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Tuesday, 27 June 2006
Gemstones of Turkmenistan
Topic: Environment & ecology
Turkmenistan is rich in the gemstones deposits and occurrences. Many of Turkmen gemstones are well-known to collectors and connoisseurs in our country and abroad. The most famous one is the Karluk marble onyx deposit located in the Gaurdag-Kugitang region in the very east of Turkmenistan. By its colour and beauty of natural ornaments marble onyx has no analogues all over the world. Onyx is a banded variety of chalcedony. The colours of its bands are brown (varying from semi-transparent yellow to dark brown) and white. Onyx occurs in the caves as various dripstones and it is used for making souvenirs – caskets, candlesticks, vases. The stones of remarkable beauty are used for making jewelry. The beautiful druses of gypsum, calcite and aragonite crystals occur in the Kugitang caves.

Turkmenistan is also famous for the Beyneu celestine deposit located in the north-west of Turkmenistan. The transparent blue crystals (up to 2-3 cm in length) fill the cavities in the mass pink celestine layers from 5 cm to and 15-20 and more. The Beyneu celestine is very spectacular and popular among collectors and connoisseurs.

The Kafigshem occurrence of quartz-chalcedonic geodes are located in the north of the Tuarkyr Mountains. The Tuarkyr geodes are the wonderful collection stones. They occurred in the stratified rocks dated back to the upper Jurassic period. The geodes composed of chalcedony for the most part have the cavities with internal quartz and calcite crystal formations.

The geodes can form in any cavities that are buried. Mineral substances from groundwater or hydrothermal solutions allowed crystals to form inside the hollow chamber. Over millions of years the geodes make its way back to the surface through normal geologic processes. Their forms and shades of colour vary - making each geode unique. The beauty of stones is revealed when polished displaying the unique play of various colours and shades. They have the round shape and sizes which vary from 2-3 cm to 25-30 cm. The geodes composed of chalcedony for the most part are hollow. Usually the cavities are formed from rock crystals and amethystine quartz crystals. Besides calcite crystals, rarely blue calcite, barite and gypsum and acicular crystals of hydrate of iron occur in the cavities. The colour of chalcedonic shell is white, gray, rarely bluish, yellow and brown in various combinations. The geodes in the Kafigshem occurrences are the wonderful collection materials and decorative stones, brooches, pendants, necklaces and other jewelry are made from agathic diversities.

A jasper occurrence is located near the settlement of Kyzyl-Kaya (Tuarkyr). Turkmen jasper has rare saturated colours varying from yellow to red. Its gaily colored layers alternate with the dark-grey streaks of adjoining rock creating the landscape drawing. Tuarkyr jasper can be used for making jewellery.

Fossilized wood that is of particular interest to collectors and connoisseurs occurred in the Tuarkyr deposits. Fossilized tree occurred in the deposits of the Jurassic (170 millions years) and the Permian (260 millions years) periods.

Turkmenistan: the Golden Age
24 June, 2006

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 12:16 PM
Monday, 19 June 2006
Professor V. I. Sarianidi: ?The First World Religion ? Zoroastrianism Emerged in Turkmenistan?
Topic: Turkmen History

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. 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 over 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 in 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.

State News Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH)

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 11:09 AM
Monday, 5 June 2006
Homespun Silk

Every time she starts her work on the weaving loom Keyik Geldimuhamedova apeals to Goddess Ashe Patma, the saint patroness of female fancy-work. This is a request to bless her laborious work so that threads don't become entangled and the cloth doesn't get spoiled. Her mother, grandmother and great grandmother used to offer this prayer before the start of work. Being from the village of Sunche, a settlement famous for silk fabrics where silkworm breeding has been flourishing since the ancient times, Keyik dayza, the hereditary weaver by origin, has devoted over sixty years to making wonderful and unrepeatable fabric "keteni" having taken over the secrets of this old and uneasy trade from her mother in the childhood.

Turkmenistan is home to the homespun silk cloth "keteni". The weather conditions of the region have always promoted cultivating high grade mulberry plantations. From times immemorial, Turkmens have been successfully dealing with silkworm breeding. Owing to its durability, brightness and beauty of design, their homespun fabric was very valued and was in big demand not only among the local population.

One of the peculiarities of "keteni" cloth is its coloring that is determined by the quality of dyers. Using the ancient technology, fabric was dyed primarily with natural dyers distinguished by the intensity of tones, extreme durability and ecological purity. Producing natural and mineral paints is a complicated occupation requiring certain knowledge. While preparing the dyers, it is necessary to observe balance in weights strictly. For this purpose, Turkmens used special scales. As a result of dyeing, the cloth acquires not only new coloring but a particular strength.

Since times immemorial, the preference was given to the red color throughout Turkmenistan. According to local beliefs, the red color possesses magic qualities, protects from the evil forces. In addition, the Turkmen people have always identified the red color with something beautiful and joyous. Red color was especially popular among girls and children. In general, the clothes of youth were bright, whereas older people wore rather modestly colored clothes.

Madder is one of the sources of the red color for Turkmen masters. This plant has been cultivated since the old times. It gives good yields on salty soil where other plants don't grow. To get blue and light-blue colorings the Indian blue nil is used. In the dyeing production the pomegranate peels, onion peel and tea are also applied. The color range of keteni cloth turned out by Turkmen weavers is very diverse. Master Keyik Geldimuhamedova's palette alone includes 18 colors.

To fasten the cloth women used alum and to whiten it potash and coal ash that gave the fabric unusual whiteness. Starch boiled from wheat flour was also used in the textile production. Specially treated, starched and glossed, "keteni" produces charming impression of the divine fabric, radiates luster and wealth. One feels indescribable trepidation emanating from it. Even smell and rustling of the cloth cast a spell.

Both Turkmen men and women have been wearing keteni garments since ancient times. If men's fashion was limited to shirts only, women found broader application of the homespun silk cloth making the whole wardrobe of dresses and headscarves of it. Coverlets, turbans and child-wear were also spun from the yarn. Keteni dresses still make up a bride's traditional attire and continue to fulfill the primary role to make a young lady irresistibly beautiful and, thus, happy.

As was mentioned, the silk cloth "keteni" has always been popular and fashionable among people. Nowadays, it literary experiences the second birth. The boom of this fabric is observed in the Turkmen fashion industry. Shops that any recognized center of world fashion could envy are being opened in Ashgabat. Wonderful dresses in various styles, beautiful shawls with hand-made embroidery, woven lady handbags, bags for cosmetics, headscarves and kerchiefs are of perfect quality, thought-out to details and can satisfy the taste of the most demanding fashionable woman.

Today, like in old times, making "keteni" cloth remains mostly a home-made trade. This work, like any manual labor, is extremely laborious and labor intensive. Turkmen women still use the old spinning looms "tara" that have been preserved since ancient times and produce high quality articles striking by their perfection of decoration. It is enough to look at "duypli gynach", a triangular shawl reaching 3 meters at the base and sewn from woven stripes of different colorings of the red color in combination with white, blue and green colors. The external side of the shawl has a multilayer woven ornament also made at "tara" looms. Technically, ornamental weaving is much more complex than embroidery. It requires accuracy and knack, because the ornament is facing ground when being woven. Adapting to such conditions, women use a mirror during the work to see that the symmetry of the classical ornament is not broken.

Women fancy-work has been the most important part of the Turkmen people's daily life. Nowadays, the Turkmen women carefully preserve and creatively develop the local traditions of weaving. Keyik Geldimuhamedova's five daughters followed their mother's track and are occupied with sewing articles from "keteni".

Ajap BAIRIEVA, Ethnographer, Doctor of History

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 4:53 PM
The Charm of Repetek
Topic: Environment & ecology

The Karakum desert may seem lifeless and dismal only to a man who has never been there. It is felt particularly strongly in Repetek, one of the most interesting and life-rich areas of the Karakum desert. The diversity of vegetation and animal life, magnificence of Repetek landscapes captivates even the experienced traveler. Not surprisingly, it is here that the first reserve in Turkmenistan was established almost eight decades ago. In 1979, on UNESCO's decision, the Repetek Reserve gained the status of the biosphere preserve and thereby was included in the list of the internationally recognized models of natural ecosystems.

The unique nature of this region attracts many scientists' attention. Such eminent specialists as geneticist Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov and founder of the contemporary soil science Vasiliy Vasilyevich Dokuchaev used to work in the Reserve. A Russian scientist and fiction writer, Vladimir Afanasyevich Obruchev, famous for his novels "The land of Sannikov" and "Plutonia" was here, and dozens of other outstanding scientists and men of arts stayed in the Reserve. Early last century, the famous geographer and traveler Pyotr Petrovich Semenov Tyan-Shanskiy was charmed by these places.

It can't be otherwise. Repetek is a place where on the relatively small territory one can see practically all forms of the Karakum's sandy landscape which, by the way, are natural to other big and small deserts of the world. It turns out that the sandy landscape can be dune-like, ridge-like and hilly. It is impossible to enumerate all possible variations. Part of the reserve carrying clear and resembling name "Repetek Sahara" is particularly striking. Once you are there, you lose the feeling of reality. It is so eye-catching. Dunes rise around in quaintly stark waves with their tops crowned by the thinnest yellow muslin - thousands of grains of sand disturbed by a blow of wind and stylishly lightened by bright sun rays. One can roam for hours in this fantastic realm of sand as if painted by an impressionist artist. No matter how big the dunes are, but this is exactly the way the restless wind moves them from one place to the other at its whim, sorting out these sand hills by each grain of sand. So, coming back to this place later, one may not recognize a seemingly well known landscape.

It is truly amazing that connoisseurs can find their way out in this vast desert, not only among moving sands, but in the wide-spread saxaul forests. The grove "Yaman tokay" located not far from "Sahara" is one of them. Like in other groves, ordinary trees, large enough and not so high, with branchy tops grow here. However, under the canopy of these crowns you will not find a habitual forest shade. Instead of leaves, saxaul has delicate green twigs. Thanks to them, the tree can easily stand the heat of summer, which sometimes warms the sandy surface up to 80 degrees Celsius. It is nothing else but a natural stove. It is not by chance that Repetek is ranked among the hottest parts of the planet and called a "pole of heat". In the summer, it is a scorching heat here!

Spring is quite different. It is a time when the desert gets rid of the winter numbness and takes on the splendid emerald clothing. It doesn't look like a desert at this time of the year. It is more like a blossoming garden. Bright red poppies, yellow flowers of gipecuum are scattered, as if by one's generous hand, in great number on the green carpet of sandy sedge, ilaka, under the canopy of transparent saxaul forest. Tidy bushes of astragalus seem violet due to the abundance of flowers emitting unrepeatable fragrance. Delicate rosettes of fresh ferule, as if created by skilful hands of lace-makers, are all around. The bushes of kandym, full of yellow flowers that by the summer turn to the bright fluffy balls, the plant's fruits, grow here as well. Like many other desert plants, kandym has no leaves. Instead, it has green twigs. The local rhubarb is quite a different plant. Its leaves sometimes grow to big sizes, up to a meter and a half. Another amazing tree of the desert is sandy silvery acacia, a slender 6-7 m high tree reminiscent of a weeping willow, but not a green one. It dares to grow among free-flowing dunes and is not afraid of being buried under the thickness of sand.

Scientists found out that the Karakum is the most reproductive desert of our planet. Interestingly, the higher the temperature is, as high as 50-60 degrees Celsius, the more effective is the functioning of its ecosystem. The fact that almost four hundred species of mushrooms, the lower and higher plants, more than half of the Karakum desert vegetation, grow here attests to the richness of flora of the Repetek Reserve.

The animal life of Repetek is also rich and diverse. There are almost 1.5 thousand species of invertebrates - beetles, butterflies, spiders and other small creatures. Among them are the ones that became of invaluable use for science. For instance, one of local darkling beetles was lucky to take part in ... the space travel. The astronaut beetle stood the test of flight, provided scientists with valuable information necessary for assessing the possibilities of long interplanetary expeditions. Poisonous insects of Repetek deserve special attention. A small and seemingly ordinary spider, karakurt, with venom 8-10 times stronger than that of cobra, turns out to be the most dangerous insect as compared to menacing scorpion, phalanx and tarantula.

Repetek is home to over 90 per cent of species of birds, reptiles and mammals, over 250 species of vertebrate animals, inhabiting the Karakum desert. Among reptiles one can come across a tortoise, a living fortress, a sandy and big-eared toad agama and a gecko, a fan of night adventures. There is also an opportunity to get acquainted with a dozen of snake species, almost half of the number of species inhabiting Turkmenistan. A pride of the reserve, Central Asian cobra, a beautiful and noble snake always warning a careless traveler of its presence, is also among them.

When facing a cobra as well as a phoorsa it is necessary to be careful and observe the "rules of etiquette", for they are poisonous. Repetek is also home to such an "imposing" reptile as a grey giant lizard. By the way, it is the biggest lizard in the country. Taking into consideration its menacing appearance, it is deservingly called a "crocodile of the desert".

Over 200 species of birds can come across in the very heart of the burning Karakum. A surprising fact is that among them are waterfowl attracted by reservoirs formed in the sandy quarries in the outskirts of Repetek. Such birds as saxaul jay, which is ideally adapted to the conditions of dry climate, cannot do without the desert. However, the birds of prey are rightfully considered the most imposing and famous birds of Repetek. A golden eagle, one of the largest eagles in the country, has become the decoration of the Reserve. A saker falcon and long-legged buzzard also impress with their menacing appearance. Watching a pigeon-size kestrel, a small but very deft hunter, is also interesting. A long-eared owl and a horned owl become the masters of skies at night.

Gnawing animals as cheek-weeds, gophers, jerboas are the most numerous among the mammals in Repetek. It is they that leave flowery patterns-rebuses on the sand restlessly unraveled by environmental specialists.

A tolai hare, one of the typical inhabitants of the desert, is frequently come across. There are also predators as a sand cat and a fox - a character of fairy tales. A rare desert predator, caracal (lynx), lives in the reserve too. It is an intelligent and reticent animal. To see it in the desert is a great luck. Gazelles, slender and long legged antelopes and a real decoration of the fauna of the country, are one the rarest and beautiful inhabitants of Repetek. In 2001, a special farm was set up to breed and rear the gazelles in the reserve.

The Repetek Reserve of the Ministry of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan is one of the numerous astonishing and wonderful natural corners of the Karakum, a land of bright sun, "golden" dunes and saxaul forests. This world-second desert has preserved its exceptional individuality and originality till nowadays, in many respects due to the centuries-old ability of the Turkmen people to live in harmony with the nature of the native land.
Today that traditions are being revived and environmental scientists are concerned with preserving the virgin beauty of Repetek, we would like to believe that decades and hundreds of years later the journey to the fairytale Turkmen desert will still be a real discovery for everyone.

Viktor OLGIN
Turkmenistan Analytic Magazine

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 4:50 PM
Sunday, 8 January 2006
The History Captured in Stone
Topic: Environment & ecology
The palaeontological finds, footsteps of dinosaurs (aged 140 million years) and petrified footsteps of camels and other animals (aged 2.5 million years), teeth and bones of elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses and other animals as well as the shell of ostrich’s eggs found between Hazar (Cheleken) and Koytendag and dating 60-80 million years ago attest that the territory of Turkmenistan mainly occupied by the desert was a blooming oasis in the ancient times.

One of the most ancient sites in the territory of Asia is located in the upper reaches of the Amu Darya River in the Kuldere Ravine the age of which is 800,000 years. The ancient tools aged 1 mln –800,000 years were discovered in the Western Kopetdag in the Sumbar and the Chandyr Valley.

Southern Turkmenistan was included into the most ancient area of people’s settling in Asia. This territory is also a habitat of the Bactrian camel. The animal’s bones were uncovered in the Anau Northern mound in the cultural strata (V millennium B.C.) and the terracotta figurines of camel in the archaeological complexes dating back to the 3rd – 2nd millennia B.C. Thus, Turkmenistan was one of the ancient centres of domestication of this animal that can be proved by the archaeological finds of the wild camel’s footsteps discovered in the geological strata in the Western Kopetdag aged 2.5 million years.

The science hasn’t found the actual proofs of the time when the people domesticated the camel. The ancient farmers of Southern Turkmenistan used camels and horses as draft animals even in the 4th – 3rd millennia B.C. that can proved by the archaeological materials. The finds of the remains of camels in the Tummekkichijik and the Dashlyburun burial grounds (Northern Turkmenistan) dating back to IV millennium B.C. attest that the people used camels as draft animals throughout the area.

Camels posses such valuable qualities as high carrying capacity and endurance, the animal adapts itself to the severe desert conditions. Its wool is used for making national cloth and its meat is a foodstuff. Selecting the new varieties depends on the animal’s role in the human economic activities. But the Bactrian camel is incomparable with no other animal in its endurance and speed as well as beauty.

The footsteps of vertebrate animals were discovered in some areas within the Western Kopetdag Mountains of the Neogene Age (about 2.5 million years ago). A sandstone lump weighing about 70-100 tons that was discovered in the Gyavurli settlement is one of the most important ancient natural monuments imprinting the camels’ footsteps.

These footsteps have no analogues in the world and are the property of the world historical science. The activities on research in and protection of the unique natural monuments and organisation of the tours to the area are stipulated by the National Environmental Action Plan of Turkmenistan (NEAP). 245 monuments under protection are inscribed in the list of the natural monuments in Turkmenistan.

Archaeologist, Doctor of History

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 12:21 PM
Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2006 12:23 PM

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