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A Central Asian Village at the Dawn of Civilization

Excavations at Anau, Turkmenistan

By Fredrik T. Hiebert. With Kakamurad Kurbansakhatov

Publication Year: 2003

This integration of earlier and new scholarship reconceptualizes the origins of civilization, challenging the received view that the ancient Near East spawned the spread of civilization outward from Mesopotamia to all other neighboring cultures. Central Asia is here shown to have been a major player in the development of cities.

Skillfully documenting the different phases of both Soviet and earlier Western external analyses along with recent excavation results, this new interpretation reveals Central Asia's role in the socioeconomic and political processes linked to both the Iranian Plateau and the Indus Valley, showing how it contributed substantively to the origins of urbanism in the Old World. Hiebert's research at Anau and his focus on the Chalcolithic levels provide an essential starting point for understanding both the nature of village life and the historical trajectories that resulted in Bronze Age urbanism.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xiii

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pp. xv-xvi

The essential first step in prehistoric archaeological investigation is to establish a reliable sequence of assemblages of material remains. Today this is done by carefully controlled stratigraphic excavation, which emphasizes careful sampling and recording. This first step is followed by the creation of a relative chronology based on comparative studies of...

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pp. xvii-xviii

In 1904, Raphael Pumpelly, an American geologist, brought the first interdisciplinary archaeological team to the desert edge of Central Asia to investigate the origins of civilization. He hoped to identify materials at the site of Anau which would predate early civilization in Mesopotamia and support his theory that the oasis setting of Central...

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1 Anau North, an Introduction

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pp. 1-14

The excavations at Anau North, Turkmenistan, document one site’s participation in cultural transformations in Central Asia from 4500 to 2900 BC, the Early Village Period. What we know today as Central Asia (Figure 1.1) was an extensive area of settlement in the ancient world. This region, the northeast frontier of the Near East, had its own local precursors to...

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2 The Settlement History of Central Asia in the Village Period

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pp. 15-23

This chapter outlines the broad developmental stages of Early Village occupation in Central Asia, beginning from the earliest settlement along the Kopet Dag (which pre-dates the occupation at Anau North) and from there following the basic outline of culture history presented by Soviet archaeology (Masson 1982, 1989), best known in English from the detailed...

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3 The History of Investigations at Anau North

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pp. 24-31

The deeply stratified site of Anau North has a long and distinguished history of excavation (Figure 3.1). The site was first sectioned in 1886, and, partly due to its easily accessible strata, became a magnet for archaeological research. Scientific excavations began in 1904 with the expedition led by Raphael Pumpelly. Further investigations included a deep stratigraphic...

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4 1997 Excavations: Context of Deposition and Stratigraphy

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pp. 32-54

Renewed excavations at the north mound at Anau were conducted in 1997 to create a key to the various earlier excavations. We were able to reestablish the yarus and grid systems from Kurbansakhatov’s main trench. By matching a set of walls noted by Pumpelly in the cross-section of the Komarov Trench with the...

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5 Radiocarbon Chronology

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pp. 55-56

The 1997 excavation season provided nineteen specific contexts, in layers 3 through 20, from which radiocarbon samples were taken, all from floors or features associated with floors (Table 5.1). The samples were preprocessed at the Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA) at the University of Pennsylvania Museum to assure that they had sufficient carbon content to permit...

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6 Ceramic Complexes of Anau North and Relative Chronology

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pp. 57-80

This chapter describes the ceramics from Anau North, integrating the 1997 excavation results with those from previous excavations. Each excavation, from 1904 onwards, yielded considerably different information about the ceramics due to differences in methods of recovery and description. The approach...

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7 Small Finds from Anau North, with Ogul’sona Lollekova and Katherine M. Moore

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pp. 81-97

This presentation of small finds—tools and ornaments made of terracotta, bone, metal, chipped stone, and ground stone—from Anau North has two parts. The first section reviews a sample of the finds from a chronological point of view; the second provides a functional analysis of artifact categories. The discussion of chronology is based upon a...

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8 Architecture at Anau North

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pp. 98-115

The 20 layers of architecture exposed during Kurbansakhatov’s excavations from 1977 to 1982 allows us to place into context the architecture revealed in 1904, 1953, and 1997 (Figure 8.1). A number of key features can be tracked in summarizing the architectural shifts through time: (1) the technology of building—the way that floors, walls, hearths, and storage areas were...

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9 Burials, with L. Warner and K. Kurbansakhatov

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pp. 116-126

The Anau North intramural burials provide comparanda for other Early Village sites along the Kopet Dag foothills: Two earliest burials (Anau IA) can be compared to the burials at Mondjukli depe (Alekshin 1976). The eight burials from the IB1 and IB2 layers shed light on interment practices during this period for which till now had only two exemplars, one from Namazga...

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10 The Use of Plants at Anau North

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pp. 127-138

Amajor goal of the 1997 excavation at Anau was to retrieve a chronological sequence of plant remains from archaeological strata that could be correlated with the earlier excavation of Kurbansakhatov on the north mound of Anau. The remains provide evidence for the state of the vegetation, fuel gathering, and agricultural...

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11 Microscopic Analysis of Soils from Anau North

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pp. 139-153

In Russian soil science “biomorphic analysis” refers to the combined study of phytoliths, spores, pollen, diatoms, sponge spicules, cuticle casts, detritus, and other microscopic plant parts (Golyeva 1997). Most soils—including natural strata, plowed fields, pastures, and cultural layers—contain different and distinctive arrays of these microscopic plant remains. The primary...

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12 Animal Herding, Hunting, and the History of Animal Domestication at Anau depe

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pp. 154-159

The work by J. U. Duerst (1908) on the animal remains from Anau North was a foundation for the study of the origins of animal use in a developing food producing economy. Working without precedent, Duerst drew attention to the significance of archaeological remains for studying geographic variation and evolution in domestic mammals. His analysis of taxonomic...

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13 Prehistoric Behavior at Anau North

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pp. 160-168

Having provided a detailed description of the Anau North stratigraphy based upon the 1997 study season, we have been able to integrate the descriptions of architecture, ceramics, small finds, and specialty reports from the earlier excavations. However, in order to describe the evolution of the settlement through time, we need to return to the...

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14 The Evolution of the Settlement at Anau North

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pp. 169-173

The settlement of Anau North is later by one thousand years than occupation at the site of Djeitun and the constellation of early-Djeitun sites in the Akhal region. Over the course of the Djeitun period, settlement shifted east, to the region between the Meana and Chaacha Rivers. The traditional single-room Djeitun building, constructed with proto-bricks...

Appendix A 1904 Excavations at Anau North

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pp. 174-193

Appendix B Catalogue of Small Finds from the 1904 Excavations

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pp. 194-200

Appendix C Botanical Data from the 1997 Excavations

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pp. 201-215

Appendix D A Basketry/Textile Impression from Anau North

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pp. 216-218


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pp. 219-235


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pp. 236-238

E-ISBN-13: 9781934536230
Print-ISBN-13: 9781931707503

Page Count: 489
Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • City and town life -- Asia, Central -- History.
  • Villages -- Asia, Central -- History.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Asia, Central.
  • Asia, Central -- Antiquities.
  • Cities and towns -- Asia, Central -- History.
  • Asia, Central -- Civilization.
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