Sarazm is an ancient town and also a jamoat in north-western Tajikistan. It dates back to the 4th millennium BCE and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located in Panjakent district in Sughd province.(1) The archaeological site  of  the ancient city  of Sarazm is located near Durnan,a town situated in the Zarafshan valley of north-west Tajikistan in the Sughd province near the border with Uzbekistan.

Located 15 kilometers west of the city of Panjakent the site occupies an area of about 1,5 km in length and 400 to 900m in width.(2) Sarazm was the first city in Central Asia to maintain economic relations with a network of settlements covering a vast territory from the Turkmenistan steppes and the Aral sea to the Iranian Plateau and the Indus .(4)

Following surface discoveries unearthed due to agricultural activity, the first excavation of the site started in 1977 and was conducted by Abdullah Isakov of the Academy of Science of Tajikistan.(3) During that first excavation, eight soundings in the different locations were conducted and three areas were excavated.(2) In 1987, seven areas were excavated and twenty soundings had been conducted.(6)

Most notably, a fruitful collaboration between French and Tajik researchers flourished starting in 1984with a first scientific mission.(5)  In 1985, a cooperation agreement was signed between the Centre national de la recherché scientifique(CNRS) and the Tajik Academy of Science for three years.(6) In 1985, two American professors, P.L.Kohl and C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky  took part in an expedition organized as a joint USSR and USA archeological exchange program.(7)

Following the first excavation, Isakov concludes that “it has been clearly established that the inhabitants of Sarazm were occupied not only with agriculture and herding but also with metallurgical production.”(2) There is ample evidence that the metal was actually worked in Sarazm using similar techniques as the ones used in Mesopotamia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indus valley.(2) The ceramics discovered at Sarazm indicate contacts extending to the Iranian Plateau, Northern Baluchistan and Turkmenistan.                            For example, pottery from the Bronze Age north-eastern Iranian culture, from Seistan and Baluchistan have been found.(8) The Sarazm III period corresponds to the peak of Sarazm’s economy as a population had grown, building techniques improved and various economic activities such as pottery and more specialization in metallurgy and other crafts.(12)

Moreover, the Zerafshan valley is rich in minerals: gold, silver, galena, copper, tin and mercury.(8) The town would have been involved in the mining and transformation of local recources.(8)

Among the many structures that were excavated, the majority appear to be multi-rooms habitations, but some seem to have a different purpose and serve a communal buildings.(8)Two main building techniques are present on the site: raw earth brick and hand-shaped earth construction.(14)

At the peak of the occupation of Sarazm, the city was economically thriving and artistic production flourished. Pottery was richly ornamented with motifs such as circles, crosses, triangles, lines and net pattern painted using red, yellow and blue pigments.(12) The rosette pattern found on some ceramic could be indicative of an understanding of the solar calendar.(12)

The religious beliefs of the Sarazm people are unclear, but we know that they had altars where sacred fires burned.(12) The proto-urban site of Sarazm was inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2010 as “an archaeological site bearing testimony to the development of human settlements in Central Asia, from the 4th millennium BC.”(15) It is the first World Heritage Site in Tajikistan.

Sarazm I architecture was badly damaged by the subsequent layer, therefore it has not been studied thoroughly.(2) The floors during the Sarazm III period were usually burned. Some building also presented large hearths and it was theorized based on observation of similar hearths in Turkmenistan that these buildings might have served as cult areas.(2) Fortifications were also discovered in the excavationII.(2)

To protect the archeological site, some areas have been covered by a metal roof while others have been reburied under soil. With the help of local people and the CRATerre research institute, a protecting coating of rice husk and  stabilised earth has been designed to cover fragile previously uncovered areas.(14)


  1. Bobojon Gafurov “Tojikon”-Dushanbe-1968
  2. Parvona Jamshedov”The culture from Tajik to English.”-Dushanbe-2008
  3. English-Russian dictionary-Moscow-2005

Маколаи Халимов. А.А.- омузгори кафедраи”Забонхо ва

фанхои гуманитри”