Discoverer of “proto-Zoroastrian” Civilization in Turkmenistan Passes Away

Prominent Greco-Russian-Uzbek archeologist, Victor Sarianidi (or Sarigiannidis), who discovered a “proto-Zoroastrian” civilization in Turkmenistan (ancient Margiana) died on December 23, 2013 at the age of 84. According to Russian archeologist Dr. Pavel Lurje of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg “Sarianidi was a monumental figure in Middle [Central] Asian archeology” whose main discoveries were “rich Kushan burials of Tillya-tepe in Afghanistan and the Bactria-Margiana archeological culture, with its reflections of what he called proto-Zoroastrianism.”

In his book “Necropolis of Gonur” (Kapon Pub. 2007) Sariniadi, a member of the Russian Science Academy, portrayed the Zoroastrian roots of the necropolis: “Funeral rites are believed to be the most conservative and traditional ones. It is common knowledge that the first world religion, Zoroastrianism, could appear only on the foundation of ‘Iranian paganism.’ The funeral rites of the Gonur necropolis demonstrate the origin of funeral traditions that later in a reformed way were included in Zoroastrianism. Linguists long ago have come to the conclusion that Zoroastrianism was based on a complex system of funeral rites, the centralidea of which was to save sacred Nature (first of all the earth) from profanation by decomposed corpses. The funeral customs revealed at the Gonur necropolis fully correspond to the known Zoroastrian rites. There, the ‘unclean’ dead body was moved away from the living ones, then it was ‘cleaned’ to avoid ‘profanation’ and to restore the state of ‘ritual cleanness.’ (pg. 160).

Gonur, located in southeastern Turkmenistan at the delta of the ancient Murgab River, consists of a Temple of Fire, a Temple of Water and a necropolis, representing a “unique monumental complex of palaces and temples marking the administrative and religious centre of the ancient kingdom of Margus (Margiana).”     The site dates from 2300-2250 B.C.  Sarianidi believed that “Gonur is the capital of a people who came from the west with a religion that evolved into Zoroastrianism.”  Andrew Lawler, “Central Asia’s Lost Civilization,” Discover Magazine, Nov. 30, 2006.
For further information on the life and discoveries of Victor Sarianidi, see:

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