Where: Central Asia

May 19, 2001: Imagine people living in large apartment complexes made out of bricks. Their city may have been a major stop for silk traders that is why they were well off, decked in gold and semi-precious stone jewellery and using fine ceramics utensils. Bronze axes were among the implements used for cutting and carvings on alabaster (white marble) and bone were used as decoration pieces.

Doesn’t sound all that different from what we see around us today, does it? But to think that all this existed 4000 years ago and that too in the Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan regions of Central Asia!

Why is that so surprising? Well, first of all, till now, only four civilisations had been identified – the Harappan, the Egyptian, the Mesopotamian and the Chinese civilisations. So, Russian and American archaeologists are thrilled to find a new civilisation and that too one in the Central Asian region. They have named this culture the Bactria Margiana Archaeology Complex (BMAC), reports The Asian Age newspaper.

A New Ancient Civilisation
A New Ancient Civilisation [Illustration by Shinod AP]
This finding implies that Central Asia was not as isolated as assumed. Archaeologists say that till now there had been a gap in the history of the Central Asian region and finding BMAC could help in providing missing links.

The newspaper reports that in order to acknowledge any advanced society as a civilisation it is necessary to prove the existence of a script. Last year, such an evidence was found in the form of four or five red-coloured symbols or letters engraved on a small stone object. The stone was found in Turkmenistan, at a site near the border with Iran.

At a symposium recently it was concluded that though the writing does not seem to be very well developed, it definitely looks like an attempt at creating a script.

The newspaper reported that this culture was probably part of some Bronze Age Silk Route that we did not know about till now. The Silk Route that we do know about existed between two BC and 1700. The Silk Route was the route taken by the traders who bought silk from India and China to sell to the Mesopotamians and Romans.

What is interesting is that the stations that served as rest points for these traders were part of this huge settlement, which was in an area 500 – 650 kilometres long and 80 kilometres wide. Therefore, it is possible that BMAC was part of a much earlier trading route, implying that it was a major political centre as well!