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2005 †N5
Historical documents and archaeological materials are the evidence of the fact

Turkmenistan territory is one of the world centers of cultivated plants origin. As long ago, as in the twenties, XX century academician Vavilov N.I. named Turkmenistan as homeland of the first farmers. Later on this supposition was confirmed by archaeological excavations.

Archaeological materials found out (discovered) in the area of Jeitun settlement (25 km north-west of Ashkhabad) are extremely significant. Joint turkmen-russian-english expedition under the leadership of archaeologist Kurbansahatov K. established, that turkmen forefathers who had been living in Jeitun in the 6th millenium B.C. i.e. 8 thousand years ago, were acquainted with cereals. All vegetable remains discovered (found out) in Jeitun settlement were carefully examined (spectrometric accelerator was used to get radio carbonic dates) in Oxford University laboratory. "All available results,- Kyrbansahatov K. writes - give convincing evidence that Jeitun inhabitants has grew domestic species of wheat and six-row barley, varieties of cereals with bare grains as well as with husk were found there. Small amount of bread wheat was also found... During excavations vegetable remains were found in the building materials: clay, plaster and loaf-shaped bricks, those remains are straw of cereals. This fact gives evidence that cereals has been grown just this place".

Archaeological materials are the firm evidence of the fact that the most ancient farmers of the world who lived in South Turkmenistan had been growing many varieties of wheat. That time bread and barley kasha were rather widespread products.

It's already by 3rd millenium B.C. turkmen forefathers has grown high-yield variety of wheat now called as "ak bugday". Saparmurat Niazov, basing himself upon scientific research, has written in his book "Ruhnama": "History confirmed that Turkmenistan is a homeland of white wheat - "ak bugday". Wheat grain was grown here five thousand years ago but found out comparatively lately not far from Anau. It's exactly this grain that revived and began to speak..."

By the end of the 1st millenium B.C. area under irrigation in Turkmenistan noticeably expanded, it was connected with formation of Great empire of Parfia. Chinese chronicles evidence that Parfian population took very active part in farming: "People here sow rice and wheat and make wine". Coins of Parfian tsars indicate to arable farming and viticulture. For example, coins of Fraat IV (38B.C.) shows ears of wheat and bunches of grapes.

Arable farming is given much attention in Holy Book of our forefathers - "Avesta". Some parts of the book date from 2nd millenium B.C. In particular part "Videvdat" (chapter "Land") says: "The land is so dismal being uncultivated for a long time... A man who work the land with both hands would be rewarded with heavy harvest by Zaratustra..."

Then the Earth itself appeals to the farmer: "Oh, man! You work the land... indeed I'll sate the countries with food, indeed I'll bear fruits, let them reap all eatables beyond wheat abundance".

Generally speaking, the main human virtue according to "Avesta" is assiduous agriculture, care of cattle and zealous land cultivation. Arable farming was considered as pleasing to God: "One who cultivates the land, cultivates the Truth... When grain appears devs (fairytale devil) sweats over, when mill appears devs are thrown into confusion, when flour appears devs starts yelling, when bread appears devs are very much frightened.

In Middle the Ages significant changes took place in agriculture farming and irrigation technique of Kopet-Dag region. Fields were irrigated from small aryks (irrigation ditch) which got water from mountain streams. Water-lifting devices (chigir) were widely used, and they were put in motion by camels. Water mills appeared, they took place of hand attrition mill. That allowed to raise considerably the productivity of labour during grinding as well as it had positive influence upon further agriculture development. Agriculture developed with rapid pace in the valleys of Tejen, Murgab and Amu-Daria rivers.

In IX-XII centuries forefathers of present-day Turkmen were important suppliers of agricultural production including wheat. Arabian geographer Al-Maksidy (X century) was very much delighted with bread baked in Nisa.

Merchants from Merv who had their own housing estate in Bagdad already in VIII century were far-famed beyond the borders of Turkmenistan. Merv was granary of Horasan. Wheat, bread, melons, different fruits had been sold on the markets of Merv. Grain from Abiverda (modern Kaahka) and Serahs had been brought in Merv.

Formation of Great Turkmen-Seljuk empire in XIII century occupying the territory of the Middle Asia, the Near East and the Middle East favored further development of city and rural culture.

However, Mongolian horde annihilated blooming oasis in XIII century. Turkmen irrigation structures which delighted Arabian and Persian travelers were fully destroyed. A people of labour took up arms. Although Turkmen had been defending themselves from grasping conquerors without a break, they had time to work the land and restore dams. Hafiz-I Abru - an author of XV century - wrote in his works that people in oasis of South Turkmenistan had been growing cereals, vegetable crops, water-melons, garden and industrial crops. Wheat of Merv again won a great fame as the best on the East. . Hafiz-I Abru wrote: "Wheat of Merv is much better than in other places, and bread is more palatable there."

Innumerable wars nevertheless undermined agriculture of Turkmen by the end of XVII century. Although arable farming was not completely annihilated, Turkmen no longer could provide themselves with their own bread. Some attempts of tsarist Russia, a part of which Turkmen land was at the end of XIX century, could not make situation better. Moreover, Soviet government policy which imposed one-crop - cotton-plant almost reduced to zero fields of wheat. There were not many farms specializing in cereals and they produced no more than a few tens of thousands of tons of grain.

New stage in agriculture development began with Turkmenistan independence. From the very outset the President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niazov started to form new policy of agriculture reforming, so that any farmer could feel himself a true lord of the land. Having referred to wide experience of our wise forefathers, the Nation's Leader gave scientific proof of the possibility to provide the whole population with wheat of its own production.

At first, not all believed in possibility to solve such a task. However, state rendered grave support to farmers - 50% clearing of charges on machinery use and mineral fertilizers as well as a number of other privilege, state also bought efficient equipment of leading world companies. All these measures helped Turkmenistan to achieve the object by the beginning of new century - to provide population of the country completely with its own wheat.

Certainly, one should give farmers and their selfless labour its due. As farmers had to grow and reap harvest in so difficult natural and climatic conditions. Their job on the fields is a true feat. The present day, one can say that a true lord of Turkmen land is coming back. That lord whom Turkmen respected for ages. There are a number of didactic proverbs and sayings in Turkmen language. Here are some of them: "One who is not lazy to sow wheat in spring, wouldn't beg neighbors of barley in autumn", "One grows thin while one is tilling and reaping, but one will grow fat when one will gather in a good harvest", "One can't appreciate a taste of bread if one doesn't spend at least a day under the burning sun on the field", "The land poured with farmer's sweat will grow not only millet but the gold itself", "Don't blame God for poor harvest, it's only your fault".

Ovez Gundogdyev
Head of the archaeology department of the State Institute of cultural heritage of Turkmenistan, Central Asia and the East peoples under the guidance of the President of Turkmenistan, professor

Not long ago field season of joint turkmen-american international archeological expedition in Annau was completed under the leadership of our author Ovez Gundogdyev and professor Frederic Hibert, USA. Excavations were carried out on the South hill of Annau by the researchers of the archaeology department of the State Institute of cultural heritage of Turkmenistan, Central Asia and the East peoples under the guidance of President of Turkmenistan and National geographical society of USA. One of the most significant finds of expedition was carbonized grains of "ak bugday" and barley. They were found in the layer which dates from II millennium B.C. Earlier Turkmen scientists used only laboratory materials, but now there is a whole handful of white wheat at their disposal. It's not simple wheat for cooking different types of kasha, that's exactly "ak bugday" with certain structure to bake bread. So, theory of existence of ancient agricultural civilization on the territory of Turkmenistan again derived its scientific corroboration.

©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005