Archaeologists have long drawn attention to the high level of culture that once flourished in the southwest of Central Asia, between modern Ashgabat and Tejen. Here at the end of the III - beginning of the II millennium BC. e. there were large populated centers, the flooded ruins of which occupy an area of 50-70 hectares.
Developed pottery and metallurgy, bronze and silver seals - symbols of property - all indicated that we are faced with the remnants of some kind of culture that preceded the formation of a class society, civilization. In 1966, excavations of one of such centers, Altyn-Depe, brought material testifying to the significant successes of the ancient inhabitants of southern Turkmenistan in yet another area of spiritual culture. Dishes are usually considered the most massive find in settlements. But this archaeological truth turned out to be very relative: perhaps the most common find on the site were numerous clay female figurines. In just one field season, their number exceeded 150. Graceful figurines were found in living quarters, sanctuaries, and even among burial utensils. There is no doubt about the ritual purpose of these statuettes.
Almost all of them had marks on their shoulders and back, arms and chest, made with a knife or a sharpened stick. More than 20 such signs have been found already. Their designs differed depending on the "handwriting" of the master, but on the whole they are quite clearly united into six large groups. One group of signs is very close to the ornaments of the South Turkmenian painted ceramics of the earlier period
A number of signs, on the contrary, are very similar to the writing of Ancient Sumer. Especially significant similarities are observed with the signs of writing in Elam. The presence of a stable system of cult symbols in southern Turkmenistan is an indirect indication that there was a process of formation of the local writing system at that time, borrowing a number of symbols from the advanced cultures of the Ancient East. In the middle of the 20th century, a terracotta tile was found on Altyn-Depe, which depicts three different signs, and one of them is repeated four times, like a letter that is written out by a schoolchild in order to better remember it. And who knows if archaeologists are not expecting archives of "clay books" in the bowels of the earth, with the help of which one of the most ancient sedentary agricultural civilizations will speak. A few tens of kilometers from the modern city of Penjikent, in a small fortress on Mount Mug in 1933, a rich archive of handwritten documents in the Sogdian language was found.
The archive contained various letters, receipts, agreements, contracts, etc. Most of the documents belonged to Divashtich, the ruler of the city of Penjikent. During the Arab conquest, in the 20s of the 8th century, Divashtich fled from Penjikent (these letters mention the city of Penjikent) from the persecution of the Arabs to this fortress. The city was destroyed, life in it gradually died out and finally ceased in the middle of the VIII century. It is known that the ancient region of Sogd, or Sogdiana, according to Greek sources, occupied the entire territory of the Zeravshan valley. Samarkand was the center of Sogd, and Pejikent was a provincial "specific" city located in the foothill region. Since 1946, the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, together with the Academy of Sciences of the Tajik SSR, have been excavating the ancient settlement of Penjikent, which was located on the outskirts of the modern city.
As a result of many years of excavations, the topography of the city was revealed, the location of streets, residential and industrial buildings, temples, palaces, suburban estates and a necropolis.Monumental wall paintings adorned the homes of noble people; in the large ceremonial halls, various epic, banquet and battle scenes were depicted in tiers. Murals covered the walls and vaulted ceilings of large corridors, small sanctuaries and interior rooms
The charred wooden structures of many dwellings have survived. During the fires, which did not have time to completely burn out, they collapsed and smoldered, covered with fragments of bricks. So it was possible to establish that the wooden parts in the state rooms - columns, capitals, bases, beams, etc. - were decorated with rich carvings. Whole wooden statues, details of sculptures, etc. were found. In one of the luxurious temples, a clay sculptural panel was discovered, dedicated to water deities, obviously, the Zeravshan River. In the fall of 1966, a new multi-colored fresco was discovered on the inside of the house - a warrior in a long chain mail hits the enemy with a dagger. An inscription in the Sogdian language was also found here, commenting, apparently, on the content of the picture. The Vakhsh valley has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic era. Here scientists have registered and studied many monuments. But the most interesting of them rises 12 kilometers from the city of Kurgan-Tyube. Excavations have been carried out here for many years.
Thirteen centuries ago, a large Buddhist monastery was built here, a monastery-fortress, the walls of which were almost 2.5 meters thick, the entrances to all rooms were from courtyards. The monastery consisted of two halves. In the middle part, a huge multi-tiered structure of the main shrine rose - a stupa, a kind of mausoleum - a repository of the remains of gods, saints and prominent figures of Buddhism
Around the stupa there were numerous rooms: small square sanctuaries, L-shaped corridors (up to 16.5 meters long), the walls and ceilings of which were decorated with paintings. The floors of these rooms were cleared at a depth of 6 meters from the modern surface. Already in the first year of work, while clearing the first sanctuary, archaeologists came across pedestals. But they were empty. Continuing clearing near the pedestals, scientists found completely broken sculptures on the floor. Later, when they opened several more rooms, they cleared a whole series of sculptural naked images of the Buddha himself and the characters of the Buddhist pantheon. Many of them are executed with amazing craftsmanship. The sculptures were different: from tiny ones that fit in the palm of your hand to very large ones, 1, 5-3 times larger than a human figure. In 1965-1966, archaeologists were lucky enough to unearth a real giant. He was lying on his right side in one of the corridors surrounding the stupa, near the wall on a pedestal. The right arm is bent and the palm is brought under the head, and the left is extended along the body. The figure is wearing red folded clothing, the wrist is bright white, and light sandals painted yellow are on the feet.