Home Page   •   Blog   •   Site Contents   •   Contact

Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee



Turkmenistan Region

Turkmenistan Region & Zoroastrianism


Turkmenistan and Zoroastrianism

Silk Roads

Kopet Dag Mountains

Kara Kum Desert

Nisa, Anau, Kopet Dag Foothills

Nisaya, Nisa

Raphael Pumpelly - Champion of a Central Asian Cradle of Civilization


Fredrik Hiebert

Why Pumpelly Remains Unknown

Resumption of Anau Excavations

Ancient Kopet Dag Foothill Townships

Mouru - Gonur 1

Mouru & Murgab River Delta

Region & Zoroastrianism

Tepe or Depe


The Archaeological Site

Description of Ancient Gonur

Water Management

Mouru - Gonur 2


Speculation About the Use of Haoma

Claims Regarding Gonur/Margush/Turkmenistan as the Birthplace of Zoroaster or Zoroastrianism

Necropolis & Burial Customs

Gonur Artefacts

Abandonment of Gonur

Age, People & Culture

Mouru - Gonur 3


Toguluk / Togulok

Adji Kui


Very Poor Archaeological Practices

Viktor Sarianidi

BMAC & Andronovo Archaeological Complexes

Mouru - Merv


Endangered Site

History & Cities of Merv

Erk Kala

Gyaur Kala

Sultan Kala

Abdullah Khan Kala

Bairam Ali Khan Kala

Turkmenistan Region Page 1

» Page 2: Nisaya - Anau & Ancient Kopet Dag Foothill Townships

» Page 3: Mouru - Gonur

» Page 4: Mouru - Merv


Turkmenistan in Persian means the land of the Turkmen. The capital city of Turkmenistan is Ashgabat (Ashkhabad), a name with Persian roots loosely meaning the city of love.

Turkmenistan is one of the landlocked countries of Central Asia with a population of about 5 million people. The country's greatest extent from west to east is 1,100 km, and its greatest north-to-south distance is 650 km. Its highest point is Mount Ayrybaba (3,137 meters) in the Kugitang Range of the Pamir-Alay chain the lies in the far east.

Turkmenistan's history is closely intertwined with the history of early Zoroastrianism.

Also see Wikipedia - TurkmenistanWikipedia - Geography of TurkmenistanCIA Factbook, Photo Gallery.

map of Turkmenistan
Map of Turkmenistan - Modern. Click to enlarge

Turkmenistan and Zoroastrianism

Mouru and Nisaya are the third and fifth nations listed in the Avesta's Vendidad.

Mouru is identified as the Margush of Achaemenian texts, Margiana in Greek texts, and modern-day Merv (located close to Mary and near Bayramaly - see map above). Merv is located in the Murgab river delta, the Murgab being a river that runs north from Afghanistan into Turkmenistan and ends in a delta that disappears into the ground north of Merv. Seventy kilometres to the north is the Bronze age site of Gonur-Tepe. When Gonur was in its prime, the river delta would have extended further north from its present extent making the lands around Gonur very fertile.

Nisaya is identified with Nisa (or Nissa located close to the capital, Ashgabat). Both are situated in the shadow of the Kopet Dag mountains that rise up from the Turkmen plains to the Iranian plateau.

Turkmenistan's late President-for-life, Saparmurat Niyazov, wrote in his book the Ruhnama, that Zarathushtra preached in Mouru and the Murgab delta. From our analysis of Avestan passages, this assertion is plausible since Zarathushtra could have travelled from Airyana Vaeja to Mouru. However, the declaration by archaeologist, Victor Sarianidi, that Zoroastrianism originated in Gonur cannot be supported by our analysis. According to the Avesta's Vendidad, Zarathushtra's home was Airyana Vaeja. Mouru and Nisaya were neighbouring lands (lands that he could well have visited).

In the years following the age in which Zarathushtra lived, the Aryans started to migrate west along the Silk Roads, and the fertile region along the northern slopes of the Kopet Dag mountains (presently running along the Iran-Turkmenistan border) became part of greater Iran - ancient Airan (as Airyana Vaeja came to be known in later years).

In the poet Ferdowsi's epic, the Shahnameh, the land of Turan, originally part of ancient Airan or Iran, was gifted by King Feridoon's to his son Tur. A dispute arose and Turan broke away and thereafter frequently engaged in warfare with the mother country. The border between the Airan and Turan was the Amu Darya or Oxus river. Today, the Amu Darya river runs along Turkmenistan's eastern border, and to the east of the border lies Uzbekistan. The central and northern reaches of Uzbekistan are likely candidates for the location of ancient Turan.

Around 600 BCE, the the region of today's Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were integrated into the legendary Airan lands as part of the Achaemenian Persian empire, with eastern Turkmenistan becoming part of the Persian province of Khorasan.

Silk Roads

One of the arms of the ancient Silk Roads ran through Merv, Gonur and Nisa. The discoveries of artefacts from Sumer In Mesopotamia and Harappa in the Indus Valley in the ruins of towns at the base of the Kopet Dag mountains (see below), are changing commonly held beliefs about the Silk Roads. The ancient residents of these towns were trading with these distant lands during the Eneolithic Age (between the late 4th and the late 3rd millennia BCE).

Kopet Dag Mountains

map of Turkmenistan
The Kopet Dag mountains as seen from Turkmenistan
The lower mountains are in Turkmenistan while the higher mountains are in Iran
Image credit: Travel Blog

The Kopet Dag (also spelt Köpet Dag or Koppeh Dagh) mountain range runs along the border between present-day Turkmenistan and Iran, and extends for about 650 km (404 mi), from near the Caspian Sea in the northwest) to the Harirud (In Turkmen, the Tejen) River to the southeast. The lower mountains are on the Turkmenistan side, while the higher mountains are on the Iranian side. The Iranian plateau lies to the south and west of the range.

As far as mountain ranges go, the Kopet Dag are not very high. The highest peak on the Turkmenistan side, Mount Shahshah, rises to 2,940 m (9,646 ft), and is located just southwest of the capital Ashgabat. On the Iranian side, the highest summit is Kuh-e-Quchan, rising to 3,191 m (10,466 ft).

A number of small rivers and streams run down from the Kopet Dag. The river valleys form natural corridors for transit between the Turkmen plains and the high Iranian plateau. Before they disappear into the desert to the north, the rivers create a fertile zone of valleys, deltas and oases at the foot of the mountains. It is in these fertile areas at the foot of the Kopet Dag, that we find the ruins of many ancient settlements and cities.

The Kopet Dag mountains themselves are characterized by dry and sandy slopes, plateaus, and steep ravines. They lie over the meeting point of the continental tectonic plates, the movement of which results in severe earthquakes exceeding seven on the Richter scale. The earthquakes have destroyed many of the ancient settlements that were built along the foothills and adjoining plains.

Kara Kum Desert

Yurts in the Kara Kum's Damla Oasis
Yurts in the Kara Kum's Damla Oasis

The Kara Kum (Karakum or Garagum) desert covers about 75% of Turkmenistan. Kara Kum means black sands. The desert is sparsely inhabited by nomads some of who live in yurts or portable circular abodes. As a consequence, the main concentration of Turkmenistan's population is along the Iranian border, the Murgab basin, the Amu Darya river and the Caspian coast.

» Top

» Page 2 - Nisaya & Anau
» Page 3 - Mouru & Gonur
» Page 4 - Mouru & Merv

» Site Contents

Search Our Site: