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2022  N7-8(207-208)
HERITAGE
TREASURY OF ANCESTORS HERITAGE
Margush, Margiana, Merv... This region of Central Asia is unique in terms of abundance of preserved monuments of ancient architecture. Countless fortresses that almost disappeared by now, castles, houses appear unexpectedly among the unpopulated giant dunes or pink takyrs, as if descending from the pages of a fairy tale book.
The folk applied art of the Turkmens, the culture of the people that created and preserved the centuries-old traditions of the most amazing art of embroidery, pattern weaving, pile carpet weaving, jewelry making, created their own ideals of color ratios, composition of ornaments are also perceived as absolutely fabulous.
And the museum exhibits remind and remind and remind… The impressions of the past enter the spiritual world of a person unobtrusively and softly, and a person enters the past with an open soul, learning to respect his ancestors and remember what will be needed for his descendants.
The Local History Museum in Mary is twenty-five years old. Is it too much or too little?! It is only a quarter of a century! By the standards of history, this is a short period. However, in this period, the Mary Museum has turned into the custodian of tens of thousands of exhibits that the world’s leading museum collections would regard as precious. And today, the Mary Museum is not just a collection, a repository of artifacts, it is a collective work, a team of people passionate about their work, the work of scientists, artists and restorers, the inspired word of a guide, and just a memory, a grateful memory of many generations who lived before us and left their mark on this earth.
The Local History Museum of Mary province was established in 1968 as the Mary Historical and Revolutionary Museum. At that time, the museum occupied a small one-story building. The first exposition of the museum was opened in 1974. In 1990, the museum moved to an old building preserved in the city of Mary since the beginning of the twentieth century.
At that time, the museum building was the main museum exhibit. It would immediately attract attention, as it differed from modern buildings, and the brickwork would immediately reveal the origin of the building. The former caravanserai belonging to merchant Asadullayev was built in 1908. It combined the European building techniques, materials and technology with the traditional Central Asian functions, forms and images.
After 20 years, in 2010, the Mary Museum moved into a magnificent building with a total area of about 10,000 square meters, of which 4,000 were reserved for expositions. A new museum building was opened on February 15, 2010 with participation of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.
The three-story building shaped as a huge octagonal crystal is covered with white marble on the central and side facades, and the basement floor is finished with colored granite. The ground and first floors are reserved for expositions. The second floor accommodates offices, a scientific library, a reading room, methodical and conference rooms, a photo laboratory and a printing house. There are depositories, restoration laboratories, workshops, warehouses and technical services on the ground floor. The museum’s fund is now accounts for over 65 thousand exhibits, including the archaeological fund boasting some 25 thousand items.
This magnificent building meets the world standards. It is the center of the spiritual life of the society, carefully preserving the invaluable material heritage of the people. The Museum has five halls with a permanent exhibition and one hall for temporary exhibitions. The Renaissance Hall displays photographs and documents describing the development of Turkmenistan during the period of independence.
Since ancient times, the Turkmen people have been very careful about the riches of nature. The flora and fauna of Turkmenistan is presented in the exposition “Nature of Turkmenistan”, where one can learn about animals and birds listed in the Red Book of Turkmenistan, medicinal plants, geological resources. The hall presents dioramas that recreate the coast of the Murghab River, a desert landscape, as well as a view of the Badkhyz Reserve, created on the territory of the region in 1941.
The hall of fine arts presents the works created by Turkmen painters in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. It displays samples of painting, ceramics, sculpture, tapestries, reflecting the centuries-old history of Turkmens, glorifying the beauty of their native land.
The centuries-old history of the Turkmen people is the heir and successor of the cultures of many ethnic groups that inhabited this vast territory. This was the place of birth and collapse of nomadic and agricultural civilizations, where various cultures, religions, political influences intermingled, mutually enriching each other. In ancient times, the Great Silk Road passed through the territory of modern Turkmenistan – a bridge between the cultures and trade interests of China and Rome, India and Africa, Arabs and Europe, whose history is the now focus of orientalists around the world.
The archaeological exposition presents the history of the Turkmen land from the Mesolithic era (IX–VII millennium BC) to the XVIII century AD. One can see the exhibits on the history of the country of Margush, ancient and medieval Merv. Visitors can also get acquainted with the history of Merv during the heyday of the Seljuk dynasty. Most of the archaeological exposition (about 80 percent) is occupied by exhibits describing the unique civilization of the Bronze Age – Margiana (the country of Margush).
In ancient times, the land located in the delta of the Murghab River (the ancient name was Marg) was called Margiana. The most ancient written source, Avesta, mentions Margiana as Mour, Mourv. The earliest mention of this country can be also found in the Behistun inscription of the Achamenid king Darius I (I millennium BC). Greek historians, who discovered Central Asia during the eastern campaigns of Alexander the Great, began to call this region Margiana, which was a convenient word for pronunciation. In the Middle Ages, under the influence of the Arabic language, these lands were called Merv, and now it is the Mary province of Turkmenistan.
The successive archaeological research conducted in the lower reaches of the Murgab River since 1972 under the leadership of famous Russian scientist Viktor Sarianidi discovered hitherto the unknown depths of the ancient culture. According to many scientists, along with Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China, this is the fifth center of the world civilization, dating back to the III–II millennium BC.
Following the archaeological work led by Sarianidi, many works of ancient fine art were discovered, hundreds of which are exhibited and stored in the collections of the Museum of Local History of Mary province. The exposition presents magnificent mosaics, cult objects, elegant thin-walled ceramic dishes of various shapes, which not only prove the high level of local art, but also help to understand the rich spiritual world of the inhabitants of this ancient country.
The works of art from Ancient Margiana testify that people who made them were not only skilled craftsmen but also artists. This is a full-fledged historical source that tells visitors about the ancient roots of the symbolism of the form and content of products. It is a kind of plastic expression of the ideological ideas of previous generations coming from ancient times.
The collection of items related to the history of Merv of the Great Seljuks occupies a significant place in the archaeological exposition. These are magnificent samples of stamped and glazed ceramics, ivory chess, as well as bronze lamps of the 10th–11th centuries.
The originality of ancient works of art appears as a pronounced artistic system with its persistent principles that prevail in the continuity of images and forms, as well as connections with other art schools. The exhibits of the archaeological exposition tell visitors about the spiritual development, the evolution of cults and religious rites, religious magical ideas and artistic and aesthetic views of the ancestors of the Turkmen. So, new pages are inscribed in the annals of the art of Ancient Turkmenistan.
The ethnographic exposition features exhibits presenting the rich material and spiritual culture of the Turkmen people. Visitors can get acquainted with the arts and crafts of Turkmen women – embroidery, carpet weaving, silk weaving, ancient crafts of wood carvers, jewelers, a rich collection of Turkmen silver jewelry, wonderful traditions of the Turkmens associated with the famous Akhal-Teke horses, birth of a child, wedding ceremonies.
Silver jewelry with gilding occupies a special place in the exposition. Since ancient times, jewelers have been producing round silver rings, bracelets, earrings, magnificent openwork-voluminous plait, temple and pectoral jewelry with carnelian and turquoise, being favorite stones in the East. These large things with a matte silver sheen perfectly set off the swarthy skin and matched the cut, silhouette and peculiar plasticity of the Turkmen national clothes. The Turkmens associated ancient magical ideas with silver. They believed that it preserves purity, makes poisons powerless, that ringing of silver drives evil spirits away. The Turkmens believed that the semi-precious stone carnelian brings happiness and health, protects from danger. Perhaps that is why silver and carnelian are the most favorite materials for Turkmen jewelry. The jewelry items exhibited in the Museum are diverse in form and style of making.
The Turkmens regards a carpet as a measure of beauty, kindness and happiness, the history of the people, their connection with their ancestors. The collection of carpets and rugs presented by the exposition is very diverse. The main ornament of Turkmen carpets is abstract, geometric, with stylized plant, zoomorphic, anthropomorphic motifs.
The national Turkmen costume is richly decorated with embroidery. Originally, embroidery served as a talisman. In this regard, it is no coincidence that embroideries are placed along the edge of the products. It was believed that the evil spirit, faced with the symbols of the amulet, could not break in. The exposition is crowned with the collection of women’s headdresses – chirpa and kurte decorated with stylized floral ornaments.
Exhibitions dedicated to significant dates are held in the temporary exhibition hall.
The heritage preserved by museums shapes people, preserves traditions, shows the life of the people. It is especially important in our difficult time, when the younger generation needs material evidence of the uniqueness of the historical path that the people have traveled, a sense of pride for belonging to this people and understanding of happiness that they live here and now, in this beautiful country with such a great past and no less wonderful future.

Yazgul TIRKISHOVA


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005