HISTORICAL & ARCHITECTURAL MONUMENTS OF MARY

Merv (Turkmen: Merw, Persian: مرو‎‎, Marv), formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana (Greek: Ἀντιόχεια τῆς Μαργιανῆς), was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan.

Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of culture and politics at a site of major strategic value. It is claimed that Merv was briefly the largest city in the world in the 12th century.[1] The site of ancient Merv has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Merv is currently the focus of the Ancient Merv Project (initially as the International Merv Project).[18] From 1992 to 2000, a joint team of archaeologists from Turkmenistan and the UK have made remarkable discoveries. In 2001, a new collaboration was started between the Institute of Archaeology, University College London and the Turkmen authorities.[citation needed] This Ancient Merv Project is concerned with the complex conservation and management issues posed by this remarkable site, furthering our understanding of the site through archaeological research, and disseminating the results of the work to the widest possible audience.

Remains

Merv consists of a few discrete walled cities very near to each other, each of which was constructed on uninhabited land by builders of different eras, used, and then abandoned and never rebuilt. Four walled cities correspond to the chief periods of Merv's importance: the oldest, Erkgala, corresponds to Achaemenid Merv, and is the smallest of the three. Gäwürgala (also known as Gyaur Gala), which surrounds Erkgala, comprises the Hellenistic and Sassanian metropolis and also served as an industrial suburb to the Abbasid/Seljuk city, Soltangala – by far the largest of the three. The smaller Timurid city was founded a short distance to the south and is now called Abdyllahangala. Various other ancient buildings are scattered between and around these four cities; all of the sites are preserved in the “Ancient Merv Archaeological Park” just north of the modern village of Baýramaly and thirty kilometers east of the large Soviet-built city of Mary (Herrmann 1993).

Erk Gala

Erk Gala (from Persian, "the citadel fort") is the oldest part of the city of Merv complex. Built in the 7th century BC Erk Gala was built as aPersian Style fortress controlling the oasis on the Murghab River.[19] The Erk Gala fortress later served as the acropolis for the Hellenistic city and later the Arc of the Islamic city.

Gäwürgala

The foundation of Gäwürgala (Turkmen take from Persian "Gabr Qala" ("Fortress of the Zoroastrians") occurred in the early Hellenistic era under the rule of the Seleucid king Antiochus I. The city was continuously inhabited under a series of Hellenistic rulers, by the Parthians, and subsequently under the Sassanids, who made it the capital of a satrapy. Gäwürgala was the capital of the Umayyad province of Khurasanand grew in importance as Khurasan became the most loyally Muslim part of the Iranian world during Islam's first two centuries.

Gäwürgala's most visible remaining structures are its defensive installations. Three walls, one built atop the next, are in evidence. A Seleucid wall, graduated in the interior and straight on the exterior, forms a platform for the second, larger wall, built of mudbricks and stepped on the interior. The form of this wall is similar to other Hellenistic fortresses found in Anatolia, though this unique for being made of mud-brick instead of stone. The third wall is possibly Sassanian and is built of larger bricks (Williams 2002). Surrounding the wall was a variety of pottery sherds, particularly Parthian ones. The size of these fortifications are evidence of Merv's importance during the pre-Islamic era; no pre-Islamic fortifications of comparable size have been found anywhere in the Garagum. Gäwürgala is also important for the vast amount of numismatic data that it has revealed; an unbroken series of Sassanian coins has been found there, hinting the extraordinary political stability of this period.

Even after the foundation of Soltangala by Abu Muslim at the start of the Abbasid dynasty, Gäwürgala persisted as a suburb of the larger Soltangala. In Gäwürgala are concentrated many Abbasid-era "industrial" buildings: pottery kilns, steel, iron and copper-working workshops and so on. A well-preserved pottery kiln has an intact vaulted arch support and a square firepit. Gyaur Gala seems to have been the craftsmens' quarters throughout the Abbasid and pre-Seljuk periods (Herrmann, "Seventh Season" 13).

Soltangala

Soltangala (from Sultan Qala, the sultan's fortress) is by far the largest of Merv's cities. Textual sources (Herrmann 1999) establish that it was Abu Muslim, the leader of the Abbasid rebellion, who symbolized the beginning of the new Caliphate by commissioning monumental structures to the west of the Gäwürgala walls, in what then became Soltangala. The area was quickly walled and became the core of medieval Merv; centuries of prosperity which followed are attested to by the many Abbasid-era köshks discovered in and outside of Soltangala. Kushks (Persian, Kushk, "pavilion", "kiosk"), which comprise the chief remains of Abbasid Merv, are a building type unique to Central Asia during this period. A kind of semi-fortified two-story palace whose corrugated walls give it a unique and striking appearance, köshks were the residences of Merv's elite. The second story of these structures comprised living quarters; the first story may have been used for storage. Parapets lined the roof, which was often used for living quarters as well. Merv's largest and best-preserved Abbasid köşk is the Greater Gyzgala (Turkmen, "maiden's fortress"), located just outside the Soltangala's western wall; this structure consisted of 17 rooms surrounding a central courtyard. The nearby Lesser Gyzgala had extraordinarily thick walls with deep corrugations, as well as multiple interior stairways leading to second-story living quarters. All of Merv's kushks are in precarious states of preservation (Herrmann 1999).

However, the most important of Soltangala's surviving buildings are Seljuk constructions. In the 11th century CE, the nomadic Oghuz Turks, formerly vassals of theKhwarazmshah in the northern steppes, began to move southward under the leadership of the Seljuk clan and its ruler Togrul Beg. Togrul's conquest of Merv in 1037 revitalized the city; under his descendants, especially Sanjar, who made it his residence, Merv found itself at the center of a large multicultural empire.

Evidence of this prosperity is found throughout the Soltangala. Many of these are concentrated in Soltangala's citadel, the Shahryar Ark (Persian, "the Sovereign's citadel") of the, located on its east side. In the center of the Sharhryar Ark is located the Seljuk palace probably built by Sanjar. The surviving mud brick walls lead to the conclusion that this palace, relatively small, was composed of tall single-story rooms surrounding a central court along with four axial iwans at the entrance to each side (Ettinghausen 276). Low areas nearby seem to indicate a large garden which included an artificial lake; similar gardens were found in other Central Asian palaces (Williams 2002). Any remnants of interior or exterior decoration have been lost due to erosion or theft.

Another notable Seljuk structure within the Shahryar Ark is the kepderihana (from Persian, "Kaftar Khana, or "pigeon house", i.e., thecolumbarium). This mysterious building, among the best-preserved in the whole Merv oasis, comprises one long and narrow windowless room with many tiers of niches across the walls. It is believed by some [sources] that the kepter khana (there are more elsewhere in Merv and Central Asia) was indeed a pigeon roost used to raise pigeons, in order to collect their dung which is used in growing the melons for which Merv was famous. Others, just as justifiably (Herrmann 1999), see the kepderihanas as libraries or treasuries, due to their location in high status areas next to important structures.

The best-preserved of all the structures in Merv is the 12th-century mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, also in Sultan Gala. It is the largest of Seljuk mausoleums and is also the first dated mosque-mausoleum complex, a form which was later to become common. It is square, 27 meters per side, with two entrances on opposite sides; a large central dome supported by an octagonal system of ribs and arches covers the interior (Ettinghausen 270). The dome's exterior was turquoise, and its height made it quite imposing; it was said that approaching caravans could see the mausoleum while still a day's march from the city. The mausoleum's decoration, in typical early Seljuk style, was conservative, with interior stucco work and geometric brick decoration, now mainly lost, on the outside (Ettinghausen 271). With the exception of the recently "reconstructed" exterior decoration, the mausoleum is largely intact, and remains, just as is in the 12th century.

A final set of Seljuk remains are the walls of the Soltangala. These fortifications, which in large part still remain, began as eight-to-nine-metre-high (26 to 30 ft) mud brick structures, inside of which were chambers for defenders to shoot arrows from. There were horseshoe-shaped towers every 15 to 35 metres (49 to 115 ft). These walls, however, did not prove to be effective because they were not of adequate thickness to withstand catapults and other artillery. By the mid-12th century, the galleries were filled in, and the wall was greatly strengthened. A secondary, smaller wall was built in front of the Soltangala's main wall, and finally the medieval city's suburbs – known today as Isgendergala – were enclosed by a 5-metre-thick (16 ft) wall. The three walls sufficed to hold off the Mongol army for at least one of its offensives, before ultimately succumbing in 1221.

Many ceramics have also been recovered from the Abbasid and Seljuk eras, primarily from Gäwürgala, the city walls of Soltangala, and the Shahryar Ark. The Gäwürgala ware was primarily late Abbasid, and it consisted primarily of red slip-painted bowls with geometric designs. The pottery recovered from the Sultan Gala walls is dominated by 11th–12th-century color-splashed yellow and green pottery, similar to contemporary styles common in Nishapur (Herrmann 2000). Turquoise and black bowls were discovered in the Shahryar Ark palace, as well as an interesting deposit of Mongol-style pottery perhaps related to the city's unsuccessful re-foundation under the Il-khans. Also from this era is a ceramic mask used for decorating walls found among the ruins of what is believed – not without controversy – to be a Mongol-built Buddhist temple in the southern suburbs of Sultan Gala.

Shaim Kala

Shaim Kala was built in the 7th century AD. As the capital of Khurasan, Merv became a centre for Arab expansion, and Merv began to grow until briefly the largest city in the world during the 12th century. Shaim Kala was a self-contained walled city intended to relieve the over-crowding, and to deal with religious and political discontent of the newly arrived peoples.

Abdyllahangala

Abdyllahangala is the post medieval Timrid era city to the south of the main complex

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TAGTABAZAR – EKEGOWAK CAVE TOWN

Yekegowak - is a State historical and architectural reserve, located 225 kilometers from Bairam-Ali in the district of Tagta-Bazar. Tahta-Bazar -is a district where once passed great caravan routes from Iran, Khorasan. Yekedeshik -is a unique and spectacular cave that doesn't have any analogues anywhere else. 

The word "Yekegowak" - from Turkmen language means "ONE CAVE" because of it's only one entrance. In the spring period one can see here open land covered with lots of tulips and field mushrooms. The emergence of this cave is a mystery and there are many versions of how it appeared. According to one of them cave was dug by the legions of A. Macedonian army. As a consequence people used the cave as a dwelling. Inside the cave there are blocs of rooms similar to modern ones where one can see bedrooms, kitchens and others. The cave consists of two floors. On the lower floor people collected water for their needs. There are 44 rooms and the cave is still under archeological excavations to nowadays. 

The cave has been carved by of axe-like tools in the rock of sandstone. A straight, 37 meters long corridor comes up against niche which resembles an altar. On the right and the left there are rectangular rooms and one of them, almost quadrate in plan (3,2X3,3 m) has a spherical ceiling, divided into four segments relief ribs and a dome, the narrow drum of which is decorated with the ornament in the shape of an arcade, and in the keystone there is a cylindrical "skylight" with inserted a stylized rose-window. The idea that Ekegowak was a monastery, has been suggested by S. Khmelnitsky. He reminds that more or less organized complexes of artificial caves serve in Central Asia as monasteries - usually of Buddhists, sometimes of Christians. There are more reasons to regard the cave erections of Tagtabazar as a Buddhist complex, a great number of which remained in the neighboring Afganistan

 

 

 

Map of Turkmenistan