Saturday, 23 June 2012

"Guardians" ransack ancient archaeological site in Uzbekistan

A bulldozer has removed a cultural layer at Suyritepa; photo by
June 21, 2012
Guardians ransack ancient archaeological site
In the Ahangaran Valley officers of the inspection department of the Uzbek main scientific and production directorate for the preservation of monument have ransacked a well-known archaeological site at Suyritepa.

“Excavations” using a bulldozer at the Suyritepa township of the mediaeval state of Ilak, a major economic and cultural centre on the Great Silk Road, were conducted in May this year, but archaeologists have learnt about this only now thanks to residents of nearby villages.

“We know that our region has ancient settlements, which is why fellow villagers find various objects of antiquity from time to time,” a local shepherd called Mahmud said.

When he saw a bulldozer remove the surface layer of ground on a hill, he decided to check it out. One of those present showed an ID issued to a certain Server Ashirov and said that they were conducting excavations. After that he drove the shepherd from the site and warned against approaching it again.

It turned out that Ashirov is the director of the monument inspection department of the Uzbek main scientific and production directorate for the preservation of monument; archaeologists believe this department abused its power grossly.

“A bulldozer ploughs the surface layer of ground, and a man with a metal detector, instructed by Ashirov,
Local residents dag up a burial ground at Suryritepa; photo by
 walks behind it to scan the ground for metal items, above all, coins,” a Tashkent-based archaeologist explained.

He said the robbers used a similar method because they knew archaeologists abandoned the site as they did not plan research at the site in the near future. This means that the trace left by the bulldozer will be covered by grass very quickly and time will hide the trace of crime.

“The ransacked citadel is a rectangular hill covering one hectare and has nine towers,” the archaeologist said. “Around the citadel the ancient township covers 4.5 square kilometres. Without doubt the hill covers the ruins of perhaps the Angren river valley’s largest township of the state of Ilak.”

Initially, the township attracted archaeologists’ attention by its rich “recoverable material” of objects of antiquity – ceramic pieces to labour instruments and coins that are practically lying on the surface. The material was easily accessible and did not require excavations. Moreover, it showed
At the moment cows and sheep show greater interest in Suyritepa than the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan does; photo by
 that the site still hid a great amount of archaeological wealth.

At the same time, serious and fundamental research has not yet been conducted at Suyritepa.

“Some local residents, in contrast to researchers, did not stay aside from the story,” a local resident called Ismail said. “They started excavating burial grounds for personal ends, which results in the discovery of three caches of coins and crockery. I do not know where it has all ended up, not in the museum that is for sure – you know yourself why.”

Archaeologists said that objects of antiquity had high material value on the black market. They complained about ransacks and destructions of cultural monuments to prosecutors and local administrations in Angren and Ahangaran, but robberies are continuing.

Moreover, now monuments are robbed by those who are supposed to guard them. This causes particular concern, because robbers are not amateurs but professionals.

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