download PDF


The paper is devoted to the excavations of the Chilburj fortress located in the Vekilbazar Etrap of the Mary velayat of Turkmenistan, 17 km northwest of the Gyaur-kala citysite, the capital of the ancient Merv Oasis (Margiana by ancient authors). The Central Asian Archaeological Mission (SAE) of the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences USSR (RAS) conducted excavations during 1980 fi eld season. The purpose of these excavations was the verifi cation of the deciphering of aerial photographs used by the Mission in the framework of a large archaeological project on the compilation of the archaeological map of the Merv Oasis, initiated by G.A. Koshelenko. Another task of these works was to clarify and correct the conclusions regarding the dating and functional purpose of the monument, made by previous studies, which were carried out on the monument since the 1900s (expedition of R. Pumpelly), but especially studied in the 1950’s by the South Turkmenistan Archaeological Complex Mission (YuTAKE) under the leadership of M.E. Masson.

Because of the work of the SAE, it was established that the extant fortifi cations of Chilburj belong to the Sassanid period (the 4th and 5th centuries AD), although the fi rst defensive structures from pakhsa here were erected in the Parthian period. However, in the 5th century AD they were backfilled and became the basis for new walls, forming a kind of rampart.

The heyday of the city falls on the period from the 11th to the first half of the 13th century AD (up to the Mongol invasion), i.e. for the last period of its existence. The plan of the city, obtained with the help of aerial photographs, refers precisely to this time.


Parthia, Margiana, Merv Oasis, Chilburj, fortification, defensive structures, aerial photographs

Vasif A. Gaibov

Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gubayev, A., Novikov, S. 1985: Raskopki pamyatnikov Mervskogo oazisa [Excavations of the monuments of the Merv Oasis]. Pamyatniki Turkmenistana [Monuments of Turkmenistan] 2 (40), 14–16.

Gubayev, A.G., Koshelenko, G.A., Novikov, S.V. 1990: Arkheologicheskiye issledovaniya v Mervskom oazise [Archaeological researches in the Merv Oasis]. Vestnik Drevney Istorii [Journal of Ancient History] 3, 117–120.

Koshelenko, G.A. 1963: Parfyanskaya fortifi katsiya [Parthian fortifi cation]. Sovetskaya Arkheologiya [Soviet Archaeology] 2, 57–73.

Koshelenko, G.A. 1966: Kultura Parfi i [Culture of Parthia]. Moscow.

Masson, V.M. 1966: Strana tysyachi gorodov [The country of a thousand cities]. Moscow.

Pugachenkova, G.A. 1952: Parfyanskiye kreposti Yuzhnogo Turkmenistana po materialam rabot YuTAKE [The Parthian fortresses of Southern Turkmenistan (based on the works of South Turkmen Archaeological Complex Mission)]. Vestnik Drevney Istorii [Journal of Ancient History] 2, 215–225.

Pugachenkova, G.A. 1958: Puti razvitiya arkhitektury Yuzhnogo Turkmenistan pory rabovladeniya i feodalizma [Ways of development of the architecture of Southern Turkmenistan in the time of slavery and feudalism]. Moscow.