The spring season of archeological excavations in Gonur-depe (the Karakum Etrap, the Mary Velayat) completed some weeks ago. For over 30 years the Margiana archeological expedition headed by a scientist, Laureate of the Magtymguly International Prize, Doctor of History, Professor Viktor Sarianidi has been conducting the archeological excavations in Turkmenistan. Viktor Sarianidi told about the archeological finds discovered this season.
“The people in Turkmenistan and other countries know the words from Ruhnama, “Two and a half thousand years ago Zarathushtra from Margush appeared in the world. Reining his sorrel camel he exclaimed, “People, worship Fire, its sources will lead you along the right path, illuminate each nook in your souls!” For all these years we have been uncovering the tangible evidence proving that there, in the old delta of the Murghab River, the oldest religion in the world Zoroastrianism emerged. The spring archelogical season ended in uncovering a monumental temple building near the central palace in Gonur-depe. The building is linked with the process of cooking a ritual drink of importance among ancient Zoroastrians which is mentioned Avesta as Haoma, the Indiain Rigveda Soma. The cult of the potion parised for energizing or intoxicating qualities was widely practiced in the Indo-Aryan world.
In the previous years of excavations the shrine Togoluk-21 excavated first among those identified with the process of cooking and the rituals praising the sacred potion was completely uncovered in the old delta of the Murghab River. However, the shrine Togolok-21 is dated to the mid-second millennium BC, and it has not been known so far whether the shrines of such kind existed earlier, i.e. at the late 3rd early 2nd millennia BC? Now, we have found the answer to the question of great scientific significance which has been rousing our curiosity for many years!
Thus, the large-scale archeological excavations of the detached archeological monument uncovered to the south of the Gonur palace resulted in discovering a monumental building remarkable for the strict geometrical forms and brilliant architectural design. The central part of the shrine which has the walls sometimes 1.5 metres thick and strictly oriented to the sides of horizon is of particular interest. The rooms have the complementary angles. The principles of planning some architectural blocks indicate the specific purposes of using the temple complex. E.g., three single-type corridor-like rooms directly correspond to the architectural design of monumental constructions in the ancient Orient.
The canonical combination of the rectangular and square rooms connected by the common passageways observed in the layout of the shrine. The separate rooms with the cult two-chamber furnace are of particular interest among the complicated suite of rooms which are empty for the most part. The furnaces were constructed simultaneously with the walls. The furnaces are parted inside into two chambers. One of the chambers are much burnt and was used as a fire-chamber, the adjacent chamber was used as an oven in which the meat of sacrificial animals was kept before it was treated. Such construction of cult furnaces solved a problem of cooking sacrificial food. The Indo-Aryans considered Fire to be pure’ element which should not contact anything impure and sinful, including meat. The curtain walls inside the cult furnaces should prevent fire from contamination by meat of sacrificial animals.
Excavations uncovered the isolated but very characteristic premises in which carefully made ceramic pot-stands were found. The inner walls of the vessels preserved the traces of coating that had prevented liquid from leaking. The similar pot-stands were discovered in other temple in Gonur which we call temenos’ that meant a scared place’ in ancient times. According to paleobotanists, the plants used for making Soma/Haoma were soaked in the vessels.
Another cult construction used for the similar purposes was excavated in the southeastern part of Gonur, near the royal necropolis. The fact that the temple is located outside the enclosing wall of the palace-temple ensemble can indicate its early construction, circa the late 3rd millennium BC. A rectangular yard with a furnace in the bay of the eastern wall is built in the centre of the small construction. Surrounded with the rooms from every side it vividly demonstrates the planning principle enclosed yard’ well known in the Eastern religious architecture. The most striking thing is a number of the vessels coated inside with gypsum and dug into the ground testifying that local people prepared Soma/Haoma too. Another evidence of performing the special rituals related to the Haoma cult in the building is the fragmentary finds including ceramic vessels with the images of a man stuck on the outer side and a frog primarily stuck on the inner side or the bottom of a vessel.
We had excavated the vessels of such kind before. An extant sample was uncovered in Togoluk-1. The sculptural elements of the cult vessels serve as the illustrations to myths and legends popular among the people of Margush. The vessels filled with liquid symbolize Water and Earth inhabited with various animals, birds and people.
The figurines found this spring absolutely identify those known before. We have no doubts on their similarity to the vessels of such kind. It is accepted, the Soma/Haoma cult trace back to the period of the Indo-European unity. Discovery of two shrines in Gonur North dated back to the 3rd-2nd millennia BC clearly attest to that the rituals related to the Soma/Haoma cult were quite popular among the indigenous tribes among which the oldest religion Zoroastrianism emerged.
These and many other points of interest to archeologists, experts in religion, Indo-European linguistics and other specific disciplines will be discussed at the International Scientific Conference “Margiana a New Centre of World Civilization”. The conference will be held in Ashgabat and Mary this autumn and will be a scientific event of international importance. The leading specialists in ancient history from many countries will give their views on our archeological research in the country of Margush and I am convinced that by the concerted efforts we will find the answers to a number of yet undiscovered mysteries.