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Takhti Sangin

Wonders of Tourism





In 1877, on the washed-out right bank of the Amu Darya, (in ancient times this part of the river and its tributaries were known as the Oxus) local residents found a treasure near Takhti Kubat consisting of more than 2,000 gold and silver coins, and highly artistic gold-ware of Achaemenid and Greco-Bactrian eras. It was sold to three Bukharan merchants who were bound, with their caravan, for North India (present-day Pakistan). On the journey the merchants were robbed by nomads from the Afghan Gilzai tribe. Later, thanks to the involvement of a British man with some influence, part of the treasure was returned to the merchants and part remained with a tribal leader.
When they reached Rawalpindi, the merchants sold the treasure to representatives of the British administration, who later handed it over to the British Museum in London. Altogether 521 gold and silver coins and 176 gold and silver articles (sheath lining, garments, decorations, bracelets, plates, statuettes of animals, engraved plates and other articles) - approximately a third of what was initially found on the Amu Darya River bank - arrived at the Museum. This treasure, which is still kept in the British Museum, was named the Amu Darya treasure (or the "Oxus treasure").
The treasure mostly dates from the 4-3rd centuries B.C. Some of the articles were made in Western Iran, and the remainder in Asia Minor. They must have arrived in North Bactria (at that time the name of the area where the treasure was found) with Alexander the Great's troops or in the form of rewards for Bactrian soldiers, gifts or maybe in some other unknown way. Among the articles were also Bactrian-made items, engraved gold-plated scroll with images of priests, warriors and donors holding bunches of twigs in their hands, flowers, weaponry or pack animals like camels or horses. These plates were most likely dedicated to a divinity, asking that wishes come true, and placed in containers in temple alcoves.


Archaeological dig in Takhti Sangin

In 1976 Soviet archaeologists began a dig in one of two ancient settlements in Takhti Kubat (named after a Shohnoma hero). This stone settlement, named Takhti Sangin by archaeologists, was truly unique. An ancient temple was excavated in the centre of this site which was named the Oxus Temple. It was dedicated to a river divinity, a kind of cult which existed here from the earliest times.
The Takhti Sangin site is about 75 hectares and stretches for 2km. Opposite the Takhti Sangin citadel, on the Afghan side of the river, is the Takhti Kubat Fortress. These installations were placed in a convenient location near the Meli crossing on the Amu Darya which functioned from ancient times up until the Middle Ages.
The temple (51 x 51m area) was built in the 4-3rd centuries B.C., and continued functioning until the first century A.D. - the Kushan period. In the temple and its adjacent auxiliary facilities many interesting community gifts to the temple were found.
These included the following: a raised bust of Alexander the Great looking like Hercules, a sword sheath engraved with a lion holding a trembling fallow-deer in its clutches, small chest fronts made of ivory and decorated with engravings, the largest collection of arrow-heads in Central Asia (more than 5,000), items of weaponry and items from the Greco-Macedonian army.

Only the Hellenistic ivory sheath has elsewhere been found in the more than 150-year history of excavations in the entire Greek world. Fragments of gilded-bronze helmets were also found here and this created the illusion that they were made out of pure gold.
Of particular interest among the gifts is a small stone altar decorated with a bronze figure of the Greek god Marsyas, playing a double-barrelled flute with the following text in ancient Greek: "According to a vow Atrosok devoted to Oxus". Atrosok is a Bactrian man's name that can be translated as "pleasing a divinity of fire" or "possessing a blazing fire" and which possibly belonged to a fire-priest (Zoroastrian). Marsyas, in Greek mythology, was a water-god. An image of one mythical creature, the seahorse-nymph, a Greek sea divinity, which apparently was transformed into an Oxus River nymph in Bactria, was also found in the temple. The nymph is portrayed as a woman with a snake-fish-like tail, horse legs and bird wings. One more significant discovery made in this area is ateshgah, depositories of eternal fire, which are the main essential elements in a Zoroastrian fire temple.



Takhti Sangin.
Akinakes sheath, ivory.
6-5th centuries B.C.

These discoveries tell us that both local Bactrian (Zoroastrian) and Greek religious traditions were respected in one temple, i.e. both a cult of fire and a cult of water were respected at the same time. The Archaeological dig in Takhti Sangin continued for 15 years. More than 5,000 finds from the Greco-Bac-trian period (polychrome and gilded sculptures, furniture, utensils, jewellery, a gold dedicatory plate with a portrayal of a Bactrian leading a camel, silver and copper coins, etc.) were made. During this time scholars who participated in the research came to the firm opinion that there was a relation between the Amu Darya treasure (Oxus treasure) in the British Museum and the Oxus Temple in Takhti Sangin. They came to this conclusion because the place the treasure was found and the location of the temple are the same - near the confluence of the Vakhsh and Panj Rivers, on the right bank of the Amu Darya, and all the treasure articles are either of ritual significance or are dedicatory plates with portrayals of people with gifts or animals led to the temple for dedication. Any other use for these plates besides dedication to a divinity is highly unlikely. There are similar plates among both treasures and among articles found in the temple which have not been found anywhere else in Central Asia.
Thus the Oxus treasure consists of the temple inventory and coins donated to it. Items of the Amu Darya treasure initially belonged to the Oxus Temple and represented gifts to the temple which were later concealed not far away on a river bank, probably because of some danger. The Oxus Temple building has been well-preserved. The finds made in Takhti Sangin are currently kept in the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan in Dushanbe.

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