Ancient Christian inscriptions found in Uzbekistan.
Eastern-Sogda Archaeological Expedition of the Science Academies of Ukraine and
Uzbekistan found a new epigraphic monument - inscriptions in Sogdian language
(Iranian language, close to Persian and Tajik) with the use of Armenian graphics
(language close to today's Hebrew) - during the excavations of the early
medieval Christian monastery in Urgut district of Samarkand region. The ancient
engravings like these are a unique discovery. There are only a few of them in
the world. Now their number has increased by around twenty.
Two years ago, local residents were building a road in Urgut mountains and a
bulldozer hit the side of a hill. The cut opened up the finding that required
the involvement of archaeologists.
The monastery was built in the late 9th century and existed approximately until
the 13th century. A Zoroastrian temple Jar-Tepe and a temple of a pagan deity
Aspan who could be the protectress of Urgut were located nearby.
In the mountain cave, near the monastery engravings in Sogdian and Syrian
languages were found. One inscription used Chinese hieroglyphs, and scientists
suggest that it could be written by some palmer from Sinjan. The world knows
only one such monument discovered in 1922. These are "visitors'" notes, such as
such and such (a Syrian name with the title of an ecclesiastic was here, as well
as sentences like "good weather" or "it's snowing".
The monastery has survived intact. It appears that the structure has suffered
neither fires nor attacks. The monument is in ideal shape: if it is dug out and
restored, it will be good to stay in. The monastery is located at the top of the
hill, on the mountain terrace with the area of 25 by 100 meters. A river runs by
the two sides of the hill. The monks dug a tunnel 150 meters long and took water
directly from the river through ceramic water pipe to the monastery wells 13-15
meters deep. The walls of the monastery are built with double brickwork from
adobe bricks. The walls are four meters high. This monumental structure was a
good protection against mudflows and landslides. All the common futures of
monastery architecture that has its roots in Mesopotamia and Syria are evident.
The most interesting is the fact that the structure is built from the adobe
brick, although originally such structures were made of stone.
Scientists think that from the very beginning the ancient structure was being
built according to a general plan: it has many subtle architectural details, the
floor is covered with thin ceramic tiles of high quality and a layer of
alabaster, the walls have fragments of paintings.