An Ornament – an Artistic Discovery of Humanity

The cultural heritage of the Turkmen people that originates from the Jeytun period – the Neolithic Period, the New Stone Age (X-V millennia BC), marked by the further progress of the earliest human communities in the territory of modern Turkmenistan, is rich and diverse. During this period, the way of life switched from hunting and gathering to the domestication of animals and the cultivation of plants, in other words, to food production. The settlements of farmers and cattle breeders emerged in the territory of Southern Turkmenistan in the VI millennium BC. Farmers made a significant contribution to ancient culture; they raised the art of pottery and ornamentation to a high artistic level. In Turkmenistan, the early Neolithic monuments have many fragments of ceramic vessels decorated with simple patterns, such as straight, oblique and wavy lines. However, ancient pottery decoration saw its heyday in the Eneolithic period – the Chalcolithic Age.

A Unique workshop of the Bronze age

Turkmenistan is known to have many historical monuments dating back to the antiquity and the Middle Ages. Some of them are world famous, all of them are of great importance for science and are under the close attention of Turkmen archaeologists, who from year to year carry out excavations at them and delight us with new discoveries. It is no secret that the overwhelming number of artefacts found are ceramic items. According to the manufacturing technology and the characteristic design of the vessels, scientists can determine the time of production of such finds. The richness of forms of ceramics, the amazing kitchenware of the Margush potters, made with striking grace and high professionalism, are of particular interest to both specialists and visitors to the State Museum of the State Cultural Centre of Turkmenistan.

Medieval Lamps of Turkmenistan

The Institute of History and Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan has been conducting archaeological excavations at the medieval monuments of Southern Turkmenistan for many years. This work has resulted in gathering a large collection of archaeological finds: stone, glass, metal and ceramic items. Of them, ceramic items come out on top, as clay – a pliable and very elastic material, which man began to use in the Stone Age, was easy to use. The largest number of ceramic finds are household tableware and glazed and unglazed dinnerware. Central Asian glazed lamps constitute a specific, rare group. Ancient people were aware of the advantages of artificial lighting. With the sunset and the onset of darkness, they were plunged into darkness that was always something negative. In the history of civilisation, the art of making lamps therefore emerged in ancient times, and the first primitive lamps were made from reeds and plant stems, and resinous wood was used for lighting. Their age is striking – from 40,000 to 10,000 BC. Certainly, they were not remarkable for exquisiteness or sophisticated design. They were small bowls hollowed out in stone. Somewhat later, people began to use clay to make lamps, and their shape changed over time: from light portable to special road lamps (in the form of a lantern) and table lamps. The most common of these were clay and metal

At the Foundations of Jeweller’s Art

To imagine our contemporary women without jewellery is impossible. This is not just a tribute and adherence to fashion or the search for the ideal of beauty. Jewellery pieces not only highlight natural attractiveness and femininity, but also make the image complete and charming. It took more than one century to refine their types, sizes, shapes and artistic solutions. This is particularly true for those of jewellery pieces that have become an essential element of national costume. This is illustrated by the traditional women’s costume that comprises an ensemble of exquisite jewellery pieces. Each of them is a work of decorative and applied arts that contains the creative experience of many generations of craftsmen. The unique specimens of such items that reflected the aesthetic views of society of their epoch belong to the ancestors of the Turkmen people – the founders of the earliest civilisations and powerful states. Nowadays, some of them are exhibits of the museums in our country and treasures of national heritage.

Silver Statuettes from Nisa

The well-known historical monuments that date back to the brilliant era of the Parthian Empire are located in the territory of Turkmenistan. This fact is not surprising. It is there that its statehood and the new Arsacid royal dynasty emerged in the 3rd century BC after the rebellion of local tribes against the heirs of the possessions of Alexander the Great. Scientists assume that it is Nisa, located at the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains, that could be the first capital of the power that expanded subsequently. Nowadays, it is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and its sites of ancient settlement arouse great interest in the scientific community. Nisa is not only the remains of the majestic cult complex and strong fortifications, but also numerous archaeological finds, where small gilded silver items were found along with rhytons – the masterpieces of ivory carving, marble fragments and earthenware sculptures. All the figurines from Nisa are kept at the State Museum of the State Cultural Centre of Turkmenistan and are part of its permanent exhibition. These are the small statuettes of Athena, Eros, a griffin, an eagle, a siren and a sphinx.

Turkmenistan — Unesco: Positive Dynamics of Cooperation in the Sphere of Protecting Cultural Heritage

Speaking at the International Conference entitled “Turkmenistan and International Organisations: Cooperation for Peace and Development” (Ashgabat, January 14, 2020), the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted, “In Turkmenistan, the promotion of culture and education, the preservation and popularisation of historical heritage are the key priorities of state policy. Its integral part is the development of comprehensive and close contacts with UNESCO.” On November 2, 2020, the National Commission of Turkmenistan for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) held its first meeting on the instructions of the leader of the nation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was another important step bringing cooperation with the authoritative international organisation to a completely new level. The members of the National Commission reviewed the draft Joint Action Plan for 2021–2023, which attached particular importance to the preservation of the rich cultural heritage of our Motherland, along with many aspects of Turkmenistan–UNESCO cooperation.

Ori­gi­nal Wicker Ar­ticles

The folk app­lied arts of Turk­me­nis­tan ta­ke an im­por­tant place in the sys­tem of na­tio­nal cul­tu­ral values. It has ab­sor­bed the le­gacy of past eras and the crea­tive work of ma­ny ge­ne­ra­tions, the­re­fo­re it never cea­ses to ama­ze and de­light everyo­ne with its ori­gi­na­li­ty and richness of varia­tions. The colour of folk decora­tive arts is most vivid­ly expres­sed in car­pet weaving. The Turk­men car­pet has become fa­mous all over the world for its ra­re ar­tis­tic me­rits, sop­his­ticated sty­li­sa­tion and the hig­hest qua­li­ty of execution. When ana­ly­sing and sys­te­ma­ti­sing car­pets and car­pet pro­ducts avai­lab­le in the de­po­si­to­ries of the Na­tio­nal Car­pet Mu­seum, several samp­les we­re iden­ti­fied as unique mo­nu­ments of the ma­te­rial and spi­ri­tual cul­tu­re of the Turk­men of no less scien­ti­fic in­te­rest than, per­haps, writ­ten mo­nu­ments. The factu­al ma­te­rial accumu­la­ted in the cour­se of re­search ma­kes it pos­sib­le to mo­re ful­ly reveal the various as­pects of the peop­le’s cul­tu­re, every­day li­fe, tra­di­tions and the level of develop­ment of ho­me car­pet pro­ducti­on in all its diver­si­ty.

An old necklace — an amulet and fashion jewellery

Women’s jewellery is one of the brightest elements of traditional culture. They performed the important symbolic functions of marking the family and social status and reflected the aesthetic ideals of the people; they were endowed with magical properties of amulets. In the late Stone Age, jewellery pieces were made of bones, animal teeth and fangs and all kinds of sea shells; they were intended to give its owner the strength and dexterity of the animal and to protect from possible attacks and troubles. It was believed that the shape determined the magical power of the jewellery. The symbolic objects, for example, fruit jewellery ensured their owner the patronage of the sun as a source of life or a link with the forces of fertility. This fusion with the forces of the Universe through magic was supposed to protect a person from any threatening phenomena or actions. Superstitions were very strong among nomads for a long time, and therefore, jewellery has been often worn as a talisman till our days. A positive perception of the magical meaning and articles contributed to their aesthetic comprehension and transformation into a decorative plane.

Stylish and inimitable

Though patterned knitting has long been known to the Turkmen people, it played a more modest role in the national art than carpet making, embroidery and weaving. It was represented most clearly in the making of ornamented socks – gulli jorap. Over many centuries, Turkmen knitters have developed their own ornamental compositions and various colour solutions, which give gulli jorap the bright national colour. Socks were knitted from homemade sheep wool yarn. Turkmen women performed all the laborious operations associated with processing wool into yarn. Previously, only natural plant dyes were used to colour yarn. Today, they are substituted with chemicals, and homemade wool is replaced with factory-made materials. In the distant past, socks were knitted with homemade wooden knitting needles; and starting from the 19th century, with iron knitting needles. However, the modern texture did not affect the ornamental qualities of knitted socks due to the combination of contrasting shades and the traditional geometric pattern. The pattern is always distinct and has many variations, like that of a carpet.

Craftsmanship that lives for centuries

President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOV: – The role of Turkmen women and girls in preserving the inexhaustible source of national cultural heritage, the history of which goes back millennia is significant and invaluable. The world of Turkmen decorative and applied arts is diverse and unique. These are world-famous handmade carpets, unique woman’s national clothes and Turkmen jewellery of perfect design. Each generation of the Turkmen people considered it their duty to safeguard this heritage. Today, the state and society have joined their efforts on this matter. The multifaceted work conducted under the leadership of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov towards safeguarding the national traditions of applied arts illustrates great respect for the invaluable heritage of the Turkmen people. Our contemporaries, inspired by the attention of the national leader to national cultural traditions, seek not only to preserve the unique national decorative and applied arts, but also to enrich it with new compositional forms and colours.