe. The great importance of the study of these matters lies in the fact that they offer the direct, though often indistinct, path to a complete comprehension of the various classical civilizations upon which so much of our modern education is founded. It is not enough to know that such or such were the works of a people at some given epoch, but the true archaeologist, as distinguished from the student of bric-a‑brac, must know what were the sources whence came the influences that led to the formation of the people's ideals. Only through this knowledge is the educational value of archaeology attained; and archaeology becomes of exactly as much importance as history, political economy, philosophy, or any other of the subjects commonly granted to be of superior importance in the training of the educated classes. In fact, archaeology is intimately connected with these studies. It is of that growing recognition of the claims of archaeology that the discoveries in Egypt and Mesopotamia have attracted such widespread interest. The work of Schliemann and his successors led the student of Greece to Asia Minor and Egypt. The discoveries of Layard and his followers and the translation of the cuneiform inscriptions showed clearly the existence of intimate and character-moulding relations between Egypt and Asia Minor and the lands that are now Persia. From each and all of these discoveries one fact becomes perfectly clear, and that is that in no part of the world has a people developed to a high standard by itself and by its own energies. Everywhere it has become evident that each people and country had a "Hinterland," a back country, to which the student must push his way, and the way leads steadily east. Somewhere there will be found one of those foci, one of those starting-posts in the march of human development whence all our special study of particular countries or epochs must start, if our deductions are to have the value of  p197 historic truth, on which, perhaps, later may be based the equal value of imaginative possibility.

It was in the hope of finding traces, more distinct than are described in the scanty literature on the subject, of the civilizations that were contemporary with and necessary to the earliest developments in Mesopotamia, that I passed some months of the summer of 1903 in the Russian provinces of Western Central Asia.​1 The reasons for seeking in the country east of Mesopotamia for the remains of early civilization are of several different sorts. Geography alone would tend strongly to prove that cities such as Ur, Babylon, or Nineveh were dependent for their growth and power on some circumstances other than were to be found in the immediate neighborhood. The lack of mines or quarries near at hand and the forbidding deserts on either side of the country were sufficient causes to prevent any purely self-contained development there in early times. What did lead to the development of these cities was shown by the map, suggested by ancient writers, and proved by the inscriptions dug up in later years. These tablets, found by the thousand, show that whether at Ur or Nineveh, whether to the north or south, whether early or late, the chief activities of the Mesopotamians were directed (as those of any other great power) in channels of commerce. The lists of tribute, the laws of contract and banking, the development of astronomy, all show this. In fact, the valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris became the seats of powerful races because it was in these valleys that the tracks followed by the merchants trading from east and west crossed. These valleys had few natural resources, comparatively speaking, but they were the natural places for merchants coming from Orient or Occident to meet. They were market-places, and grew rich on the business brought by the meeting of the various caravans and on the resulting commissions. In a general way it is known what were the articles brought from east and west. One of the most important of those from the west was metal, such as tin​2 and bronze, much of the latter coming probably from the Sinaitic peninsula. From the east then, as now, came articles of luxury, — silks, embroideries, jewels, spices, scents, used originally in religious rites, — and later, with the growth of wealth, the consumption of these articles increased with their use by individuals, until the extravagant waste of them in the time of the Roman empire. Thus it was that Mesopotamia grew rich, powerful, and influential in the history of the world, because there were peoples on each side of her who had developed to such a degree that they desired to exchange their products for those from elsewhere. On the west the chief people were the Egyptians, and the date of their rise to the position of a power was some time about four thousand years before Christ. That they were a numerous race before that is known by antiquities dug up recently; but those that can be dated before 4000 B.C. seem but little affected by knowledge of the outside  p198 world. It is quite likely, as Adams suggests,​3 that the first foreign relations acquired by Egypt were a direct result of the taking and working of the copper mines of Sinai by Sneferu, the predecessor of Cheops. While the history of Egypt, even in such early periods as this, is fairly well known and is becoming year by year more so, the same cannot be said of the races that were at the eastern end of the balance of which Mesopotamia was the fulcrum. A glance at the map shows, however, where they are to be sought. Just as Babylon was separated from Egypt by the difficult country of Arabia, so did the deserts divide Persia from the jewel mines of the mountains beyond which lay the luxury-producing lands of India and China. These mountains, stretching from the wastes of Siberia on the north to the desolate stretches of Beluchistan on the south, have always formed a very serious barrier between India and China and Western Europe. Hence the region in which to search for the cities that formed the balance to Egypt is on the western side of the mountains below those passes over which Chinese and Indian goods were carried and where naturally caravans would have been made up and where traders met a common market. This supposition, based on geography and a knowledge of human nature, is borne out by tradition; for at just such a place on the northwestern borders of Afghanistan was Balkh, the capital of Bactria, a city famous as far back as the earliest written history, and known now as the "Mother of Cities." It must be remembered that a traditional title of this sort is apt to be one of the very oldest things handed down to us from the forgotten past. Another reason for studying the country east of the Caspian was that the reports​4 of travellers and the maps of the Russian government showed that at many places there were extensive ruins. At Merv and at Balkh these ruins spread over many miles of territory; and while elsewhere they did not seem to be of so great extent, they are certainly very numerous, and spread out from the mountain passes and down the rivers toward the west in a way that is easily intelligible, but that, taken in connection with the other considerations of geography and history above referred to, is exciting and suggestive to the mind of the archaeologist. Judging from the map and from history, these places, while perhaps many of them are contemporary in their larger developments, will show different archaeological conditions. The valley of Ferghana, even now famous for its fertility and plentiful water supply, has, as is natural, traces of a more scattered population and sites of a less extent than one finds on the Murghab River. There, shut off from the outer world by a dangerous desert, Merv grew up in solitary grandeur, and doubtless displayed a civilization and arts rather less affected by foreign influence than Balkh or Samarcand. But, of course, excavation alone can prove the justness of this theory. Balkh was of chief importance as a centre of exchange. But she was manifestly less susceptible to foreign influence, and so her remains, if they are ever brought to light, will perhaps be less simple to understand and less clear in the evidence they give of the early civilization of this region than those of Merv.

In this regard Samarcand resembles Balkh; there we have actual evidence of  p199 things to give force to the general proposition, for terra-cottas and other works, to be described later, show that at least later she was very much influenced by the Greeks; and if later by one race, why not earlier by others? But Samarcand, on the Serafshan River, brings another fact before us. It is that, as was natural in this land of desert and waste mountain land, the vast majority of the remains are to be sought along the river banks. Wherever we went on our journey along the rivers, we were hardly out of sight of ruins at any time, — some greater and some smaller, but almost all of a character to suggest high antiquity.

In regard to future work, one point is noteworthy. It is that on the rivers, at a considerable distance below the modern towns, are visible the ruins of the ancient cities. Not that the large mass of ruins at Merv or at Samarcand are at any great distance from the modern cities, but that lower down the course of the stream than are these obvious remains are others of no mean proportions. The reason that they are lower, that larger and probably more recent remains are higher up, and that the modern towns are in turn higher still, is that the rivers carry less water than they did, and so their influence is not felt so far into the desert as it once was. The lack of water is due, Professor Pumpelly tells me, probably to the wearing down of the tops of the mountains, which catch the snow that forms the rivers, and the tilting up of the earth's crust from north to south in this region, which causes a diminution of force in the current of the stream and consequent greater evaporation along the higher reaches. This geologic process can, however, hardly be the explanation of the archaeological phenomenon noted. That is due probably, as Dr. Hogarth suggests to me, to the desire of the founders of new cities to avoid the ghosts and traditions of their predecessors and to get the first draw of the river water for their new gardens. The importance of this archaeologically is that when excavations are carried out, the mounds and ruins of less imposing appearance, the ones that are farther down the rivers and deeper in the present desert, ought to be ransacked, and may be expected to give up to us antiquities of greater age than the ruins nearer the modern cities.

In regard to the remains that have been found in past years and published, not much can be said. A small amount of more or less careful digging has been done, but the results have either not been published at all, or else in books and journals that are almost as difficult to get possession of as the antiquities themselves. The person who seems to have done the most was General Komaroff, but it seems probable, from what I was told, that his work was not of a very scientific character.​5 Other diggings, or rather scratchings, that I will speak of later, were made at Samarcand, but the diggers seem to have stopped long before they got to a level at which there could be reasonable expectation of finding anything important. They were stopped by what, certainly at Samarcand and probably elsewhere, will be one of the chief difficulties of the future excavators, and that is the immense amount of dirt that must be moved before the interesting and repaying levels are reached. This, however, is one of the frequent trials of the excavator, — to be overcome by a slight amount of persistence and money. Of antiquities themselves found in this region the most easily accessible  p200 collection is the so‑called "Treasure of the Oxus" in the British Museum. These objects are mostly bracelets, rings, figurines, and ornamental sheets of gold, and are published in Les Antiquités de la Russie Méridionale, figs. 298‑300, by Reinach, Kondakof, and Tolstoi. Interesting as these objects are, they are of late date, and do not carry us back to the earlier times, when, if not so rich, this region was unquestionably powerful and growing. It is not surprising in fact, it is to be expected — that objects found, as those now known as coming from the Transcaspian country, should not be of any great age. They have been found either by chance or by excavations that were neither very deep nor elaborate; and in this land of vast and wind-blown wastes the excavations that will bring to light the work and records of the earliest dwellers will have to be carried to uncommon depths. The history of the excavations by Schliemann and Dörpfeld at Troy affords good and familiar examples to illustrate the kind of work that the meteorological conditions of the Transcaspian will enforce.

Up to this point I have dealt largely with the general and abstract reasons which made it worth while to undertake a journey to these countries. By themselves it seems as though they would be sufficient to induce any archaeologist or archaeological society to undertake the work of thorough exploration, but additional reasons, drawn from observation on the spot, can be adduced.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of a trench cut by early‑20c archaeologists in a kurgan at Anau in Turkestan.]

Figure 1. — Trench cut in Kurgan at Anau

The ruins of which I am about to speak are all east of the Caspian, but whoever pursues further investigation there ought to be familiar with what has been found in the Caucasus, much of which is now in the excellent museum at Tiflis.​6 The remains in Turkestan bear a certain external resemblance to those of Mesopotamia. That is, there is visible little or nothing of stone, but where the towns once were are now great mounds formed by the collapse and weathering of sun-dried brick. These mounds, or kurgans, to use the native word, are found over the whole country, from the shores of the Caspian to the valley of Ferghana — wherever there was water.​7 To the south  p201 they are seen along the river Atrek; and at Gumbet-Kobous, some fifty versts south of Tschalui, are the extensive ruins of a city reported to be of Alexander's time, — the same report one hears of every ruin,​8 — while about 40 versts east of Tschalui are other ruins. Neither of these groups did I see, nor others that are found to the north along the Oxus, between Khiva and Chardjui. The first important kurgan9 that I had a chance to study was at Anau, a few miles east of Aschabad (Figs. 1, 2). This rather regularly conical mound, of perhaps 80 yards diameter, has had a trench dug through it from side to side. This trench was not sunk anything like deep enough to show the lowest parts of the kurgan, but its sides showed very distinctly a regular stratification, layers of ashes alternating with layers of earth, though the strata did not reach always across the whole mound. In two places near the top were possible traces of walls of sun-dried brick. In the sides of the trench were many bones of animals and bits of pottery, and some almost perfect large, coarse vases, or jars.​10 The bits of pottery were of red or black surface, unornamented, with the exception of a few pieces that showed roughly painted scrawls, but were so broken that it is impossible to say to what class they belong. None showed any slip. The larger jars seem to have been roughly hemispherical, to have had covers, to be ⅓ or ½ inch thick, and were made of a yellowish, imperfectly baked clay, with painted decoration on the outside. This  p203 decoration, of brown color, seemed to be of plain lines and stripes, or of bands with a kind of saw-tooth projection at irregular intervals which was not dissimilar to pottery made by some of the Indians in North and South Carolina. I saw none of these jars in the upper strata of the mound. They seemed to be in the middle, and from the close proximity of bones to some of them and the presence of ashes it seems that perhaps they were used for burial or sacrificial purposes.​11 No traces of metal, either of weapons or tools, were to be found, and only one bit of worked stone — a pebble some 8 inches in diameter, roughly flattened on two sides and rounded about the edges, with a hole bored through it. The lack of stone implements is one of the most noticeable archaeological phenomena of the country. In none of the museums that are being started nor in any private collection did I see any. Doubtless this is in part due to the fact that collectors, authorized or unauthorized, have been, up to the present, mainly concerned with the search for more exciting things than objects of stone; and even when such things as cornº-crushers are pointed out or taken to the authorities, they show little or no interest in them. Though little of manifest importance could be found in this mound at Anau, more than sufficient came to light to show that such mounds are worthy of very careful exploration. Besides searching for their contents, the relation of their strata to their outer surface and the relation of the bottom to the surrounding plain ought to be studied,  p205 as affording evidence of the original shape and size, the amount they have weathered, and their age.12

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Figure 2. — Kurgan at Anau

Near by this kurgan are the crumbling walls of a town deserted some hundred years ago because of the drying up of the water-supply. Among the houses is still standing a very beautiful façade of a madrassy; but the chief interest of the place is afforded by the evidence it gives of the rate of destruction of buildings of sun-dried brick when they are wasted merely by the hand of nature. The town of Baikent,​13 in the desert west of Bokhara, a town that was flourishing a thousand years ago, but was destroyed soon after, affords further evidence on the same point (Figs. 22, 23).


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Figure 22. — Ruins of Baikent

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Figure 23. — Ruins of Baikent

Beyond Anau one comes to Merv, where is the largest and most important group of ruins that we saw (Figs. 3‑6). They cover many square miles, and have been carefully mapped by the authorities of the Czar's estate, which is near by. They fall into four groups, the Mohammedan, the so‑called Alexandrian, the pre-Alexandrian, and then, separated by some miles from these three connected groups, are some very large mounds. Without digging, little can be said of the nature of the ruins. Lines of walls are perfectly evident, and in many of the crumbled heaps evidences of the sun-dried brick of which they were built are clearly seen. There was only one small excavator's trench that could be explored, and this was in a little mound in the oldest ruins. Pottery was visible in it, but nothing else. The finds of coins and gems of the Graeco-Persian and Alexandrian epochs made by the local antiquaries show  p206 that excavation here would afford a rich yield, and with so much of these epochs and with such an exceptionally large field of ruins and colours it cannot be doubted that this site is one of the most important for the investigation of the problems of the prehistoric archaeology of this country. It is not unlikely that the large mounds to the north of the chief mass of ruins will yield objects as important as anything to be found elsewhere; for they are evidently the remains of large settlements, and are lower down the course of the Murghab River, where the water used to flow before it lost itself in the desert sand, but no longer offers an oasis for cultivation. Other mound walls exist to the southeast, where, at a distance of about 50 versts, is a space some 10 versts long by 2 broad, surrounded by a ridge and crossed by two others, and having kurgans at most of the angles. From the lower end of the rectangle a long ridge projects about 20 versts southeast.


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Figure 3‑6. — Ruins at Merv

Between Merv and Bokhara mounds are not common, though near Charjui, on the Oxus, are some large ones, and they are reported to be numerous. This was to be expected, for this is the waterway that leads from Balkh. Just north of Balkh, at Termes, where the road to Bokhara and Samarcand crosses the river, are considerable and important ruins; but as this is one of the Russian outposts, which one must have a special permit to visit, I was unable to see them. They are reported to be in a measure of stone, and, considering the proximity of the mountains, this is likely, but it also probably means that they are of later date.

At Bokhara itself there seems to be little visible of great antiquity, though kurgans exist there as well as elsewhere. The bazaar offered a good opportunity for finding out whether many odds and ends of antiquities are found by the natives and brought there for sale. In this respect this bazaar and all the others I visited were very disappointing. The money dealers and jewellers could show scarcely any antiquities other than Mohammedan and Graeco-Persian coins or intaglios. Even Alexander's coinage was scarce. The poverty of the bazaar in respect to antiquities is probably to be explained partly by the facts that the natives as yet do not realize that any ancient  p208 objects except gems, coins, and objects in gold or silver have any value, and also, as there is but little agriculture, the soil is not turned over. While there was but little that was good to be found in the bazaar of Bokhara, there was a good deal that was bad, for this town is the centre of a thriving trade in forged coins and gems. The greater part are of Graeco-Persian or Graeco-Roman types and are very skilfully made; many of the gems have real charm of design and workman­ship.

Next to Merv the ruins of Samarcand were the largest in extent and the most interesting. They are of two classes: one, the kurgans, many of large size, that dot the plain south of the city; the other, the remains adjoining the city on the north, of the ancient Afrosiab (Figs. 7‑12).

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Figure 7. — Afrosiab from South

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Figure 8. — North Wall of Afrosiab, looking West along River

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Figure 9. — Gate (?) of Sun-dried Brick on North Side of Afrosiab


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Figure 10. — Market Place, Samarcand

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Figure 11. — View toward Samarcand from Summit of Afrosiab

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Figure 12. — West Wall of Afrosiab

The kurgans seem to be in no particular unusual. One of them, however, which had been used for some generations as a burial-place for a neighboring village, made one realize how careful excavators will need to be in sorting the contents of these mounds when the time comes to dig them. On the surface of this kurgan I picked up a flat stone corn-grinder. How this came to be among the graves is not easy to see, unless it had been turned up from inside the mound, where (as in a mound at Margellan) such objects sometimes occur in large numbers. In another mound near by that had been cut by rain and burrowed by treasure-hunters was found a granite pestle, the whole surface of which was rotted. It seems as though this must imply the lapse of a great length of time since the pestle was buried, though it is possible, I suppose, that some unusual strength of acid in the earth where it was found might have produced the same effect quickly.

But at Samarcand it is not these kurgans, but the ruins of Afrosiab, that offer the most  p210 interesting field to the excavator.​14 This site was examined in 1885 by M. Wesselofsky. The map made of these explorations shows that no really extensive or thorough work was undertaken, and the fact that the excavator found a large number of terra-cotta figurines of strange types, but could not explain their presence in the spot where they were found, shows that the work was haphazard. On finding such objects, the work ought to have been continued until it could be said whether these figurines were from graves or houses or potters' shops. Some definite evidence should have been sought. Many of these figurines of animals and human beings are in the museum at Samarcand (Fig. 13). The animals are for the most part of ruder work than the human figures, which latter might be divided into three or four distinct classes. There are very rude figures; then those that show Greek, Persian, or Chinese influence. These are small and solid, not baked hollow like the Tanagra figures. Besides these figurines, several small (about 2 feet × 1 foot) terra-cotta sarcophagi have been turned up from time to time near the ruins, but never, I believe, in the kurgans. One set was found in a sort of tunnel underneath a modern house. These are of late date, as can be seen from the heads or figures with which one side is generally decorated. They seem to have been used without covers, and to have contained only the scraped and boiled bones of the dead.​15 All the bones except the skulls, which seem not to have been buried with the rest, are present, and in some cases the bones of more than one person are found in one box. Coins and gems are said to be found frequently in the ruins. Of glass or bronze  p211 there was extremely little, either in the museums or in the bazaar. Neither here nor elsewhere did I see a single fragment of anything suggesting Egypt.


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Figure 13. — Figurines in the Museum at Samarcand

That the ruins hide much of interest cannot be doubted. They cover an area of about 1½ versts square, and consist of three chief parts, the Acropolis on the north, the walls, and the area between the walls and the Acropolis. The walls are well defined, and on the north and west are pierced by a tunnel. On the Acropolis, walls of sun-dried brick show in two or three gullies, while all over the rest of the area, wherever there is a trench or gully, one finds bones and pottery. The figurines are said to be found in the southern part of the area. The chief difficulty that the site will present to the excavator is the depth of soil to be removed before the most interesting levels are reached. In parts it is evident that as much as 20 or 30 feet will have to be carted away.

 p212  Beyond Samarcand I saw no other mass of ruins of equal extent, but at Tashkent are two large kurgans that afford special opportunities for studying their construction. One, near the railway station, has been cut into on the sides to get clay for bricks, and this has exposed in several places remains of walls of sun-dried brick close to the bottom of the mound. Bits of bone were scattered all through the earth, and in places were ashes and charcoal.

The second kurgan, to the northeast of the town, had had shafts dug in it some years ago, and it is evident that the interior of the mound has walls and passages running through it. Haphazard excavation to begin with and the grubbing of treasure-hunters has left this, as well as many other sites, in a condition that makes it almost impossible to form any definite ideas as to the original character of the mounds.

Though there are not so many ruins at Tashkent as in some other places, the museum, and above all the presence of two or three learned Russian officials, make it an important place to visit. General Poslovsky, whose knowledge and advice were of the greatest assistance, has a most interesting collection of coins, gems, and terra-cottas (Fig. 14), and is full of information concerning the history and ruins of the country.

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Figure 14. — Figurines: Collection of General Poslovsky at Tashkent

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Figure 15. — Jars from Kurgans: Tashkent Museum

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Figure 16. — Terra-cottas: Tashkent Museum

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Figure 17. — Figurine (about 18 inches high): Samarcand Museum

It was at Tashkent I first heard of the so‑called "Houses of the Magi," which are said to be buildings of stone and to exist at Tashkurgan (near Tschust) and on the road between Tashkent and Kokand. These two places may possibly be the same. It is incredibly difficult to get accurate information about such things in Turkestan, and when we finally reached Tchust no one had ever heard of "Houses of the Magi" or any other stone ruins. Considering the source of my information, I still believe  p213 they do exist. At any rate, Tschust is worth a visit, for to the southeast, on the high banks of the Syr Daria, are the ruins of Aksy (Figs. 20, 21), a large walled town, where Greek coins are said to have been found.


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Figure 20. — Ruins of Aksy

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Figure 21. — Ruins of Aksy

At Margellan, in the garden of the governor, is still another kurgan, which had been dug up and hence gave a chance to study its construction (Figs. 18, 19). Traces of walls of sun-dried brick were very apparent. These were near the bottom, while nearer the surface were several large,​16 undecorated terra-cotta jugs, which, judging by the human bones scattered around them, had been used as sarcophagi.17

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Figure 18. — Kurgan at Margellan
Destroyed to make brick.

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Figure 19. — Vase in Kurgan at Margellan

The use of the mound as a graveyard was not its only purpose, for it was evident, from the large number of corn-grinders and flat stones on which to grind the corn, that the mound had been dwelt on by a fairly numerous population. But of this population no further traces were visible, not even pottery.

The museum at Margellan contains little of interest to the archaeologist as yet, but there are two bits of pottery found in a kurgan different from any I saw elsewhere. One is a hemispherical cup, about 5 inches across, without handle and with the upper half decorated with checkerboard pattern in dark brown. The other is a fragment. It has the shape of a horse's(?) head and is decorated with lines of brown. In so far as it is an animal's head that is rudely represented, it recalls the figurines found at Afrosiab. In so far as clay and decoration go, these two pieces remind one of the heavier, coarser pottery at Anau.

Beyond Margellan one passes gradually out of the region of plains, where there are kurgans, and into the region of hills and rock-carvings. One of the last of the rock-carvings is at Kumgurissi, southeast of Osh, and in a mound there Chinese remains have been found. This is, as it were, an archaeological boundary stone, dividing Europe and the Orient. Of rock-carving I saw only those at Arivan, a small town near Osh. They represent men armed with bow and arrow, and horses, and are carved on a hard limestone rock. Others exist on the Kug-art River, east of Namangan. Though we  p216 followed the old trade route over the Taldyk Pass as far as Lake Kara Kul, and went up the Terek Pass as far as the water allowed, I neither saw nor heard of carvings, and the rock for the most part is so crumbly that I do not believe any exist. At Duschak, and near Arivan, are caves which are held in religious awe by the natives: by passing through the three chambers of the latter, one arrives, it is said, miraculously at Mecca. In these caves bones have been found, and though these bones are quite possibly modern, the caves ought to be carefully cleaned out.

To sum up: Religion, history, and commerce all point to the country east of the Caspian as one of the earliest settled and richest parts of Europe, and one with which our Western and more familiar Europe was intimately associated. The existent traces of this civilization are clearly marked. In some places, as Merv, Samarcand, or Balkh, are the remains where once dwelt a teeming population; elsewhere are mounds, where were smaller settlements, forts, or burial-places.

Irregular excavation has already brought to light much of two general kinds. One kind is the Alexandrian remains, and if for no other reason than to get a fuller understanding of Hellenism, that marvellous phase of human development brought about by the great Macedonian, this country ought to be ransacked. But an even deeper interest attaches to the earlier remains, — remains of metal and terra-cotta which can as yet be but partially understood, but that lead to the inevitable conclusion that much will be found of a period as old as any we know anything about, and that will help to fill up a gap in the earliest history of civilization that will tend to give us a completer understanding of all that came later. The work will be arduous. The kurgans must be mapped and cross-sectioned; Merv, Samarcand, and (if government jealousies ever make it possible) Balkh must be carefully excavated. Only in such city-sites will much be found, for nomads such as have always been the population of the greater part of Central Asia have no interest in accumulating material, nor time to perfect and elaborate their products. But though the mounds in the desert will doubtless contain simpler and fewer objects than the mounds near the cities, they will be of equal interest to the student of human development. Works pleasing to the mere aesthetic sense need not be expected, but considering the nature of the country, which, as in Mesopotamia, forced the inhabitants to develop the use of brick, and remembering that the lives of these people were given up to war and trade, we are justified in expecting to find written records.​18 A barrel full of these would, in our present state of knowledge, be worth more than another set of Elgin marbles. It took the courage of conviction to shovel away the mounds of Nimrud and Troy. Turkestan awaits her Layard and her Schliemann.

R. Norton

The Author's Notes:

1 My thanks are due to the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome for permitting me to leave Italy a few weeks before the official closing of the School. Furthermore, had it not been for the generous assistance of James Loeb, Esq., the trip could not have been undertaken. My plans were already made when I was asked by Professor Raphael Pumpelly to join a party led by him, which was being sent to the same country by the Carnegie Institution. This I was very glad, for practical reasons, to do, and now that the trip is over, to the practical reasons I add many others based on help and friendship shown me by him. I owe him much.

2 Tin mines are reported to exist in Afghanistan.

3 The New Empire, p4.

4 For example, O'Donovan's Merv and Ferrier's Travels.

5 See Petermann's Mittheilungen, 1889, p159.

6 See Die Sammlungen des Kaukasischen Museums, Bd. V.

7 Naturally, they are non-existent in the pure desert. Their great number suggests that a careful map of them might throw light on the former course of the Oxus and the extent of the Caspian and Aral seas.

8 For the ruins on the Atrek and the Giorgen, see Vambéry, Travels in Central Asia, pp52, 54.

9 The traveller needs to take care that he is led on no wild-goose chase by the free way the word kurgan is used in Turkestan. It seems to be applied to any mound the origin or use of which is not clear enough to suggest a more distinctive name, and bears no reference to date, size, or inner character. From inquiry and study of the excellent Russian maps it is plain that the kurgans of archaeological interest are to be found along all the river valleys.

10 Some of the bones gathered here and elsewhere were taken home by Professor Pumpelly for classification.

11 A serious difficulty is met in explaining the contents of these kurgans, for some of them have been used in recent times by the natives for burial or dwelling places. I noticed this at Margellan and Samarcand. Models in the Tiflis Museum of certain kurgans in the Caucasus show that in some cases bodies were buried in them and animals sacrificed at the same time.

12 For the general question of kurgans and their contents, cf. Schuyler's Turkestan, I, pp67, 68; Vambéry, Travels in Central Asia, pp56, 71.

13 Near the railway station of Iakkatut.

14 For antiquities found at Samarcand, see Reinach and others, Antiquités de la Russie Méridionale, pp353 f.

15 That the bones were boiled is proved, I am told, by the lack of the periosteum. Cf. Strabo, XI, 8, 6, and XI, 11, 8.

16 About 3 feet high and shaped like a Roman dolium.

17 Perhaps these should be compared with the sarcophagi found at Samarcand.

18 I had already come to this conclusion before I had read Ferrier's Caravan Journies. In this work, on page 207, the author, speaking of the bricks at Balkh, says, "On some, but they were very scarce, of which the quality was exceedingly fine and hard, almost equalling stone, I observed cuneiform characters."

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