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8 May 2005
Ancient Parthian court unearthed in Turkmenistan

Italian digs in Turkmenistan are unearthing an extensive archaeological complex that was once a flourishing artistic and political center for the ancient civilization of Parthia. The latest round of digs has revealed invaluable detail about a fortified complex, located 18km southwest of the country's modern capital Ashkhabad, near the border of Iran, according to the excavation director, Antonio Invernizzi of Turin University.
     Archaeologists believe that Old Nisa, one of the Parthian Empire's earliest capitals, was founded in the 2nd century BCE. It was renamed Mithradatkirt, or fortress of Mithradates (171-138 BCE) after the king who turned Parthia into a powerful empire and one of Ancient Rome's greatest rivals. Invernizzi explained that the complex expanded out from an original cluster of buildings protected by walled fortifications after Mithradates conquered Iran and Mesopotamia. So far, he said, perfectly conserved walls of six to eight meters high had been uncovered, with the original decoration still distinguishable. Substantial buildings, Mithraic mausoleums and shrines, inscribed documents and a looted treasury have also come to light. Smaller finds include various artworks, marble statues, fragments of massive clay monuments -- including a depiction of Mithradates -- and around 40 ivory drinking horns, the outer rims of which decorated with people or classical mythological scenes.
     Italian archaeologists started excavating Old Nisa -- which was totally destroyed by an earthquake in the first decade BC -- in 1990, picking up where earlier digs by the Russians had left off in the 1950s. The Parthian Empire was the most powerful force on the Iranian plateau from the 3rd century BC onwards, intermittently controlling Mesopotamia between 190 BCE and 224 CE.

Source: Islamic Republic News Agency (8 May 2005)

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