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The Antiquities of Transoxiana in the Light of Investigations in Uzbekistan (1985-1990)

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image of Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia

The archaeological study of pre-Islamic Uzbekistan (Bactria, Sogdiana) has been intensified since. World War II and this survey presents the most important recent results of this work. Bronze Age sites show a process of cultural change in Bactria, particularly the settlement of the area by farmers and the emergence in proto-cities of new urban forms of social organisation and systems of belief. The Iron Age sees the assimilation of new ethnic groups into the region, the expansion of a strong (Achaemenid) state, the development of defended cities and administrative centres and the beginnings of specialised craft industries. In the Classical period the Macedonian conquest brought about the sharp decline of existing urban centres, but the centralised states that followed were able to establish (e.g. through irrigation projects) new cities in new agricultural zones. Excavation into the lower levels of medieval cities has revealed several previously unknown ancient cities, many of which seem to have been derelict in the period before or during the Arab conquest. Bactrian cities of the Classical period have been shown to be extensive in area, well defended by strong walls and a citadel, and to have performed administrative, economic, religious as well as military functions. Cult buildings discovered show the presence of Avestan religion (although not the orthodox Zoroastrianism of Iran), cults of the Great Mother Goddess, and Buddhism (though limited to a few remarkable centres), and in the North of Sarmatian totemic cults using zoomorphic representations, finds of art, sculpture and wall-painting reveal a process in Bactria in which a native substratum was synthesized with Hellenistic, Indian and Sako-Sarmatian elements to produce work of high quality and originality. Epigraphical finds include ostraca, graffiti, inscriptions, and even papyri, representing scripts and languages from Bactrian to Pahlavi, to Greek and Latin. Finds of coins, including Greco-Bactrian and Parthian, help to date archaeological layers and produce accurate chronologies. Scholars from Uzbekistan have also contributed to the "Great Silk Road" programme, which is showing that routes crossing the region were formed in the 1st mill. B.C. and constituted a dense branched network by the end of the Classical period.


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