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The Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta Studies and Reports Series Editors: Annageldy Gubaev, Gennady A. Koshelenko and Maurizio Tosi

Volume II

The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age in the Margiana Lowlands Facts and methodological proposals for a redefinition of the research strategies Edited by

Sandro Salvatori and Maurizio Tosi with the editorial collaboration of

Barbara Cerasetti

BAR International Series 1806 2008


This title published by Archaeopress Publishers of British Archaeological Reports Gordon House 276 Banbury Road Oxford OX2 7ED England bar@archaeopress.com www.archaeopress.com

BAR S1806 The Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta. Studies and Reports Series Editors: Annageldy Gubaev, Gennady A. Koshelenko and Maurizio Tosi

Volume II. The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age in the Margiana Lowlands: Facts and methodological proposals for a redefinition of the research strategies Š the individual authors 2008 ISBN 978 1 4073 0293 5 Translated by Martha Innocenti

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Editorial Note We have used for the transliteration from Cyrillic the system of the Library of Congress without diacritics, mainly to facilate the research on WEB. We would like to thank Gabriella Elina Imposti, Associate Professor of Russian Language and Literature of University of Bologna, for her suggestions to write this editorial note and to consult the book Albertazzi S. and D. Possamai (2002). Postmodernism and Postcolonialism. Proceedings of the Conference held in Bologna, October 5th, 2001. Padova. For local place-names we have used, when possible, the most accepted form in the English language archaeological literature. In other cases the Russian names were preferred instead of the Turkmen ones, because the local archaeological literature was produced in the Russian language.


Table of Contents Field Participants................................................................................................................................................ iv In Memoria of Iminjan Suleymanovich Masimov 1940-2006............................................................................ v Introduction.......................................................................................................................................................... x Sandro Salvatori and Maurizio Tosi Section A) Research Methods and Computer Aided Archaeology in Margiana 1. Transects and Other Techniques for Systematic Sampling.............................................................................. 1 Maurizio Cattani and Sandro Salvatori Introduction.................................................................................................................................................... 1 The Activities of the “Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta” Project.................................................. 1 Appendix...................................................................................................................................................... 15 2. A GIS for the Archaeology of the Murghab Delta......................................................................................... 29 Barbara Cerasetti Introduction.................................................................................................................................................. 29 A First Setting of the Informative Archaeological Map: the GIS and the Remote Sensing Data................ 29 Main Research Applications......................................................................................................................... 31 Conclusions.................................................................................................................................................. 34 3. The Murghab Delta in Central Asia 1990-2001: the GIS from Research Resource to a Reasoning Tool for the Study of Settlement Change in Long-Term Fluctuations.......................................... 39 Maurizio Cattani, Barbara Cerasetti, Sandro Salvatori and Maurizio Tosi Introduction.................................................................................................................................................. 39 The Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta........................................................................................... 40 Intrusive Camp‑site Scatters of Alien Pastoralists....................................................................................... 42 The GIS as a Tool for Model Building and Research Planning................................................................... 44 4. Non-graphic Information Systems and Diachronic Transformations in Margiana........................................ 47 Joshua Wright Introduction.................................................................................................................................................. 47 Environmental Change: Shifts in the Alluvium and Desert......................................................................... 48 Site Size Dynamics....................................................................................................................................... 48 Site Continuity across Periods..................................................................................................................... 49 Water Control and Access............................................................................................................................ 50 Self-Organised Criticality: the Nature of Intersite Connections in Margiana.............................................. 50 Method......................................................................................................................................................... 52 Discussion.................................................................................................................................................... 54 Section B) Middle and Late Bronze Age 5. The Margiana Settlement Pattern from the Middle Bronze Age to the ParthianSasanian Period: a Contribution to the Study of Complexity............................................................................ 57 Sandro Salvatori Introduction.................................................................................................................................................. 57 Middle Bronze Age ..................................................................................................................................... 59 Late Bronze Age........................................................................................................................................... 63 Iron Age........................................................................................................................................................ 67 Conclusions.................................................................................................................................................. 71 6. Cultural Variability in the Bronze Age Oxus Civilisation and its Relations with the Surrounding Regions of Central Asia and Iran.................................................................................................. 75 Sandro Salvatori Introduction.................................................................................................................................................. 75 Middle Bronze Age...................................................................................................................................... 77 Architecture............................................................................................................................................ 77 Pottery.................................................................................................................................................... 78 i


Anthropomorphic Terracotta Figurines.................................................................................................. 78 Compartmented Bronze Seals . .............................................................................................................. 79 Cylinder Seals (Margiana, Bactria, Indus Valley, Iran)......................................................................... 80 Metal Phials, Parade Axes, Palettes, Applicators for Cosmetics . ........................................................ 80 Chlorite Containers................................................................................................................................ 82 Chlorite Phials........................................................................................................................................ 84 Alabaster Vessels.................................................................................................................................... 87 Small Stone Columns and Rods.............................................................................................................. 88 Small Columns.................................................................................................................................. 88 Subcylindrical Stone Rods................................................................................................................ 90 Late Bronze Age........................................................................................................................................... 90 Architecture............................................................................................................................................ 91 Pottery.................................................................................................................................................... 91 Glyptic.................................................................................................................................................... 92 Conclusions.................................................................................................................................................. 93 7. Unpublished Stamp-seals from the North-western Murghab Delta............................................................... 99 Iminjan S. Masimov † and Sandro Salvatori 8. A New Cylinder Seal from Ancient Margiana: Cultural Exchange and Syncretism in a “World Wide Trade System” at the End of the 3rd Millennium BC...........................................................111 Sandro Salvatori Section C) Final Bronze Age 9. Excavations at Sites No. 1211 and 1219 (Final Bronze Age)...................................................................... 119 Maurizio Cattani Palaeo-environmental Context of the Murghab Delta in the Bronze Age and the Definition of its Cultural Aspects............................................................................................................... 119 Surface Analysis and Topographical Notes within the Site....................................................................... 120 The Archaeological Excavation................................................................................................................. 121 Excavation in the Late Bronze Age Built-up Area. Site No. 1219............................................................. 126 10. The Final Phase of the Bronze Age and the “Andronovo Question” in Margiana.................................... 133 Maurizio Cattani Introduction................................................................................................................................................ 133 Method of the Research.............................................................................................................................. 133 The Environmental Context of Present-day Margiana............................................................................... 134 Types of Late Bronze Age Finds................................................................................................................ 136 Catalogue of ICW Sites.............................................................................................................................. 143 Chronology of the Finds in the Murghab Delta......................................................................................... 146 Cultural Setting: the Relationship between ICW and the Andronovo Horizon......................................... 146 Conclusions................................................................................................................................................ 147 Section D) The Iron Age 11. An Aspect of the Early Iron Age (Yaz I) Period in Margiana: Ceramic Production at Site No. 999......... 153 Gian Luca Bonora and Massimo Vidale Introduction................................................................................................................................................ 153 Previous Research...................................................................................................................................... 153 Archaeological Background....................................................................................................................... 155 The Early Iron Age Settlement Pattern in the Murghab Delta................................................................... 156 Growth of Social Complexity: Was Wittfogel Right? . ............................................................................. 158 Chronology................................................................................................................................................. 159 Monitoring Craft Production: Ancient Kilns in the Soviet Archaeological Literature ............................. 159 Yaz I Pottery: Preliminary Descriptions..................................................................................................... 161 A Short Survey of Site No. 999.................................................................................................................. 162 The Site...................................................................................................................................................... 164 Surface Survey and Activity Areas ........................................................................................................... 164 Ceramics..................................................................................................................................................... 165 Catalogue of Potsherds Collected on the Surface...................................................................................... 166 ii


Comparisons and Some Chronological Implication................................................................................... 176 Ceramic Technology ................................................................................................................................. 178 Excavation Trenches: a Trashing Ground and a Pottery-firing Kiln.......................................................... 181 Discussion ................................................................................................................................................. 186 The Kiln: Technical Features .................................................................................................................... 187 Conclusions ............................................................................................................................................... 189 12. Iron-working and Ceramic Recycling on the Surface of a Late Iron Age Fort at the North-eastern Fringe of the Murghab Delta..................................................................................................... 195 Massimo Vidale, Enrico Battistella and Giuseppe Guida Introduction................................................................................................................................................ 195 Fortifications and Craft Areas as Observed on Surface.............................................................................. 197 Iron-working Activity Areas....................................................................................................................... 198 The Archaeological Record of Iron Working: Spatial Patterning and General Remarks........................... 202 Analytical Tests.......................................................................................................................................... 204 Internal Structure of Smelting Slag, Slag Drops and Hammering Scales.................................................. 205 Quantitative Chemical Analysis................................................................................................................. 209 EDXRF Analysis........................................................................................................................................ 209 XRD Analysis............................................................................................................................................. 209 Iron Production at Site No. 172. Hypothetical Reconstruction.................................................................. 210 Recycling of Pottery by Chipping. The Evidence of Grog Production...................................................... 212 Pottery Collected on Surface...................................................................................................................... 216 Buff Ware................................................................................................................................................... 216 Coarse Chaff-tempered Containers and Walls........................................................................................... 219 Coarse Grog-tempered Ware...................................................................................................................... 219 13. An Egyptian Vessel at Site No. 203........................................................................................................... 221 Sabina Malgora Introduction................................................................................................................................................ 221 Stone Vessel................................................................................................................................................ 221 Basalt.......................................................................................................................................................... 221 Literature.................................................................................................................................................... 223

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Field Participants

Name Amanliev N. Annaev A. Babaev A. Bairamov A. Bakyeva O. Byashimova N. S. Bonora G. L. Carli M. Castellani V. †Cattani M. Cerasetti B. Genchi F. Genito B. Gubaev A. G. Gundogdyev O. Khodzhaniyazov T. Kurbanov A. Leoni E. Masimov I. S. † Menghi E. Muradova E. Pedrelli R. Putzolu C. Radovich A. Salvatori S. Tosi M. Tuzzato S. Udeumuradov B. N. Usai D. Vidale M. Zanfini M. Zheldakova A.

Nationality Turkmen Turkmen Turkmen Turkmen Turkmen Turkmen Italian Italian Italian Italian Italian Italian Italian Turkmen Turkmen Turkmen Turkmen Italian Turkmen Italian Turkmen Italian Italian Turkmen Italian Italian Italian Turkmen Italian Italian Italian Russian

Speciality Student Archaeologist Archaeologist Student Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Physicist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Surveyor Surveyor Student Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Archaeologist Surveyor Student

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2005 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X

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Chapter 3 The Murghab Delta in Central Asia 1990-2001: the GIS from Research Resource to a Reasoning Tool for the Study of Settlement Change in Long-Term Fluctuations Maurizio Cattani, Barbara Cerasetti, Sandro Salvatori and Maurizio Tosi Introduction

Oasis to the east (Figure 3.1). Similar in its layout to an open hand, the system is divided into a lower or “palmshaped” section to the south, where continuous cultivations form a true “Mesopotamia”, and an upper section with the lower channels radiating like “fingers” towards the north and flowing across dry sediments and desert sands. At present these branches form sequels of oases that extend the cultivated lands by approximately other 30-40 km. The fluctuations of the delta landscape during the Holocene can be analysed on the basis of the dimensions and relative proportions of these four divisions.

The Murghab River drains the northernmost corrugations of the Hindu Kush along the southern borders of Central Asia, forming a medium-sized land-locked fertile corridor between the highlands of Afghanistan and the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. Once out of the narrow mountain valleys, the Murghab receives the last tributary waters, and its course runs northwards for other 150 km, encased in the lime‑stone basement and in a series of Pleistocene gravel conoids. As the gradients descend towards the shallow lowlands, the river fans out into a delta that irrigates a flood plain of some 35,000 sq km, divided by the elongated shallow waters of the Dzhar swamp into two distinctive sub‑systems: the Aravali Delta to the west and the Merv

Water and silt have turned the Murghab Delta into one of the largest farm‑lands of Central Asia, and into a propulsive area in the formation of the early Iranian Civilisation.

Figure 3.1 The Murghab Delta: simplified general map of natural channels and ancient irrigation networks. Note the irrigation sub‑system around Merv fed by the Sultan-ab water collector, probably built in Iron Age times.

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M. Cattani, B. Cerasetti, S. Salvatori and M. Tosi Known to the Greeks as Margianaē or Margiana in Latin, the country is first mentioned as Margush in the lists of the provinces ruled by the Achaemenid king of kings since the end of the 6th century BC. After Alexander’s conquest in 332 BC and the opening of direct trade relations with China, Margiana developed as a nodal point along the Silk Road. Trade and industry made its capital Merv, founded around 500 BC a legendary place: after the Arab conquest, the city gave its name to the whole region. Today its ruins form an impressive compound of different cities, covering an area of several hundred hectares: in 1997 UNESCO added it to the World Heritage List (Herrmann et al. 2000).

towards north-north-west, from a maximum height of 250 m asl at the breaking point in Iolotan to a minimum height of 170 m asl at the end of the water flows near the caravanserai of Sheikh Mansur, 200 km downstream. The Murghab buried hundreds of sites under several metres of silt. The only reliable window of observation over some considerable sections of fossil landscapes were left behind by a southward retreat of the delta, presumably after 1000 BC, and probably in connection with the creation of the Sultan-ab water collector and the vast irrigation schemes around Merv (Figure 3.1). This area of higher visibility extends for some 140 km east-west and 200 km northsouth across the eastern delta, between latitudes 37°20’ - 38°40’ N and 61°20’ - 62°20’ E, about 200 m asl. The exposed surfaces are fine alluvial sediments that were farmed during most of the 2nd millennium BC, occupied by mounds and shallow sites of the Late Bronze Age, while earlier ones of the Middle Bronze Age are mostly buried under silt.

Archaeological surveys and excavation works began in the nineteen-fifties and were focused on the upper and lower sections of the eastern delta, in connection to Merv and its close surroundings (Masson 1959; Masimov 1979; Sarianidi 1990; Gubaev et al. 1998). Not surprisingly, explorations revealed that the history of agriculture and settlement in the Murghab Delta had begun in later prehistoric times, long before the foundation of Merv. The earliest evidence dates to the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, in the Early Bronze Age (Sarianidi 1990). Like all the other alluvial flood plains across the arid lands between the Aral Sea and the Indian Ocean, the Murghab Delta was an area of convergence in the complex political and cultural developments that accompanied the emergence of early states and urban societies east of Mesopotamia and of the Iranian Plateau (Tosi et al. 1992; Sarianidi 1993; Hiebert and Lamberg-Karlovsky 1992).

Immediately to the south of this area, only the Iron Age sites become visible, while Bronze Age ones lie 2 to 4 metres below the present ground level. Further southwards, Parthian and Sasanian mounds dominate the skyline, and neither Iron Age nor Bronze Age sites can be detected, even in the exposed sections of irrigation canals; this suggests that the early levels are buried more than 5 metres below. Northwards, the situation does not improve. Between and beyond the present channels of the open fan, the visibility of the ancient irrigated farmlands is almost totally hindered by the southward-moving sands of the Karakum, which cover all signs of prehistoric occupation with a continuous blanket.

It is a well-established assumption among archaeologists and historians that in dry alluvial lowlands, settlement fluctuations are almost exclusively related to irrigation and agricultural productivity. Since irrigation requires, besides water, the organisation of human labour, the scale of the irrigation works is expected to be related to the level of political complexity. Settlement hierarchies and the projected sizes of the related farm‑lands have long been considered direct signatures for scaling the magnitude of political systems. The limited extension and relative isolation of the Murghab Delta provide ideal conditions for testing these theoretical assumptions. Large-scale irrigation works altered the layout of the delta several times during the Late Holocene, from the emergence of early states around 3000 BC to the most radical transformations brought about by the Soviet Power after 1960 with the construction of the Karakum Canal, the largest water‑works scheme ever carried through.

The Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta In its original formulation, The Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta1 was designed to carry out the systematic recording of sites and palaeo‑channels across the Merv oasis, before most of them disappeared because of the expansion of the irrigation works for the Karakum Canal. Its straightforward aim was to reconstruct landscape and settlement variations along the traditional research lines established by R. McC. Adams in the Mesopotamian lowlands (Adams 1965) and by J.-C. Gardin in Northern Afghanistan (Gardin 1980). After the very first seasons it became evident that in the north a very large number of earlier sites was buried under sand or silt, while among the later Parthian-Sasanian and Medieval ones in the south only the higher mounds had survived the intensification

What distinguished the Murghab Delta from other landlocked alluvial areas in Middle Asia was its relative stability during the Holocene. Its branching water courses were far less erratic than those of Helmand or Tarim, and as a consequence of this there are no vast fossil landscapes dotted with surviving ghost towns, as in Seistan or Xingjian. The result was that over the past 5000 years the sediments built up a stair-like sequence of descending platforms

The Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta was originally designed as a joint research project by the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IARAS) in Moscow, the State University of Turkmenistan (TSU) in Ashgabat, the Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient (IsIAO) in Rome and the University of Naples “L’Orientale” in Naples. 1

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The Murghab Delta in Central Asia 1990-2001 of agriculture. There was no possibility of developing any reliable reconstruction of the agricultural landscape or of drawing a population estimate from the settlement data. However, though on the one hand visibility was critically limited, on the other hand the technical means of survey work had been radically improved by the “geonomics revolution” that hit archaeology in the early nineteennineties. GPS were available to us from the third field‑work season, together with Total Stations directly linked to computers powered by a variety of softwares for recording and handling very large amounts of data. A second wave of technical improvements came from new developments in the satellite imagery made available to the public: on the one hand higher-resolution images ensured the direct visibility of medium-to-large sites, on the other hand the US Government released the CORONA images dating to the nineteen-sixties, before the transformations brought about by the construction of the Karakum Canal.

archaeological aspects that emerged as the survey revealed the high level of preservation in the best-exposed sections of the delta country. Rules and parameters had to be redefined. First of all, the fact that – with various degrees of density – artefacts are ubiquitous across the flood‑plain whenever even a small patch of alluvial soil is exposed among the sands, made the distinction between site and non-site became a matter of discriminatory thresholds, to be arbitrarily determined after an evaluation of the context. The fact is that the stability of the delta has allowed the preservation of the least conspicuous settlement remains: most of them, 70-80% of the surfaces identified as sites, were shallow scatters of artefacts with deposits less than 1 metre high. Mounds still reveal the remains of central or important settlements, marking their rank, because their mass derived from brick platforms or other monumental remains. They can be used as nodal points in Thiessen Polygons or any other Central Place Theory (CPT) representation, but no population estimates could be made beyond the narrow limits of the micro-regional dimension, left exposed between the sand and the silt. We wonder to what extent we can rely on earlier survey works in other alluvial lowlands in south-west Asia, if they were based on population estimates based on an evaluation of the number of mounds.

Quite obviously the project had to be radically re-organised: from a systematic documentation work and a quite linear historical reconstruction, it was turned into a complex web of methodological issues. This was not the only motivation for changing the first framework of the project. The complexities faced by the working teams were exponentially increased by the

Figure 3.2 The Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta. Transects carried in Togolok and Takhirbai areas. Legend: graduated size circles according number of sherds; symbols and polygons = Late Bronze Age sites; dotted area = massive aeolian sands; meander lines = ancient river‑beds recognized from aerial photographs; enclosed green areas = takyr playas; straight lines = modern canals.

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M. Cattani, B. Cerasetti, S. Salvatori and M. Tosi Systematic walking transects were carried out across the exposed section of the Merv Delta between couples of main sites, counting sherds per standard units of surface (Figure 3.2). The resulting intersection lattice allowed the definition of settlement spaces and their functional repartition into different classes of indicators, along the lines developed for the Middle East by T. J. Wilkinson (1982, 1989). Figure 3.2 indicates some of several transects carried out in the Murghab Delta survey. In the best-detailed area, between Togolok and south of Takhirbai 3, five different transects connect central points in the settlement lattice. From Togolok 1 to Sites No. 126-148, sherd counting allowed us to disarticulate the complex aggregations forming the MBA-LBA centre of Togolok (Site No. 190) and to identify some secondary small sites, for a better reconstruction of the rural landscape. It also made it possible to view the edge of alluvial deposits that hide Bronze Age settlements towards the south. Between Sites No. 148 and 126, an increasing density of potsherds corresponds to the first settlement complexes of the Achaemenid period. Similar evidence, with the exclusive presence of Iron Age pottery, is attested in the transect carried out between Sites No. 148 and 64 (Takhirbai 1). More transects were carried out in order to evaluate the impact of aeolian sands in the LBA, focusing on the lack of settlements (transect between Sites No. 638 and 172), or on the presence of Andronovo sites in desert zones (transect between Sites No. 64 and 972). Furthermore, the transect between Sites No. 172 and 215 indicates a continuous but scanty presence of Late Iron Age pottery, suggesting manuring rather than actual settlement remains.

works, would destroy all sites of Category 3, over 90% of those of Category 2, and only a fraction of the higher mounds of Category 1 (Kirkby and Kirkby 1976; Miller Rosen 1986). The exceptional preservation of few camp‑sites in Margiana, as well as that of a very large number of shallow settlement areas, was made possible by the retreat of irrigation and the advance of the desert. We should point out that once camp‑sites are targeted in walking transects, a higher proportion of them can be recovered on top of settled sand dunes. This is the result of two different conditions: the fact that the nomads had camped in the desert or on the sand patches advancing over the farmlands, or the fact that the potsherds scattered on the surface are the result of eruptions from topsoil underlying the alluvial silt. The two situations can be easily distinguished by carrying out a closer scrutiny and small test excavations. Since both these situations often occur on the same site, the detection and study of camp-site remains requires targeted research procedures. As a rule, a statistical analysis of quantitative data spread sheets would rarely be meaningful if based on a direct incorporation of the surviving evidence. It is necessary to project the restricted patches of surviving evidence onto reconstructing models. Ethno-graphic data on patterns of mobility, herd composition and camp architecture become the essential tool for any future theoretical construction, if we are to overcome the limitations of a record formed of mounds (Nechaeva et al. 1943; Pletneva 1981). Intrusive Camp‑site Scatters of Alien Pastoralists

In general, our survey work across Margiana indicates three main categories of sites:

In the course of every archaeological project there is a degree of unexpected discovery, and the AMMD has been no exception to this rule. The closer scrutiny of the ground surface from a multiplication of walking transects produced the unexpected identification of dozens of seasonal camp‑sites scattered across the alluvial plain (Figure 5.8). They indicate that, during a developed stage of the Late Bronze Age, around 1700 BC, a significant space across the delta was allocated to seasonal animal breeders. The important aspect is that the ceramic assemblage associated to these camp‑site remains does not have any relation with the local tradition of fine-tempered wheel-made pottery. The majority of the sherds are a coarse ware with incised or impressed decoration (ICW), considered the most characteristic signature of the Andronovo Culture Complex, which spread across the Eurasian steppes during the Bronze Age for most of the 2nd millennium BC (Teploukhov 1927; Gryaznov 1966). With minor typological variations, its material culture covered a large part of the steppe grasslands east of the Ural Mountains, up to the borders of China. For many of the specialists, Andronovo marks the beginning of pastoral nomadism and represents the formative stages of the civilisation of Scythian and Saka in the 1st millennium BC (Kuz’mina 1994; for a recent critical review of the whole problem,

1. Mounds, formed of the massive remains of superimposed architectural masses, which correspond to long-duration central sites; 2. Low Elevations, from artefact concentration and shallow architectural remains, which correspond to medium-to-short-duration dwellings and industrial areas of permanent settlements; 3. Scatters of Artefacts, with almost no surviving sediment, which indicate seasonal occupation. There are intermediate situations between these three categories, but the lack of natural elevations from terraces or rocky outcrops creates a single uniformitarian situation across the whole delta landscape. Many more sites are buried under the silt of later alluviation, and are only exposed by occasional and archaeological excavations; they cannot be included in a classification strictly related to survey work. We assume that the expected rate of preservation is directly related to building volume of and artefact density per square unit of surface. Natural erosion, and to a greater extent ancient and modern agricultural 42


The Murghab Delta in Central Asia 1990-2001 see Lamberg-Karlovsky 2002). Vast barren deserts cross the continent landmass, dividing the Eurasian steppes from the farmlands along the mountains that form the northern borders of Iran and India. The rivers that drain into Central Asia from the northern watershed of the Hindu Kush, including the Murghab, form fertile corridors that deeply cut the desert waste lands and connect those outposts of agricultural civilisation to the grasslands of the northern steppe, home of different evolutionary pathways. The discovery of Andronovo ceramics intruding into specialised camp‑sites among the established agricultural communities in the Murghab Delta gave direct indications for the beginning of this process of interchange.

LBA towns and villages. These occurrences increase in density and frequency particularly during the final phases of the Late Bronze Age. Vessels or potsherds are found sometimes above the floors of main buildings of the farmers’ central towns (e.g. Togolok 1) or abundantly spread on the surface of several sites (e.g. Takhirbai 3). Andronovo sites are particularly abundant along radial axes starting from Site No. 67 (Takhirbai 4), where a more intensive and systematic survey has been carried out. In this case we can assume that there were complementary pastoral activities that integrated the farming production of a sedentary population. In particular it is evident that pastoral camp‑sites are prevalently distributed across desertified zones, transversally to irrigation canals flowing from the north. The Togolok area is characterised by a presence of steppe-like pottery that is more important than that of LBA sites, and this suggests an increase in population density during their final phases. According to the evidence from Takhirbai 3 (Masson 1959), during the Final Bronze Age a higher level of integration between nomadic and sedentary peoples was attained. However the presence of an Andronovo graveyard still indicates a degree of ethno-cultural diversity.

This exceptional preservation of nomadic camp‑sites, as well as of a very large number of shallow settlement areas, was made possible by the retreat of irrigation and the advance of the desert. Walking transects, when they were focused on camp‑sites, allowed us to recover a higher proportion of them on top of settled sand dunes. Sites with materials of steppe-like tradition, including ICW potsherds, fired clay or stones, are frequently located in playas (takyr) free from the sand cover. Several sites are situated on top of stabilised sand dunes, confirming the co-occurrence of sand invasion and nomadic camp‑sites. This stems from two different causes: the fact that the pastoralists had camped in the desert or on the patches of sand that were already invading the farm‑lands, or the fact that the scattering of the potsherds on the surface is the result of an eruption from the silt top‑soil buried underneath. A distinction between these two situations can be easily made by means of a closer scrutiny and small test excavations; in many cases, while often both these situations occur in the same site.

The intrusive phase of camp‑sites, dated between 1700 and 1400 BC, is concurrent with significant changes in the landscape. A detailed geomorphologic survey of the eastern delta carried out by M. Cremaschi (1998) indicates that a direct correspondence may have developed between the establishment of nomadic camp‑sites and the advance of aeolian sands over the alluvial farm‑lands. Undoubtedly, synergies rather than conflicts can better explain the fine network of intersecting farmers and pastoralists that resulted from a compensating strategy devised by the local farming communities in order to meet the diminishing returns from irrigation farming across a territory invaded by sand and salt. The small seasonal camp‑sites presumably represent not an “invasion” event, but a convergence process that went on perhaps for two hundred years at the middle of the 2nd millennium BC around 1300 BC, with the emergence of the new Yaz I culture, characterised by painted pottery, there is no more evidence of a material culture related to the steppe. The ceramic types of this period both from settlements and from camp‑sites are consistently the same.

In a few other instances, camp‑sites with ICW are located within areas of cultivated fields and canals, around

In order to evaluate, also in quantitative terms, the impact of the northern pastoralists on the local population of established farmers, we need to analyse the evidence, comparing it with the environmental settlements and cultural changes over a long period, that is more than a thousand years between the Middle Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, before and after the Andronovo intrusion. At present we can divide this period into five or six phases (Figure 3.3), though this division is probably still too coarse to allow us to obtain an appropriate profile of the variability across the supra-regional dimension of the delta.

Figure 3.3 Chronological scheme of Bronze Age in Margiana and relationships with surrounding areas.

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M. Cattani, B. Cerasetti, S. Salvatori and M. Tosi The widespread distribution of camp‑sites across the exposed surfaces indicates that the original scale of the phenomenon can only be established through a detailed re-examination of all the exposed surfaces. More walking transects will be necessary to detail the extent and duration of the camp‑sites on the basis of the density of the small potsherd scatters, since the scale is too small to allow air photographs or other means to support the evidence. Although very few of the sites found so far have any archaeological deposits left, excavations may provide interesting clues for a reconstruction of the particular societal and economic conditions.

Andronovo. Moreover, if we plot the Andronovo sites on the basis of size classes, the results are deceptive, since it is highly possible that many of them are not only seasonal camp‑sites. Figure 3.4 indicates the frequency per sizes, distributed into four main site classes. Highest values are around 1,000 sq m, equivalent to an area of approximately 30 x 30 m. This may correspond to small camp‑sites with one or only a few dwellings and other small features relative to pastoral or related processing activities. In calculating the size, we must consider that the remains of herding sheds are hardly recognizable in field research. The other dimensional classes may indicate either larger camp‑sites with an industrial activity or settlements where there is an integration between herding and farming peoples. Some of the largest camp‑sites found so far, for instance Site No. 1211, are large enough for permanent habitations and multiple industrial activities, and contain indications of them.

The GIS as a Tool for Model Building and Research Planning The presence of encampments and other seasonal installations of animal breeders was a common feature across the rural landscape of the Ancient Orient (Hole 1974; Cribb 1991). The exceptional conditions of preservation offered by the Murghab Delta open a new perspective for the modelization of past economies on the basis of survey data. Any future quantitative elaboration will have to begin from the consideration that no matter how many camp‑sites are found, they will always remain a fraction of the total number.

Thus, in order to develop an appropriate analytical tool within a GIS frame (ArcMap), we need to establish an intense interplay between the field and the computer, almost on a day-by-day basis, in order to incorporate the different options for classification categories, developing the scale measure. The optional definition must be tested in parallel procedures, at best by means of simulations that compare the cultural and functional data from the archaeological record with the environmental variables relative both to alluvial regression and to sand infiltration. The fact is that we have to establish to what extent the success of the nomads was determined by political decisions or environmental adaptations. One is a function of the other.

In order to address these further explorations to the historical dimensions of the problem, a GIS might provide us with the most appropriate analytical tools for visualising the concurrent variability across the archaeological record. Standard methods of site ranking, mostly based on classifications per type and size, turned out to be totally inadequate for organising the complexity and discontinuity of the sites identified across the Murghab low‑lands. In pastoral camp‑sites there are elements of functionality not directly related to the size and number of households (Khazanov 1994). The animal herds are a measure of wealth and power, and their size is only loosely connected with the number of people. This is particularly evident when we have no clue for the techniques used to control the animals and the pastures, as is still the case for

Considering the cultural integration reached around 1300 by the Yaz I culture, the Andronovo infiltration turns out to be an episode of convergence that may have lasted from 100 to 300 years, and we need to define its occurrence in the greatest detail, in order to transfer the archaeological data to the level of historical interpretation. For this reason, the study of the Andronovo in Murghab is a great opportunity to test the value of the GIS for future investments in archaeology. Finally, a most significant aspect where the GIS can be developed into a research tool is its application in reconstructing the ancient landscape. Present-time geomorphological analyses are often off the right path for scientific research and can be used only if it is demonstrated that there have been no changes with respect to the ancient landscape. As a reasoning tool, the GIS appears to be highly useful, because it combines archaeological and geomorphological records. Areas lacking data do not correspond to an absence of ancient settlements. Some geomorphological evidences such as buried Bronze Age remains suggest that alluvial deposits created by some of the ancient river branches may hide the location of several settlements in the area. A presumable area of alluvial

Figure 3.4 Frequency of ICW site surface.

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The Murghab Delta in Central Asia 1990-2001 sediments deposited progressively during the first part of the Iron Age was located by combining points of depth of the Bronze Age soils with the absence of contemporary sites on the surface. By reasoning with selected data in the GIS, we can direct future researches so as to exclude the presence of ancient remains or to determine their position. For this purpose, test trenches and observations on the most exposed sections, together with bore-drillings, will make it possible to estimate the thickness of alluvial deposits in the same area.

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Cattani, cerasetti, tosi, salvatori 2008 the murghab delta in central asia 1990 2001 the gis from re  
Cattani, cerasetti, tosi, salvatori 2008 the murghab delta in central asia 1990 2001 the gis from re  
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