Margiana – around 5,000 years ago, this historic landscape in eastern Turkmenistan was the cradle of a fascinating and sophisticated Bronze Age culture. For the first time a major exhibition and cooperation project is dedicated to the archaeological remains of this mysterious culture. The centrepieces of the exhibition are the sensational results of archaeological excavations and researches that were executed at the ancient city of Gonur Depe with the involvement of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI). The distinguished German photographer, Herlinde Koelbl, was asked to photograph the archaeological sites, landscapes, people and exhibits. The result is a fascinating symbiosis of unfamiliar archaeological remains and photo art from a largely unknown country.
Fotocopyright: Herlinde Koelbl
Gonur Depe, a once flourishing metropolis in the Murgab River delta area, is now located in the middle of the vast Karakum Desert. In the past, the area was a center of high culture, tied to the precursor of the Silk Road between China, India, Iran and the Middle East. There, just 80 km from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Merv, the city Gonur Depe bustled with thousands of inhabitants, residential areas and an imposing palace in the center of a vibrant, well-connected commercial center with complex administrative structures. After around 5,000 years, a completely different picture emerges: today’s Turkmenistan is undergoing a rapid transformation, which manifests itself particularly in the rapid change in cities and infrastructure – an unknown country between tradition and modernity.
At the center of the exhibition are the sensational results of the archaeological research carried out in the ancient metropolis of Gonur Depe not far from Merv. The construction structures uncovered during the excavations show an impressive masterly achievement of early urban planning even by today’s standards. Surrounded by a huge ring of walls, the 28-acre urban complex was divided into various districts, including residential areas, craft district and cemeteries. The centerpiece was a square palace area, which was fortified by walls reinforced with towers.
The highlights of the excavations are undoubtedly the so-called “tombs”, grave houses decorated with the finest mosaics, in which the deceased dignitaries have been lavishly laid to rest. Ornate armour, jewelery, weapons, ritual tools and magnificent vessels made of silver and gold are unique masterpieces of Bronze Age craftsmanship and goldsmithing. But the findings from the urban area speak for themselves: exotic objects and materials prove long-distance contacts right up to the Indus valley in present-day Pakistan, to the high cultures of Mesopotamia, to Syria, in the Oman as well as to the steppes of the Ural nearly 2,000 km north.
Photographer Herlinde Koelbl
“Margiana” is much more than an archaeological exhibition. In January 2018, the renowned photographer Herlinde Koelbl accompanied the exhibition team to Central Asia. The photo artist, who became known through her empathic image studies of people and places, spent two weeks in Turkmenistan and approached archaeological sites for the first time in her work. The result are fascinating photographs of a country and its inhabitants, impressive natural landscapes and archaeological and historical monuments, which did not exist in this form before. In this way, the exhibition enters new territory and offers an unfamiliar, exciting arc from the traces of an early civilization of Central Asia to modern photography.
The catalog “Margiana: A Kingdom of the Bronze Age in Turkmenistan” can be purchased at the museum counter, but also online.
Further stations of the exhibition
The exhibition will stop at the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums in Mannheim after the presentation in the Archaeological Museum Hamburg.
Partners and sponsors
The exhibition is a cooperation project between the Archaeological Museum Hamburg, the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums Mannheim, the Museum of Pre- and Protohistory Berlin and the Ministry of Culture of Turkmenistan. The exhibition was sponsored by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Deutsche Bank AG and Siemens AG.
The Harburg Kulturtag (“culture day”) in the autumn of each year has become an integral part of the lively art and culture scene in Hamburg. This year it takes place for the 16th time. On Sunday, the 3rd of November, from 12.00 to 20.00 all important cultural institutions from Harburg present themselves here.
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