Ancient Merv

The archaeological remains of Ancient Merv lie within Turkmenistan's Murghab River delta,

surrounded by the Karakum Desert. The State Historical and Cultural Park of Ancient Merv is an internationally important archaeological site which has been settled for over 4,000 years and urbanized for the last 2,500 years. Unlike many similar sites, which were continually occupied and built atop each other, the cities of Merv periodically shifted, with five distinct cities built next to each other, leaving each relatively well preserved. Ancient Merv lies in a harsh desert environment, with scorching summer heat and below-freezing winter cold; yet cities were not only existed here, they thrived. The cities' location was highly strategic, on the trade and pilgrimage routes of the ancient world, where its position in the river delta provided a natural watering and resting place along the Silk Roads that crossed Central Asia, connecting the great civilizations of the Orient with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Merv grew into one of the largest cities in the world.

The core area of the State Historical and Cultural Park "Ancient Merv" encompasses over 1,200 hectares, making it the largest archaeological park in Central Asia, and it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. Across the vast flat landscape lie multiple cities, with nearly 1,000 hectares enclosed within the various city walls, plus extensive sprawling suburban areas. The Archaeological Park has barred modern agriculture within the park boundaries and is actively engaged in additional protection and conservation efforts for the monuments; the Park has begun to welcome a growing number of visitors.

The standing remains include the defensive circuits of the various cities and standing buildings, including the unusual köshks (fortress-like buildings) and numerous important Islamic mausolea. The long history of successive occupation has left incredibly well-preserved archaeological stratigraphy (layers), ranging in depth from 3 to 17m, across the Ancient Merv Park.

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Keywords: Merv, Turkmenistan, Fortifications, Defences, Walls