Development of an Information Platform

Previous work
There is an important platform of existing information: there have been numerous interventions in the site. The International Merv Project material is currently being prepared for publication (with support from the current project): see ‘Dissemination’. Some of the YuTAKE material has been published, although a large amount remains in the extensive unpublished archives. In addition, there are records of other archaeological interventions, scattered archives/collections of material, and numerous other resources such as aerial photographs and accounts of visits, spanning a considerable period of time. The information exists in a number of different archives, including those in Britain, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and in a number of formats. Publication have, as always, been selective, and a wealth of information on deposit survival, sequence, layout, economy, environments, etc, remains to be extracted and documented from the extant work. Much of the earlier work at Merv also remains difficult to access (including Russian texts, few of which have been translated).

This material is being brought together and made accessible. A site plan of all interventions, with their current condition, has been compiled. Research is underway on collating and translating archive material. Work underway includes:

• Aerial photographs - rectification and plotting
• Maps - scanning (raster) and selective digitisation (vector)
• Establishment of a basic survey grid data
• Satellite imagery
• Surface collection data
• Excavations - basic location information for all previous interventions
• YuTAKE reports and archive – research & translation
• Physical archives of material – in Ashgabat, Mary, and even local garages!
• IMP excavations – analysis & publication
• Historic photographic archives – monument condition, etc.

Aerial photo of the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar

This aerial photo shows the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar and the remains of the complex of religious buildings which survive around the mausoleum.

GIS & database development
The above information is handled by a GIS with supporting databases. Considerable work has taken place to geo-rectify the existing imagery (air photos, maps, trench locations, etc), and integrate the existing surface scatter survey and field surveys. Substantial progress has been made in the development of the textual and database elements, although substantial work remains to be done.

Reference collections
There is an urgent need to develop reference collections, and working and sustainable archives , in Turkmenistan. The separation between “nationally” significant material (held by the national or regional museums) and the rest (basically discarded) was stark. The provision of facilities and infrastructure to support an archaeological resource centre for Merv are being actively explored, and temporary storage facilities have been established.

There is an urgent need to develop reference collections, and working and sustainable archives, in Turkmenistan. The development of an international teaching and study collection of ceramics, with fabric & type-series, comparative collections, etc, has been undertaken, and was generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Reserach Council (AHRC), providing an on-line resource, published catalogues and discussion (2005) and handing collections in the IoA and Turkmenistan (2005).