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Paris, December 3, 2004

Discovery of an ancient capital of the Kushan empire in Uzbekistan, close to Afghanistan

Pierre Leriche, archeologist and CNRS research director, and his Uzbek colleague Chakir Pidaev (1) have discovered a large town, the former capital of the powerful Kushan empire, on the site of Termez. Their most recent discoveries on this site make it possible to rewrite the ancient history of central Asia and show, for the first time, the commercial, artistic, and religious importance of Termez in ancient times and the Middle Ages.

The cultural complex of the Termez site: temple or mausoleum?

The site of Termez, much of which is located in the military border zone between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, has already revealed traces of its Islamic past, including a palace and several mosques. The latest discoveries by these archeologists in October 2004 show how this modest Greek military colony dating back to the third century B.C. became one of the capitals of the Kushan dynasty in the first century B.C. It was a major stop on the Silk Route and a buzzing center for trade and religious effervescence, playing an important role in the spread of Buddhism. Following a temporary decline in the seventh and eighth centuries, Termez once again prospered during the Islamic era and rose to become one of the capitals of central Asia …until it was destroyed by the army of the Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan in the early 13th century.

 

The discoveries that were recently unearthed as well as a detailed account of the site's history were published in the December 2004 issue of the Journal du CNRS.

 

The exploration of Termez was resumed in 1993 by Pierre Leriche, founder of the Northern Bactrian Mission of the Laboratoire Archéologies d'orient et d'occident (CNRS – ENS), with the support of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the CNRS, and the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan.

 

Links:

Journal du CNRS article published in December 2004: Sous le soleil de l'empire Kouchan

Notes:

(1) Pierre Leriche is a member of the Laboratoire Archéologies d'orient et d'occident (CNRS – ENS) and Chakir Pidaev works at the Archeological Institute of Uzbekistan.

Contacts:

Research contact:
Pierre Leriche
Tel: +33 1 44 32 30 58
E-mail: pierre.leriche@ens.fr

Press contact:
Muriel Ilous
Tel: +33 1 44 96 43 09
E-mail: muriel.ilous@cnrs-dir.fr

CNRS Department of Humanities and Social Sciences:
Armelle Toulemonde,
Tel: +33 1 44 96 40 21
E-mail: armelle.toulemonde@cnrs-dir.fr


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