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10 2008



Direttore I Editor in chief Antonio Invernizzi

Comitate scientifico I Scientific Committee Michael Alram, Wien Paul Bernard, Paris A. D. H. Bivar, London Edward Da^browa, Krakow Hideo Fujii, Tokyo f Bernard Goldman, Michigan Ernie Haerinck, Gent Dietrich Huff, Berlin Gennadij A. Koselenko, Moskva fHELEEN Sancisi-Weerdenburg, Utrecht A. Schmidt-Colinet, Wien

Redazione scientifico. I Editorial Assistant Carlo Lippolis Si prega di inviare manoscritti, dattiloscritti e stampati e la posta redazional e al seguente indirizzo: dott. Carlo Lippolis, Dipartimento di Scienze Antropologiche, Archeologiche e St orico-Territoriali, Via Giolitti 2i/b, i 10123 Torino. I testi originali di contributi e/o recensioni sottoposti all'attenzione della r edazione scientifica non saranno restituiti. Contributors are kindly requested to send manuscripts, typescripts, print-outs a nd correspondence to the following address: dr. Carlo Lippolis, Dipartimento di Scienze Antropologiche, A rcheologiche e Storico-Territoriali, Via Giolitti 21 /e, i 10123 Turin, Italy.

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Registrazione presso il Tribunale di Pisa n. 12 del 21 luglio 1999 Direttore responsabile: Fabrizio Serra

THE PARTHIAN SETTLEMENTS IN THE SERAKHS OASIS Barbara Kaim* The Serakhs oasis is situated in Southern Turkmenistan in the sub-delta of the T edjen river. In the past, the region of the Serakhs oasis was densely populated as it is evidenc ed by numerous large and small mounds, marking the remains of ancient settlements, scattered in the arable fields and steppe areas. The main administrative centre of the oasis is the modern town of Serakhs. Back in 1832 the last inhabitants were forced to leave Old Serakhs, the ruins of whic h are visible on the southern outskirts of the modern town. The outstanding geographic feature of the Serakhs oasis are great aridity and agriculture and, thus, a stable water supply is impossible without irrigation. The main water source for the Serakhs oasis is the Tedjen river, formed by the c onfluence of the Hari Rud, which originates in the Kuh-e Baba range in Central Afghanistan and fl ows through the Heart oasis, and the Kushaf Rud, which begins in North-Eastern Iran. After leavi ng the hills of the Badhyz, the Tedjen crosses the Serakhs oasis (Fig. 1) and flows northward to the Inklab oasis near the present town of Tedjen, before disappearing into the sands of the Kara Qum d esert. The river peaks usually in March-April and completely dries out by the end of June, leavin g only a chain of

small lakes fed by springs. Sources for the history of the region are rather scanty and laconic. There are m any references by the Islamic authors, but most of them report that a certain traveller passed thr ough, while more detailed information about the social and economic conditions of the oasis are v ery rare exceptions. Our knowledge of the history of the oasis in pre-Islamic times is nothing more t han some suggestions such as those concerning the identification of toponyms found in classical sources. Igor Khlopin has suggested that Old Serakhs could be identified with Artakoana, one o f the cities of Aria, described by Isidore of Charax as a fortress where the Persian satrap Sati barzanes revolted against Alexander. 1 According to G. Walser, the weakness of Khlopin's hypothesi s is, that there are not remains of the Achaemenid period in Old Serakhs. 2 Though this objection cou ld be rejected, additional evidence is needed to confirm Khlopin's identification. There is no d oubt however, that the region was incorporated into the growing Parthian Empire, and remained a par t of the Sasanian domains. The first information about the Serakhs oasis had been coming into Europe during the first half of the 19 th century as a result of Britain's growing involvement in Khorasan. T he tsar's emissaries appeared there soon after. After i860, for the first time, the name 'Old Serakhs ' occurred to differentiate it from Iranian Serakhs built on the left bank of the Tedjen. The first archaeological investigation in Old Serakhs only started in 1953 under the direction of A. A. Maruscenko, who surveyed the site and drew a schematic plan. Two trial tre nches were excavated in an attempt to reconstruct the history of the site. In the trench laid out in the perimeter of the large citadel, arq, Maruscenko did uncover the remains of a fortification wall of pise which he dated to the Achaemenid period. The results of the second trench which was al most 12 meters deep and laid out in the northern part of the shahristan, allowed him to date th e earliest settlement there also to the Achaemenid period. 3 hi 1953-1956, a team of the Jutake (The Complex Archaeological Expedition of Sou th Turkmenistan) directed by K. A. Abdykov studied the sites situated along the road th at links Serakhs and Merv. Abdykov was able to identify several sites located there with the road-sta tions mentioned by Muslim authors. 4

* Institute of Archaeology, Warsaw University. 2 Walser 1985, 151-152.

3 Maruscenko 1956. 1 Khlopin 1977, 153-154. 4 Abdykov 1959. PARTHICA 10 2008


Barbara Kaim


The first archaeological survey in the region, complemented with several trial trenches was carried out in 1964-1970 by O. Orazov 5 Since 1996, the Polish-Turkmen archaeological expedition works in the Serakhs oasis, on the site of Mele Hairam, where the ruins of a Zoroastrian fire temple were discovered. 6 In 2007, a comprehensive re-survey of the oasis area was undertaken by the Polish-Turkmen team. 7 One of the main aims of our research concerns the definition of the chronological sequence and the reconstruction of the main irrigation systems. During the 2007 season, about 30 archeological sites were identified and documented in the south-eastern part of the oasis. The present paper provides preliminary remarks about the settlement pattern in the Serakhs oasis during the Parthian period, based on the results of previous research and of the first season of the Polish-Turkmen Archaeological Survey of the Serakhs oasis. An attempt at a reconstruction of a settlement pattern so closely bound with the irrigation network evidently requires the reconstruction of the palaeo-geomorphological and hy drological features of the region. It is generally accepted that a process of progressive desi ccation started in Central Asia during the middle Pleistocene and continued up to the present, with oc casional minor fluctuations to moister phases. Referring to the Holocene, a first wet transgres sion happened between the sixth and the 4 th millennium bc: it built lacustrine landscapes and h uman niches in areas where now only deserts and takyr formations exist. 8 The lacustrine landscape wa s observed also in the Serakhs oasis during the geomorphological survey done by the Institute of Ge ography of the Warsaw University.

Irrigation system in the Serakhs oasis is based on the Tedjen, the rain-fed rive r which is totally dependent on yearly climatic changes and shows very unstable behavior. It is pos sible to distinguish two main stages of irrigation systems based on the Tedjen river: 1. The regulation of the Tedjen river started in the 4 th millennium bc from the northern final distributaries of the delta where the water flow was milder and much easier to c ontrol. Defensive settlements were established at that time in the Geoksyur oasis situated in the second sub-delta of the Tedjen. Irrigation channels, several kilometers long, were constructed by th e farmers. 9 The oasis was abandoned in the 3 rd millennium bc and never re-colonized to any larg e extent. The possible reason of such change could be shrinkage of the delta as the result of a p rocess of progressive climate change. 2. By the first half of the i st millennium the irrigation practices shifted def initely upstream where waters were more abundant. The trunk canal called by Salyr-yap the local people was constructed on the right bank of the Tedjen in the place where the river goes up the Badhyz massive. About 10 km downstream, the channel feeds two secondary branches, the Khana-yap and the C araman-yap, and a few kilometers further down, the Salyr-yap bifurcates into the Kici-aga-ya p and Ata-yap trunk canals, from which a network of laterals derives.

5 Orazov 1973. 6 Kaim 2002, 2004. 7 This project is supported by Grant N10900731/0426 awarded by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

Stamp 1961, Aubekerov 2002. Kohl 1984, 85-88.

The Parthian settlements in the Serakhs oasis 131 O. Orazov has discovered two sites dated by pottery fragments to the Achaemenid period: Movlek depe on the Kici-aga-yap canal, about 60 km from its head and Besh-depe a bout 1.5 km east from Tedjen and in a similar distance from the Ata-yap canal, 37 km from its hea d. Pottery of that period was found also at Akca-qala depe, situated on one of the channels flowing from the Kici-agayap. Another site of that period, Topaz-depe, was discovered during the systemat ic survey conducted by the Polish-Turkmen team in 2007, near a channel which also derives fro

m the Kici-agayap. This discovery allows to expect the existence of some others sites of Achae menid period along the Kici-aga-yap system, which irrigated a considerably larger area than it was assumed previously. If so, it is also possible that from the 7 th century bc Old Serakhs was an impo rtant center, controlling the distribution of the waters of the Kici-aga-yap channel. Neither the survey carried out by O. Orazov nor the results of the research of t he Polish-Turkmen team brought any evidence of a the Hellenistic and early Parthian occupation of the Serakhs oasis. Nevertheless, military invasions probably were not responsible for this e vident decline of settlement, because no sign of a catastrophe has been discovered on the sites th at have been investigated. Although there are no written sources for that period, it is possible to suppose that after Alexander's conquest, the region of the Serakhs oasis shared the fate of nearby Margia na. The presence in Margiana of Seleucid and Graeco-Bactrian coins as well as of Seleucid fortifi cation works remodeled during the Hellenistic period, 10 confirms the political influence and the rule of the Hellenistic lords in this area. However, there is not one Seleucid or Graeco-Bac trian coin found in the Serakhs oasis. This perfectly conforms to the settlement gap from the 4 th c entury bc to the 2 nd i st centuries bc at least, which is suggested by archaeological research, with possible exception for Old Serakhs. 11 It is probably useful to remind here the ancient accounts of the beginnings of t he Parthian Empire, given by Strabo (xi, 9 (515 C)) and Justin (xli, 4). According to them, be fore invading Parthia, the Parni tribe was settled in the valley of the Ochus, the river commonly ident ified with the Tedjen. Although the precise cause is not known, it is possible to suppose that the irri gation system of the Serakhs oasis fell down some time after the collapse of the Achaemenid Empir e. Then, the region became a part of the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom, but was probably occupied mai nly by people leading a (semi)nomadic life, when the nomadic tribes of the Parni finally appea red here. The resettlement of the Serakhs oasis can be connected with the incorporation of Margi ana and Aria into the expanding Parthian State, in the mid-2 nd century bc. Even if it is still uncertain whether the Serakhs oasis was a part of Aria or Margiana, it could be supposed that it share d their fate, being located between these two provinces. Late Parthian pottery was found at several sites, such as Old Serakhs, Agacly-de pe, Mengli-depe,

Akca-depe, Ogulnyaz-depe, Djigirdekli-depe and Guirukly-depe all within the Kici -aga-yap system. O. Orazov found in Old Serakhs several coins of the Merv local rulers. Late Part hian pottery and coins were also found between the bricks of the walls of the temple of fire at M ele Hairam. Except for Mele Heiram, none of the above mentioned sites was excavated more extensivel y than the small soundings carried out by O. Orazov at Ogulnyaz-depe and Agacly-depe. 12 Ogulnyaz-depe (n 36.611364, e 61.29753) is now an irregular mound measuring appr oximately 90x85 m at the base and about 4.5 m in height (Fig. 2). O. Orazov records the pr esence of a defensive wall, 2.5 m wide, preserved to the height of 3.5 m. and made of square sundried bricks (4441x10-11 cm). The small number of pottery fragments found on the surface and the lack of evidence for later occupation suggest that the site was abandoned approximately in the 3 rd century ad. To the late Parthian period can be dated the earliest occupation at Agacly-depe (n 36.50535 e 61.26610) (Fig. 3). Below remains of constructions dated to early Islamic period , O. Orazov did un-

10 Herrmann, Kurbansakhatov, Simpson et alii 2001; tic shapes for that period ar e missing among the fragments Smirnova 2007. illustrated in his publication (Maruscenko 1956, tabl. 17). 11 A. A. Maruscenko reported the finding of pottery frag- 12 Orazov 1973, 43-44. ments dated to the 3 rd -i st centuries bc; however, the diagnos-


Barbara Kaim

: KMtijy tci 25m

Fig. 2.

The Parthian settlements in the Serakhs oasis


H-N 39.50535 EB1.2BS1D

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Fig. 3.

134 Barbara Kaim earth a defensive wall, about 2 m wide, built of square bricks (39x39x10 cm). Th e relatively small size of the explored sites and above all the presence of defensive walls could p oint out to rural manor houses. This supposition should be checked by excavation, of course, but i t seems probable at the light of our present knowledge of the Parthian period. There is some evidence that Parthian sites are present also within the Carman-ya p system, not yet fully explored by the Polish-Turkmen team. If so, one could expect a large P arthian center there, where the Carman-yap leaves the Salyr-yap trunk channel. Old Serakhs however sti ll played an important role. Concluding these preliminary remarks, we could suggest that the trunk channels o f the new irrigation system built (or rebuilt, as in the case of the Kici-aga-yap) during th e late Parthian period were much shorter than the previous ones, but irrigated an area greatly expanded . At the same time, settlements grew in number and size, witnessing to a significant increase of population and land reclamation. Bibliography Adykov K. A. - 1959, Glavnye stansii na srednevekovom torgovom puti t Serakhsa v Merv (Po arkh eologicheskim dannym) [The main stations on the medieval trade road from Serakhs to Merv], Sovetskaja Arheol ogija, 4, 212-227. Aubekerov B., Sala R., Nigmatova S. - 2002, Atmospheric circulation in Northern Tienshan during the Quaternary perio d. Report at the plenary session of the international conference High latitude paleoenvironments, pages, 16. v. 200 2. Herrmann G., Kurbansakhatov K., Simpson StJ. etalii - 2001, The international Merv Project Preliminary Report on the Ninth Season (2 000), Iran, 39, 14-16. Kaim B.

- 2002, Un temple dufeu Sassanide decouvert a Mele Hairam, Turkmenistan Meridion al, Studia Iranica, 30, 215-230. Kaim B. - 2004, Ancient Fire Temples in the light of the discovery at Mele Hairam, Iran, 3 9, 323-338. Khlopin I. - 1977, Die Reiseroute Isidors von Charax und die Oberen Satrapien Parthiens, dr anica Antiqua, 12, 117-165. Kohl P. L. - 1984, Central Asia: Paleolithic beginnings to the Iron Age, Paris. Maruscenko A. A. - 1956, Staryi Serakhs (Old Serakhs) Trudy iiae an tssr, 1, 161-2.16. Orazov O. - 1973, Arheologiceske i arhitekturnye pamiatniki Serakhskogo oasisa, Ashabad. Smirnova N. - 2007, Some Questions Regarding the Numismatics of Pre-Islamic Merv, in J. Crib b, G. Herrmann (eds.), After Alexander: Central Asia before Islam, Oxford, 377-388. Stamp D. (ed.) - 1961, A history of land use in arid regions, Paris, unesco. Walser G. - 1985, Die Route des Isidorus von Charax durch Iran, Archaologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, 18, 145-156.

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SOMMARIO Antonio Invernizzi, On the occasion of the 6o' h anniversary of the discovery of the Nisa rhytons 9 Vadim M. Masson, The discovery of the Parthian rhytons in the Royal Treasury at Old Nisa 19 Edward D4BR0 wa, The political propaganda of the first Arsacids and its targets (from Arsaces I to Mithradates II) 25 Victor N. Pilipko, The Central Ensemble of the fortress Mihrdaikirt. Layout and chronology 33 Carlo Lippolis, Vito Messina, Preliminary report on the 200J Italian excavations in Parthian Nisa 53 Eleonora Pappalardo, The rhyton no. 52 from Old Nisa. An interpretative proposal 63 Niccolo Manassero, The tetes coupees on the cornices of the Nisa rhyta. Nothing to do with Dionysus? 81 Vasif A. Gaibov, Gennadij A. Koselenko, A horseman charging afoot-soldier: a new subject in Parthian glyptic art 99

Gabriele Puschnigg, Hellenistic echoes in Parthian Merv: transformation and adap tation in the ceramic repertoire 109 Barbara Kaim, The Parthian settlements in the Serakhs oasis 129 Kazim A. Abdullaev, A Bactrian gold buckle with the contest between a hero and a centaur (HeraMes andNessos?) 135 Gli autori di questo numero 15 1 Tavole 153