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Soghdian Inscription Found in Samrakand 


11 July 2006




LONDON, (CAIS) -- Eastern-Sogda Archaeological Expedition of the Science Academies of Ukraine and Uzbekistan found a new epigraphic monument – inscriptions in Sogdian language (Iranian language, close to Persian and Tajik) with the use of Armenian graphics. During the excavations of the early medieval Christian monastery in Urgut district of Samarkand region. The ancient engravings like these are a unique discovery. There are only a few of them in the world. Now their number has increased by around twenty.

Two years ago, local residents were building a road in Urgut mountains and a bulldozer hit the side of a hill. The cut opened up the finding that required the involvement of archaeologists.

The monastery was built in the late 9th century and existed approximately until the 13th century. A Zoroastrian temple Jar-Tepe and a pre-Zoroastrian temple of a pagan deity Aspan were located nearby.

In the mountain cave, near the monastery engravings in Sogdian and Syriac languages (the official language of Nestorian church) were found. One inscription used Chinese hieroglyphs, and scientists suggest that it could be written by some palmer from Sinjan. The world knows only one such monument discovered in 1922. These are "visitors'" notes, such as such and such (a Syriac name with the title of an ecclesiastic was here, as well as sentences like "good weather" or "it's snowing".

The Christian monastery has survived intact. It appears that the structure has suffered neither fires nor attacks. The monument is in ideal shape: if it is dug out and restored, it will be good to stay in. The monastery is located at the top of the hill, on the mountain terrace with the area of 25 by 100 meters. A river runs by the two sides of the hill. The monks dug a tunnel 150 meters long and took water directly from the river through ceramic water pipe to the monastery wells 13-15 meters deep. The walls of the monastery are built with double brickwork from adobe bricks. The walls are four meters high. This monumental structure was a good protection against mudflows and landslides. All the common futures of monastery architecture that has its roots in Sasanian Nestorian churches in Mesopotamia are evident. The most interesting is the fact that the structure is built from the adobe brick, although originally such structures were made of stone.

Scientists think that from the very beginning the ancient structure was being built according to a general plan: it has many subtle architectural details, the floor is covered with thin ceramic tiles of high quality and a layer of alabaster, the walls have fragments of paintings.






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