Gonur Depe is a Bronze Age archaeological site in Turkmenistan, dating back to the first half of the second millennium BC, contemporary to the Mesopotamian and Indus Valley civilizations. The first agricultural settlements in the Murgab River delta appeared in the 7th millennium BC. The area was later called Margush in old Iranian texts and Margiana by greek authors. The area of Margiana was 3000 km², it consisted of more than 70 oasis and 150 settlements. Margiana reached its apex in the 16th to 13th century BC.
From the 1970 onwards the site was excavated by the Margiana Archaeological Expedition directed by the Russian archaeologist Victor Sarianidi.
Gonur Depe, the capital of Margiana, was a rectangular fortress with powerful defensive walls, semicircular bastions and adobe buildings. Sarianidi discovered a palace and temples with fire altars. According to Sarianidi Gonur Depe belongs to one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world (side by side with Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China) and was the birthplace Zoroastrianism, a religion based on the opposition of good and evil.
Sarianidi also found evidence of a cult based on a drug potion made from poppy, hemp and ephedra. According to the Avesta , the holy book of Zoroastrianism the drink called Haoma represents a deity that can cure all sufferings.
In 2009 a royal tomb was excavated in which the remains of dogs, a cart with wheels having bronze rims and a large bronze cauldron with a diameter of 130 cm and a height of 1 m were found. This cauldron consists of 7 spherical tanks inserted one into the other.
Gonur Depe is about 60 km North of Mary. A 4WD is required. The road follows partly the Kara Kum Channel, but the last 20 km of the road are a very rough track in the dirt of the desert. It will be a two-hour drive from Mary and you will need about 2 hours for the visit of Gonur Depe. You can arrange the trip from Mary. You will have to pay about US$40 for the car and driver and US$30 for the guide. The trip is exhausting!
- Excavations. US$1, camera US$1.20.
Eat and drink
Bring your own food and drinks.
Next accommodation is at Mary.