Posted by: Maureen Flynn-Burhoe | November 2, 2009

Reconfiguring Rivers: Amudarya

Beard’s text (1972) described European travelers’ writings about the Transcaspian region. His work predates the intensive revisiting of seemingly objective narratives through a more critical lens that occurred in cultural studies.

“Traditionally the distinctive feature of the Transcaspian area is its isolation. Three of its boundaries are geographical barriers (the Caspian Sea, the Khirghiz Steppes, the Ferghana and Pamir mountain ranges) and the southern limits blocked from the sixteenth century until the last Russian annexations by the existence of Turkoman slave traders along the Atrak River and beyond. […] None of the most famous British travelers- neither E. G. Browne, the Sherley Brothers, Richard Burton, nor even Thomas Coryate- went there at all. The accounts of those who did go into the Transcaspian are extremely useful for the study of Central Asian history. We often find them present at the battles and political discussions of the region (MacGahan at the fall of Khiva, O’Donavan at Geok Tepe), and we find one of them (Conolly) as involved in the political intrigue as it is possible to be. Central Asia seems in the long run to have been richer in travelers than in indigenous historians. There is much of course that we miss when reading an outsider’s view of local history [and] there is always a side to these books which shows the traveler’s own background and we can trace in them […] the development of European attitudes towards the non-European world, from the merchants and the schemers of the seventeenth century to the missionaries and soldiers of the nineteenth (Beard 1972). “

View Reconfiguring Rivers: Amudarya-Oxus in a larger map

DRAFT!

Multi-Civilizational Timeline of Selected Events Related to Central Asia

(858 – 824 BC) “Ancient country of northwestern Iran generally corresponding to the modern regions of Azerbaijan, Kurdistan and parts of Kermanshah. Media first appears in the texts of the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III (858 – 824 BC) in which peoples of the land of Mada are recorded. The inhabitants came to be known as Medes … see also 2 Kings 17:6: In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” http://ancientneareast.tripod.com/Media_Medes.html Media, Medes, Mada,

600 BC The ancient city of Afrasiab, Afrasyab, (later Samarkand) was founded in the 7th century B.C. “The historic town of Samarkand is a crossroad and melting pot of the world’s cultures. Founded in the 7th century B.C. as ancient Afrasiab, Samarkand had its most significant development in the Timurid period from the 14th to the 15th centuries. The major monuments include the Registan Mosque and madrasas, Bibi-Khanum Mosque, the Shakhi-Zinda compound and the Gur-Emir ensemble, as well as Ulugh-Beg’s Observatory (UNESCO-ICOMOS. 2009-09:221).” Afrasiab

c 500 BC. The earliest, Erk Kala, was founded c 500BC. Around 280 BC Erk Kala became the citadel for the much larger Hellenistic city of Antiochia Marginana (today known as Gyaur Kala) (Williams “dddd. ” Key words: The cities of Merv.

c. 280 BC Around 280 BC Erk Kala became the citadel for the much larger Hellenistic city of Antiochia Marginana (today known as Gyaur Kala). (Williams “dddd. ” Key words: The cities of Merv.

2nd Century BC “Present-day Yunnan is a province in Southwest China. Historically, Yunnan maintained close relationships with Southeast Asia, India, and Tibet, as archaeological findings and other studies have confirmed.1 As an interaction zone among several civilizations, Yunnan was influenced by and had an impact on other cultures. Scholars of China have named a trade route connecting the above regions the “Southwest Silk Road.”2 This international trade route geographically centered on Yunnan and Upper Burma. Yunnan’s importance, however, was based on far more than simply its location. Like Upper Burma, Yunnan is rich in precious metals such as gold and silver as well as other minerals such as tin, lead, and copper, and other local resources. In addition, Yunnan’s connections with the overland Silk Road and the maritime Silk Road greatly enhanced Yunnan’s role in transregional interactions. 1 This paper aims to demonstrate the global significance of Yunnan and to redraw the map of early Eurasian communication. While utilizing Chinese scholarship, I supplement Chinese scholars with non-Chinese sources to construct a more comprehensive picture of the Southwest Silk Road that in turn will add a new dimension to the Sino-foreign exchange and Eurasian communication. First, I will present a concise description of the road. Then, focusing on commercial items such as horses, silver, and cowries, I attempt to demonstrate the global importance of Yunnan by illustrating how Yunnan had shaped neighboring societies. Finally, the use of a world-system perspective will contribute to the ongoing world-system debates and add a new dimension to our understanding of Eurasian communications. Yunnan and Its Trans-Regional Trade: A Critique: Since the early twentieth century, scholarly investigations of the overland Silk Road and the maritime Silk Road have constructed a fundamental basis of the communication within the Eurasian supercontinent. While contributing a great deal to the understanding of ancient East-West exchange, studies of the above two silk routes have more or less overshadowed the third route, the so-called Southwest Silk Road from Southwest China via Burma to India.3 The earliest textual source of the Silk Road is Zhang Qian’s exploration in the Western Regions (xiyu) in the late second century BCE, recorded by Sima Qian in his Shi Ji. Nevertheless, Zhang Qian’s report indeed leads to another Silk Road: a road connecting Southwest China with India, where he found Sichuan cloth (Shubu) and bamboo cane (Qiongzhu) in Daxia (Bactria). Emperor Wu of Han (140–87 BCE) then dispatched his envoys and troops to pacify local polities around Yunnan, with the expectation that he could open this road for his sake. His efforts, unfortunately, failed. Because of Emperor Wu’s attempts, scholars in China for long time have paid a great deal of attention to this road. Many fragmentary and obscure records in Chinese historical writings prior to the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) referred to the exchange between China and India through jungles, forests, rivers, and mountains from Sichuan, Yunnan, Burma, and Assam to India. We have no firsthand accounts of anyone completing this journey from early periods. Chinese documents after the Tang have detailed records, but they could offer little help for purposes of drawing a map of regions far away from the Chinese empire (Yang 2004-09).”

1st century CE The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea was written by a Romanized Alexandrian in the 1st century CE. It gives the shoreline itinerary of the Red (Erythraean) Sea, starting each time at the port of Berenice. Beyond the Red Sea, the manuscript describes the coast of India as far as the Ganges River and the east coast of Africa (called Azania).

AD 77-79 Roman scholar Pliny the Elder published his encyclopedia of natural history Naturalis Historia which attempted to cover all of ancient knowledge available to Pliny at the time. He called Nature the universal mother. His method of referencing original authors, extensive indexing content and covering as much information on all ancient knowledge that was available to him at the time, has become the model for later encyclopedias. The encyclopedia— but not its author survived the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius. It was first translated into English by Philemon Holland in 1601 and then in 1855 John Bostock and H. T. Riley provided a second English translation which included the index. Pliny the Elder (77-79)

“In the vicinity, too, of India, is Bactriana, in which region we find bdellium,[1] that is so highly esteemed. This tree is of a black colour, and about the size of the olive; it has leaves like those of the robur, and bears a fruit similar to that of the wild fig, and in nature resembling a kind of gum. This fruit is by some persons called brochon, by others malacha, and by others, again, maldacon. When of a black colour, and rolled up in cakes, it bears the name of hadrobolon. This substance ought to be transparent and the colour of wax, odoriferous, unctuous when subjected to friction, and bitter to the taste, though without the slightest acidity. When used for sacred purposes, it is steeped in wine, upon which it emits a still more powerful odour. The tree is a native of both India and Arabia, as well as Media and Babylon; some persons give to the bdellium that is imported by way of Media, the name of peraticum.[2] This last is remarkable for its brittleness, while, at the same time, it is harder and more bitter than the other kinds; that of India, on the other hand, is moister, and gummy. This last sort is adulterated by means of almonds, while the various other kinds are falsified with the bark of scordastum, that being the name of a tree[3] the gum of which strongly resembles bdellium. These aduiterations, however, are to be detected–and let it suffice to mention it here, in relation to all other perfumes as well–by the smell, the colour, the weight, the taste, and the action of fire. The bdellium of Bactriana is shining and dry, and covered with numerous white spots resembling the finger-nails; besides which, it should be of a certain weight, heavier or lighter than which it ought not to be. The price of bdellium, in its pure state, is three denarii per pound. [p. 3117]”
1. Fée remarks, that it is singular that a resinous gum, such as bdellium, should have been used in commerce for now two thousand years, and yet its origin remain unknown. Kæmpfer and Rumphus are of opinion, that the tree which produces it is the one known to naturalists as the Borassus flabelliformis of Linnæus, or the Lontarus of others [Genus: Lontarus Adans. Synonym of: Borassus L. Family: Arecaceae subfamily Coryphoideae tribe Borasseae subtribe Lataniinae Altfamily: Palmae Genus number: 20849 MFB]. It is imported into Europe from Arabia and India, and is often found mixed with gum Arabic.
2. peratikon; from periata gês “the remotest parts of the earth,” from which it was brought.
3. The modern name of this tree is unknown.
From CHAP. 19. (9.)–Trees of Bactriana, Bdellium or Brochon, otherwise Malacha or Maldacon, Scordastum. Adulterations used in all spices and aromatics. The various tests of them and their respective values.

570 AD Birth of Mohammed in the city of Mecca, on the caravan route between Yemen and Syria. Mecca is also known for the Kaaba, containing the sacred Black Stone

610 AD In Mecca Mohammed declared His Station as Prophet of God.

622 Year 1 of the Islamic calendar dating from the time Mohammed and His followers left Mecca.

632 Mohammed died. Islam spread throughout the Arabic world.

c. 632 – 700 AD a new Islamic city of Sultan Kala was built to the west, although Gyaur Kala continued in use alongside this, becoming an industrial suburb (Williams “dddd. ” Key words: The cities of Merv.

c. 1400s The Timurid city of Abdullah Khan Kala was constructed to the south, to which was added a suburb, Bairam Ali Khan Kala, around the eighteenth century (Williams “dddd. ” Key words: The cities of Merv.

c. 1700s The Timurid city of Abdullah Khan Kala was constructed to the south, to which was added a suburb, Bairam Ali Khan Kala, around the eighteenth century. (Williams “dddd. ” Key words: The cities of Merv.

1789 Antoine Laurent de Jussieu published Genera Plantarum, secundum ordines naturales disposita juxta methodum in Horto Regio Parisiensi exaratam. Gallica taxonomy,

1879 Russian campaign of 1879 against the Turkmen tribes, later avenged at Geok Deppe. See Marvin, C. 1880. The Russian Campaign against the Turkomans. London: W.H. Allen and Co.

Eye-witness account of General Ivan Lazarov’s disastrous Russian campaign of 1879 against the Turkmen tribes, later avenged at Geok Deppe.

1999 State Historical and Cultural Park Ancient Merv, Turkmenistan. Merv “is the oldest and best-preserved of the oasis-cities along the Silk Route in Central Asia. The remains in this vast oasis span 4,000 years of human history. A number of monuments are still visible, particularly from the last two millennia (UNESCO-ICOMOS. 2009-09:215).” Keywords: Murghab Delta

Politics of Naming

Bactria, Daxia, Balkh (Persian: بلخ – Balḫ, Old Persian; Ancient Greek: Bactra), was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Bactria (Bactriana), the ancient name of the country between the range of the Hindu Kush (Paropamisus) and the Oxus (Amu Darya), with the capital Bactra (now Balkh); in the Persian inscriptions Bākhtri. It is a mountainous country with a moderate climate. Today it is a small town in the Afghani province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some 74 km (46 miles) south of the Amu Darya River. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan. The ancient city of Balkh, in today’s Afghanistan was under the Greeks renamed Bactra, giving its name to Bactria.[citation needed] It was mostly known as the centre and capital of Bactria or Takharistan. Balkh is now for the most part a mass of ruins, situated some 12 km from the right bank of the seasonally-flowing Balkh River, at an elevation of about 365 m (1,200 ft). wiki

bdellium (pĕrātĭcum, i, n., = περατικόν, a species of the bdellium-tree, Plin. 12, 9, 19, 35.)

Bukhara, “which is situated on the Silk Route, is more than 2,000 years old. It is the most complete
example of a medieval city in Central Asia, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact. Monuments of particular interest include the famous tomb of Ismail Samani, a masterpiece of 10th century Muslim architecture, and a large number of 17th-century madrasas (UNESCO-ICOMOS. 2009-09:219).” It was named as a protected site in 1993. Buchara, Bukhara, Uzbekistan,

Itchan Kala “is the inner town (protected by brick walls some 10 m high) of the old Khiva oasis, which was the last resting-place of caravans before crossing the desert to Iran. Although few very old monuments still remain, it is a coherent and well-preserved example of the Muslim architecture of Central Asia. There are several outstanding structures such as the Djuma Mosque, the mausoleums and the madrasas and the two magnificent palaces built at the beginning of the 19th century by Alla-Kulli-Khan (UNESCO-ICOMOS. 2009-09:218).” It was named as a protected site in 1990.

Kunya-Urgench “is situated in northwestern Turkmenistan, on the south side of the Amu Daria River.
Urgench was the capital of the Khorezm region, part of the Achaemenid Empire. The old town contains a series of monuments mainly from the 11th to 16th centuries, including a mosque, the gates of a caravanserai, fortresses, mausoleums and a minaret. The monuments testify to outstanding achievements in architecture and craftsmanship whose influence reached Iran and Afghanistan, and later the architecture of the Mogul Empire of 16th-century India (UNESCO-ICOMOS. 2009-09:216).” It was named as a protected World Heritage site in 2005.

Merv “is the oldest and best-preserved of the oasis-cities along the Silk Route in Central Asia. The remains in this vast oasis span 4,000 years of human history. A number of monuments are still visible, particularly from the last two millennia (UNESCO-ICOMOS. 2009-09.” Keywords: Murghab Delta

Samarkand “The historic town of Samarkand is a crossroad and melting pot of the world’s cultures. Founded in the 7th century B.C. as ancient Afrasiab, Samarkand had its most significant development in the Timurid period from the 14th to the 15th centuries. The major monuments include the Registan Mosque and madrasas, Bibi-Khanum Mosque, the Shakhi-Zinda compound and the Gur-Emir ensemble, as well as Ulugh-Beg’s Observatory (UNESCO-ICOMOS. 2009-09:221).” Afrasiab

Webliographies and Bibliographies

  • Anderson, Benedict. 1991 [1983]. “Census, Map and Museum.” Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London and New York: Verso.
  • Beard, Michael. 1972. “European Travelers in the Trans-Caspian before 1917.” Persee. 13:4:1900.
  • Dickens, Mark. 1995. “Major Events Relevant to Central Asian History.” http://www.oxuscom.com/CA_History_Timeline.pdf
  • UNESCO-ICOMOS. 2009-09. “World Heritage in Asia and Pacific.” UNESCO-ICOMOS Documentation Centre. http://www.international.icomos.org/centre_documentation/bib/worldheritageinasia-pacific.pdf
  • Marvin, Charles Thomas. 1880. The Russian Campaign against the Turkomans. London: W.H. Allen and Co. Also listed as “The Eye-Witnesses’ Account of the Disastrous Russian Campaign against the Akhal Tekke Turkomans:
    Describing the march across the burning dessert, the storming of Dengeel Tepe, and the disastrous retreat to the Caspian.”
  • Marvin, Charles Thomas. 1881. Merv, the queen of the world. London: W. H. Allen. “And the scourage of the man-stealing Turkomans. White an exposition of the Khorassan question.”
  • Musselman, L. J. 2003. “Trees in the Koran and the Bible.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Unasylva. 54:213. ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/005/y9882e/y9882e00.pdf
  • Nasr, S.H. 1996. Religion and the Order of Nature. New York, USA, Oxford University Press.
  • Pliny the Elder. 1855. [AD 77-79]. The Natural History. Translated by John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A. London. Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street.
  • Vincent, William. 1807. [1998] The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean in Two Volumes. Delhi: J. Jeffrey for Asian Educational Series.
    Google Books includes the maps produced c. 1800. Map 1a: Caspian Sea in top left, Most of Amudarya Rivershed???, Bactria to east of southern tip of Caspian Sea, Aria south west of Bactria, Great Desert spanning lower half of map,
    Oman bottom left of map; Map 1b: Caspian Sea in top right, Media in middle, Gulf of Persia in bottom right,

    Vincent, William. 1807. The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean in Two Volumes. Volume I. London. Vol. I: The Voyage Of Nearchus From The Indus To The Euphrates (Around The Year 325 B.C.) Collected From The Original Journal Preserved By Arrian, And Illustrated By Authorities Ancient And Modern. Containing An Account Of The First Navigation Attempted By Europeans In The Indian Ocean. Vol. Ii: The Periplus Of The Erythrean Sea. Containing An Account Of The Navigation Of The Ancients From The Sea Of Seuz To The Coast Of Zanguebar.

  • Vincent, William. 1807. “The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea.” The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean in Two Volumes. Volume II. London.
  • Williams, Tim. “dddd. The landscapes of Islamic Merv, Turkmenistan: Where to draw the line?Internet Archaeology. 25:1.
    This article by Tim Williams of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, “outlines approaches for interpreting the Islamic city of Sultan Kala (Merv), c. 8th-13th centuries AD, based upon aerial photographic and satellite imagery. Hierarchies of assumptions (identification of individual wall lines; which frame spaces, rooms and courtyards; which are grouped as parts of specific buildings; which are part of urban blocks) and ontologies (information about these assumptions and the variable confidence of interpretation, from the position of lines to spatial function) provide a dynamic structure for the presentation of data, interpretation and theory (Williams dddd).
  • Yang, Bin. 2004-09. “Horses, Silver, and Cowries: Yunnan in Global Perspective.” History Cooperative. 15:3. Northeastern University. Key words: Deep Internet, Deep Web.
  • Yoon, Carol Kaesuk. 2009. Naming Nature: the Clash between Instinct and Science. New York and London: W. W. Norton.

Outside links

Notes

Internet Archaeology is a journal whose contents are only available through registration and subscription. It is therefore part of the much less accessible Deep Web.

ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites)

Shortlink http://wp.me/pEVEP-C


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