Short stay


Archeology - Turkmenistan

Research topics


Exploring the Neolithic to Chalcolithic transition in Central Asia. Case study in Dashly-depe (Turkmenistan)

The site of Dashly-depe lies in the center of Yzgant village in the Ahal province of Turkmenistan. The locality is situated on the floodplain north of the Kopetdag Mountains, about 35 km northwest of the modern capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat. Dashly-depe is an important site, which seems to span the Neolithic-Chalcolithic transition in the foreland of the Central Kopetdag. The radiocarbon dates give important new data and underline the likelihood that this site probably begins in the Neolithic (Dzheitun) period, at the same time or even before the sequence at Anau North. The layers excavated so far chronologically overlap with all the early periods of Anau (late 5th - 4th millennia BC). In the Chalcolithic periods (Namazga I-II) life appears to have continued without any visible major interruption from the older layers and therefore this transition phase can be studied here - a situation very rare in Central Asia.
Absolute chronologies can only be established for a few regions and localities, notably the region around Altyn-depe, whereas for the region west of Ashgabat, the last 50 years have not resulted in any new data. While there are indications that the earliest settlers came from the Iranian highlands south of the Kopetdag Mountains, the transition to the Chalcolithic period is much less well understood. Traditionally, another “invasion” is claimed, and specific new technologies show connections to Iran, the transition from Neolithic simple villages to the Chalcolithic more complex societies shows also local continuities.
This research project tries to understand this transition process better.

Activities / Resume


Aydogdy Kurbanov is a historian and archaeologist who specializes in the study of the Prehistoric and Early Medieval Central Asia. He holds a PhD from the Free University Berlin, Germany (2010). His thesis is a wide-ranging work that is a substantial building stone for a history of the Early Medieval period in Central Asia. Dr. Kurbanov in his work draws on an astounding variability of sources, from the Chinese, Byzantine, Iranian and Indian sources and associated languages, to architecture, burial forms, coins and pottery. With this broad, overarching approach, Dr. Kurbanov was able to highlight particular problems in the Early Medieval history of Central Asia.
He worked at the German Archaeological Institute's Eurasia Section in Berlin, as well as at the Free University Berlin. Since his return to Turkmenistan, he had been the Head of the Archaeology department of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan. He has co-organized major conferences each year and is doing excavations in Turkmenistan. Dr. Kurbanov has meanwhile vastly extended his research interests and directs an excavation project at Dashly-depe in Turkmenistan with financial support from the National Geographic. He has extremely important new data on the prehistoric sequence in this part of Turkmenistan, and this information on the transition from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic periods concerns one of the enigmatic aspects of the chronology of early Central Asia.


Books (recent)

  • Kurbanov, A. (2013): The History and Archaeology of the Hephthalites. Bonn: Habelt Verlag. 306 pp. (in English)
  • Hojaniyazov, T., Kurbanov, A. and Ovlyagulyev, M. (2011): Great Silk Road and Turkmenistan. Ashgabat. 160 pp. (in Turkmen, English, Russian)
  • Gundogdiyev, O., Hojaniyazov, T. and Kurbanov, A. (2010): Akdepe – the ancient archaeological site of Turkmenistan. Ashgabat. 72 pp. (in Turkmen, English, Russian)

Recent book chapters

  • Kurbanov, A. (in press): Settlement Patterns during the Sasanian Era in Southern Turkmenistan: Preliminary survey results in the Abiverd and Merv regions 2014-2015. In: Urban cultures of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Karakhanids. Learnings and conclusions from new archaeological investigations and discoveries, Bern, Switzerland (in English).
  • Kurbanov, A. (in press): Духовная и материальная культура Центральной Азии в контексте с эфталитами. In: Записки восточного отделения Российского археологического общества” (Memoirs of the Oriental department of the Russian Archaeological Society). St Petersburg, Russia (in Russian).
  • Kurbanov, A. (in press): Gündogar Türkmenistanyň irki orta asyrlar ýadygärlikleriniň ylmy taýdan öwrenilişi (Historiography of the research of early medieval sites in South Turkmenistan). In: Türkmenistanyň Ylymlar akademiýasynyň Arheologiýa we etnografiýa institutynyň işleri (Works of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan), Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (in Turkmen).
  • Kurbanov, A. (2016): Xinxiang in the time of the Hephthalites (some facts about the Central Asia history in 5th – 6th centuries AD). In: T. Tiyip (ed.). The proceedings of the 4th International Conference on “Human Being and Ecological Environment of Central Asia”, Urumqi, China, pp. 1-7 (in English).
  • Kurbanov, A. (2014): Written Sources on the Hephthalites. In: B. Cerasetti, K. Lamberg-Karlovsky, B. Genito (eds). My life is like the Summer Rose. Maurizio Tosi e l’archeologia come modo di vivere. Papers in honour of Maurizio Tosi for his 70th birthday. British Archaeological Reports. International Series 2690. Oxford, UK, pp. 379-384 (in English).
  • Kurbanov, A. (2013): Cranial deformation among the Hephthalites. In: A.A. Sinitsyn, M. M. Kholod (eds.). ΚΟΙΝΟΝ ΔΩΡΟΝ. Studies and Essays in Honour of Valery P. Nikonorov on the Occasion of His Sixtieth Birthday. St. Petersburg (in English).
  • Kurbanov, A. (2013): Археологическое изучение западного Туркменистана эпохи камня. Papers in honour of Z. Taimagambetov for his 60th birthday; Kazakh National University named after Al Farabi, Almaty, Kazakhstan, pp. 53-61 (in Russian)
  • Kurbanov, A. (2012): О взаимоотношениях Пероза с эфталитами. Türkmen ylmy halkara gatnaşyklar ýolunda. Ylmy makalalar ýygyndysy - 3, Ashgabat. pp. 234-245 (in Russian)
  • Kurbanov, A. (2012): The Hephthalites on the images of funeral couches and sarcophaguses from North-Western China. Türkmen ylmy Galkynyş we halkara gatnaşyklar ýolunda. Ylmy makalalar ýygyndysy - 1, Ashgabat. pp. 268-274 (in English)
  • Kurbanov, A. (2011): About connections of the Hephthalites with ancient Khorezm. Türkmen ylmy Galkynyş we halkara gatnaşyklar ýolunda. Ylmy makalalar ýygyndysy - 3, Ashgabat. pp. 226-234 (in Russian)
  • Hojaniyazov, T. and Kurbanov, A. (2011): Turkmenistan. K. Baipakov, Sh. Pidayev (eds.), Prominent Archaeological Sites of Central Asia on the Great Silk Road. Samarkand. pp. 70-85 (in English)

Recent articles

  • Kurbanov, A. (in press): Военные кампании Пероза против эфталитов во второй половине V в. н.э. Acta Musei Varnaensis”. Varna Regional Museum of History, Varna, Bulgaria (in Russian).
  • Kurbanov, A. (in press): Neolithic research in South Turkmenistan: past and present (Historiographical review). In: Archäologie in Iran und Turan. Journal of the Eurasia department, German Archaeological Institute, Berlin, Germany (in English).
  • Kurbanov, A. (in press): The socio-political structure in Central Asia at the 5th – 6th centuries CE. ISIMU. Revista sobre Oriente Próximo y Egipto en la antigüedad. Journal of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain (in English).
  • Kurbanov, A. (2018): History of Research of early Iron Age Sites in Southern Turkmenistan during the Soviet Period. In: J. Lhuillier, N. Boroffka (eds.), A Millennium of History: The Iron Age in southern Central Asia (2nd and 1st millennia BC), Proceedings of the conference held in Berlin (June 23-25, 2014), Archäologie in Iran und Turan 17/Mémoires de la Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan XXXV, Berlin. pp. 7-15 (in English).
  • Kurbanov, A. (2018): A brief history of archaeological research in Turkmenistan from the beginning of the 20th century until the present. ArchéOrient - Le Blog, Lyon, France, (in English).
  • Kurbanov, A. and G. Yagshymyradov (2015): New finds on archeological site Dashlydepe. Science and technology in Turkmenistan. Scientific-theoretical journal of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan – 1, Ashgabat. pp. 40-43 (in Turkmen).
  • Boroffka, N. and A. Kurbanov (2015): New data on the Neolithic and Eneolithic of Central Asia: Dashly depe (Turkmenistan). Miras 1, pp. 38-55 (in Turkmen, English, Russian)
  • Kurbanov, A. (2014): The Hephthalites: Iconographical Materials. Tyragetia. Journal of the National museum of Moldova. VIII [XXIII], nr. 1, pp.317-334 (in English)

Encyclopédic contribution

  • Kurbanov, A. (2016): Hephthalite khanate. In: John M. Mackenzie (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Empire. Wiley-Blackwell publishing house.