Sarazm - A view from our expert author

Discovered in the mid 20th century, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is wonderfully preserved, allowing visitors to walk through the same doorways that stood there almost 5,000 years before.

Discovered in 1976 by the Soviet archaeologist Abdullojon Isakov, it is remarkable for both its size and its antiquity. The Sarazm settlement originally spread across 130ha, and carbon dating confirms it was already inhabited by 3500bc, peaking at the start of the Bronze Age when it was likely the largest metallurgical centre in central Asia. It thrived until the third millennium bc and was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 2010 in recognition of its historical significance. It was the first UNESCO site in Tajikistan.

Sarazm is divided into three main areas, each covered by a corrugated roof to protect it from the elements. The walls of the different buildings are superbly preserved: you can easily still walk through their doorways and follow the grids of streets. As with ancient Penjikent, Sarazm’s most important archaeological finds have been removed to major museums in Dushanbe and abroad, but a small collection is still housed in the Sarazm Museum. The artefacts demonstrate this was a well-developed city with sophisticated agriculture, metallurgy (bronze, copper and precious metals) and craftsmanship, and that it had trading partners as far afield as Iran and India.

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