20.11.04 10:23



An expedition, founded and unalterably headed by the renowned Russian archaeologist, Victor Ivanovich Sarianidi, who hit 75 this fall, has been digging for over 30 years now in the Garagum desert, 80 km to the north from the town of Bayramaly. He celebrated his jubilee, as usually, at excavation works with new brilliant findings, the fact already reported by mass media. This year, a group of specialists from the Moscow Laboratory of Anthropologic Reconstruction under the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences carried out a unique experiment at his initiative on the reconstruction of the figures of people that inhabited this land some 4,000 years ago. The reconstruction was made using sculls of men and women found in necropolis of the Bronze Age in Gonur-Depe that took almost ten years to dig out.

The laboratory that carried out this work was founded by M.M.Gerasimov, the anthropologist with world reputation. All reconstructions (both graphic and sculpture) were made using methods he developed.

We chose two Gonur tombs, excavated a few years ago, for the reconstruction. We conditionally called one of them a warrior’s tomb. We found a bronze knife, a four-pronged top cover of a rod, a vessel and an absolutely beautiful bronze top cover of a rod in the horse’s head form at the side of the head of the defunct. There were also found a bronze pike, a bronze rectangular plate and a piece of linen fabric, in which another bronze pike was wrapped. Judging by bones remaining, there was buried a well-built man in his middle age that, judging by the nature of bones damage, died because of the fall from a horse. The right eyebrow of the man was slashed long before his death. Everything pointed to the fact that he was a brave warrior or, may be, a tribal leader or a general who fought in numerous wars and died in one of the battles.

We also reconstructed the figure of a woman in her declining age dug out from the ordinary tomb of this necropolis with a typical set of woman’s burial presents, including ceramic vessels, cosmetic bottles, a necklace and other jewelry. We had several reasons for choosing exactly that bone remaining for reconstruction of faces of ancient Margush citizens. Information we got thanks to Gonur-Depe excavations gave us new evidences of the look of the ancient population of Turkmenistan. Specialists used to call earlier excavated material of the Bronze Age a clear example of the so-called eastern Mediterranean people, meaning people with long and rather narrow faces, fine features and long noses. Residents of Margush meet this characteristic in general but differ in a variety of anthropologic peculiarities from the population that we learned about from another archaeological monuments of Turkmenistan (these are, first of all, Namazga Depe and Geoksur). Among Margush residents there were both very small (no taller than 145 cm) and tall people (around 180 cm). Along with people with small and narrow heads and faces there also were people with rather long and narrow heads and very long and narrow faces. One of the distinctive features of many Gonur sculls is the so-called eagle’s nose. Apart from that, there also lived people with highly bulging lower part of the face, called prognatism by scientists, in the city whose ruins are called Gonur Depe today. As a rule, they had thin bones, small heads and faces. Pictures of people on the seals that were also found in Gonur are another evidence. Such diversity can be the result of participation of representatives of other regions of western Central Asia in the ethno-genesis of Margush people. The observation that the same man had features typical of different anthropological types in fact proves that Gonur people are not the result of people’s assimilation but rather a “splinter” of the very ancient population whose descendants settled in separate and isolated from each other regions, retaining only that part of their peculiarities that were typical of their ancestors.

Taking into account this kind of diversity and bones remaining, that material was picked as an object to be reconstructed. Elements of prognatism are clearly visible in the portrait of the woman’s figure. She had a small head but a wide face, which is not natural for typical eastern Mediterranean people, and a long nose. The portrait shows us a popular with Margush women haircut – the long hair was balled on the back of the head and stuck with a bronze pin. Silver earrings and a necklace, made of small bronze cylinder beads, and silver leaves were found in a tomb that differed from the one in which the woman was found. These accessories are typical of more rich tombs and displayed on the portrait as being popular in that period.

The man’s scull is more typical of eastern Mediterranean people. A wide and at the same time not so big face, natural to the Bronze Age population of Eurasian steppes that had retreating foreheads and eagle’s noses, portrays the life size of this man. The shape of the beard, moustaches and haircut are the same as in the popular Margush and Baktria pictures on vases and vessels. The same pictures show that Margush and Baktria warriors were half naked.

It gives me a pleasure to call by name the specialists of the laboratory of anthropologic reconstruction that carried out long and near work on these busts. Tatyana Sergeevna Baluyeva is the author of the woman’s face. Elizaveta Valentinovna Veselovskaya is the designer of the man’s face. They both are the students of unforgettable M.M.Gerasimov that continue his unique method recognized all over the world. Except the two busts that we have brought from Moscow, their laboratory prepared a few graphic portraits from the same necropolis that illustrate the anthropologic variety of Margush population that we talked about above.

Members of our expedition presented both sculpture portraits to Turkmenistan. We hope they will serve as a graphic complement to the findings in the collection from the state of Margush that we all are so much proud of.

Nadezhda DUBOVA

Leading scientist at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Doctor of history, Candidate for Doctor of biology.

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