Local tour guides are the real ambassadors of their countries, and will determine whether you and I visit – more than tourist bureau advertising, hotel and airline promotions, or tour owner brochures in the mail. They make our travels so much more valuable, and they provide us with the memories that stay with us.
You're probably wondering what happened to the last week of posts. I really wish that I could have sent some fascinating insights into Turkmenistan. But the country is a combination of unbelievably beautiful religious buildings, old historical monuments, and new architectural wonders. Run by a President whose picture is everywhere, and enjoys almost absolute power, the combination of new construction, colorful people, and original historical sites, is almost beyond belief.
But there is an absolute block on the Internet, and communication is very controlled. So I hope you enjoyed the break from posts, and that you'll let me catch you up with a whole lot of photos.
But before i do, let me include a little bit of why the area's history is so important to the world.
Over the last 35,000 years, the use of materials has helped us name the time epochs. Stones as tools gave the longest era its name “stone age”. Lithic (Greek for “stone”) ages was called “Paleolithic” (ancient stone age, 35,000 to 11,000 BC), “Mesolithic” (middle stone age, 11,000 to 7,000 BC), and “Neolithic” (new stone age, 7,000 to 5,500 BC). The discovery of copper gave the period after 5,500 BC its name “Eneolithic” (copper age, 5,500 BC- 4,000 BC). Adding copper, tin, and mercury to create bronze created the Bronze Age (beginning at 4,000 BC).
About 6,500 BC, in the middle of the Neolithic period, in the foothills of a mountains northwest of our present location, some nomads heading north from Persia decided to take up agriculture and cattle farming. They chose that particular area because it contained a large amount of natural springs originating higher up in the Kopet Dagh mountains, and the climate in southern Turkmenistan was moderate. There were also deposits along the river of fine clay, pure enough to dry out without cracking, and strong enough to build straight, thick walls creating wide rooms with narrow doors they covered with animal skins.
This culture, called “Jatun”, and those at Namazga Depe, Kara Depe and Anau created over the next two thousand years the plough, pottery wheel, hearths, benches, wooden beds, and a healthy “white wheat” farming economy which led to extensive cattle breeding. By 4,000 BC, they began to use goods made of copper, labour tools, two-edged knives and tableware. They learned to smelt and form metal, and to produce different adornments made of gold, silver, and copper. They made a great deal of ceramic tableware, including hemispherical and cone-shaped dishes and plates, and jugs adorned with complicated ornaments. They also began to make dyes. Patterns of modern carpets are very similar to patterns of ancient jugs.
Today, we visited a site currently named Old Nisa. It is the palace of the King of a great civilization (Parthians) which dominated Central Asia from 300 BC to 300 AD. Only a few miles from the original Jatun site, it used the same unusually clear clay bricks to construct the residences, waiting and meeting rooms, and servant passageways within the fortress’s 200 hectare complex. The place and the people of this area should be remembered for playing a central role in the world’s transition from nomadic to agrarian society.
To see the photos taken over the past three or four days (aftr a couple of days of driving), click on: