Ilgynly-depe is 14 ha site 240 km SE from

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Bilkent University
The Department of Archaeology & History of Art
Newsletter No. 3 - 2004
Ilgynly-depe
Ilgynly-depe is 14-ha site
in S. Turkmenistan, 240
km SE from Ashgabat
and 105 km NE from
Mashhad. Today, it rises
12-14 m above an alluvial
plain. The site contains
stratigraphically
undisturbed
materials
dating ca. 5000-3000 BC.
They
show
that
a
prosperous
agricultural
community of about 2000
people occupied Ilgynlydepe
in
Chalcolithic
times. In 1986-1999 it
was investigated by the
Kara Kum expedition of
the Institute for the
History of Material Culture
(Saint-Petersburg), a part
of the Russian Academy
of Sciences. Extensive
investigations undertaken
during the last 14 years
have revealed a new
Chalcolithic
cultural
complex with a high level
of technology and artistic
skill.
Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Wall paintings
presented the remains of
mud-brick architecture for
domestic complexes with
richly decorated principal
room- sanctuaries.
Peculiar
to
these
complexes
are
long
wooden – and later clay –
benches painted red;
floors and walls painted
black; low round altars;
clay tables and chairs in
Sanctuary 26/IV-3
Although the total number
of structural levels is
about 20, it is the six
uppermost that could be
investigated in detail. All
of them
the earlier layers; and wall
paintings with snakes,
trees
and
geometric
patterns.
Big
clay
bucrania decorated with
relief snakes in level
9
5 are a unique feature
this far east of Çatal
Höyük.
The evidence for wall
painting discovered at
Ilginly-Depe is known
from 3 other agricultural
sites
of
southern
Turkmenia. However, in
terms of subject and
manner, the Ilginly-Depe
wall paintings have no
parallels with them.
Moreover, while the small
fragments known from
the other agricultural
sites,
regardless
of
subject, are made in the
traditional manner of
monochrome
or
polychrome painting, the
graffito art of IlginlyDepe is unique.
Their excellent preservation is due to the
highly ritualised abandonment of principal
rooms with decoration in
this community. The
rooms were deliberately
filled in when they went
out of use.
Bilkent University
The Department of Archaeology & History of Art
Newsletter No. 3 - 2004
the
community’s
repertoire fully.
Fig. 3
Stone statue head
In
addition
several
unbroken copper tools,
sets of stone implements,
and large fragments of
clay and stone female
figurines
were
most
probably intentionally left
on the floors or near the
abandoned sanctuary.
As
a
result,
these
buildings are rich in finds.
Besides ceramics, the
major object categories
are stone statues, several
of them complete and two
dozen fragments; about
700
ceramic
female
figurines; about 70 stone
mortars, some of them
zoomorphic. Copper tools
and decorations include
some 90 blades and rods,
and rare types like a
shaft-hole axe or adze
(the earliest so far from
the Middle East), and a
mirror. Terracotta spindlewhorls and other small
items
(about
1500),
animal
figurines
of
unbaked
clay
(200);
grinding stones; tools to
process metal and stone;
grain,
paint,
wood,
leather, etc. (ca. 5000
items), bone awls and 50
rare scrapers illustrate
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The
bones
of
domestic
sheep,
goat and cow and
of wild half-ass
constitute the bulk
of the paleozoological
collection.
The complete skull
of a dog is a rare
find for the midfourth
millennium
BC. Paleobotanical
materials
include
charred
grains
(mainly wheat and
barley) and huge
amounts of tree charcoal
that testifies to oases
conditions in contrast to
the
region’s
present
desert environment.
88 burials of all ages
were also found.
Ilgynly-depe is a key site
not only for understanding
local chronology and
cultural process, but also
for the reconstruction of
prehistoric
social
organisation of the Middle
East, that could present
an alternative model to
the
better
known
centralised systems.
Researcher at the Institute for
the History of Material Culture
Russian Academy of
Sciences.
18, Dvortsovaya nab.,
St.-Petersburg 190000,
Russia.
Dr. Natalia Solovyova
Fig. 4 Female figurine
10
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