Book Series OXUS, vol. 1

Sarazm: A Site along the Proto-Silk Road at the Intersection of the Steppe and Oasis Cultures

Results from Excavation VII

Benjamin Mutin

  • Pages: xxvi + 258 p.
  • Size:216 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:20 b/w, 181 col., 74 tables b/w., 8 maps color
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2024

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60294-3
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60295-0
  • E-book
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Benjamin Mutin is an archaeologist who has worked in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Oman, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. He excavated at Sarazm, Tajikistan between 2011 and 2014. His main field of research is the cultures and intercultural interactions within and between the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age periods.


Sarazm, in modern-day Tajikistan, is rightly famous as an archaeological site. A Chalcolithic and Bronze Age settlement, it formed part of a cultural and economic network that stretched from the steppe of Central Asia across to the Iranian Plateau and the Indus. Between 1984 and 1994, fieldwork led by a joint Tajik-French project took place at Excavation VII, yielding unique archaeological contexts and materials that shed light on Sarazm’s multicultural nature, its evolution through time, and the varied activities that took place at the site. Now, in this new volume, the first comprehensive description and analysis of all available data from Excavation VII is presented, and the data from this excavation contextualized both at site level and within the broader setting of the Steppe and Oasis cultures of the IVth and IIIrd millennia BCE. The author offers functional, cultural, and chronological conclusions about the exposed occupations, as well as putting forward new interpretations and hypotheses on this important settlement.



1. Contextualizing Sarazm and Excavation VII

Sarazm as a ‘Multicultural’ Site
Settlement Pattern, Function, and Society
Land, Minerals, and Metals: The raison(s) d’être of Sarazm
At the Intersection of the ‘Middle Asian Interaction Sphere’ and the Steppe Cultures
Significance of Sarazm in the Understanding of the Origins of the Oxus Civilization

2. The Environmental Setting of Sarazm

The Zeravshan River
Mineral Resources
Topography, Geomorphology, and Micromorphology
Exploitation of Plant and Animal Resources

3. Archaeological Contexts

Digging the Archives
Excavation Expanse, Stratigraphy, and Strategy
Level I1
Level I2
Level I3
Level I4
Level I-North/East
Level II1
Level II2
Level II-North/East
Level III1
Level III2
Level III2-North/East
Level III3
Level III3-North/East
Levels IV1–IV2
‘Antique Tomb’
Unallocated Context Numbers
Functions of the Areas Exposed in Excavation VII
Features and Architectural Aspects of Excavation VII and their Parallels at Sarazm and Beyond

4. Radiocarbon Dates

5. Ceramic Vessels

Recording System
Groups 1 and 2
Group 3
Group 4
Group 5
Group 6
Group 7: Misfired Fragments
Evidence for Ceramic Production at Sarazm
Function of the Vessels
Stratigraphic Distribution of the Ceramics
Spatial Distribution of the Ceramics
Chrono-cultural Relationships

6. Small Finds

Analysis and Terminology
Bone Industry
Shell Industry
Terracotta Industry
Chalcedony, Flint, Quartz Sandstone Knapped Lithic Industry
Quartz (Rock Crystal) Knapped Lithic Industry and Bead Making
Carnelian Industry
Lapis Lazuli Industry
Turquoise Industry
Steatite and Frit Industries
Stone Industry
Pigment and Remains Relating to Pigment Preparation
Copper Industry
Lead Industry
Iron Industry
Stratigraphic and Spatial Distribution of the Small Finds
Activities in the Areas Exposed in Excavation VII
Raw Material Procurement and Cultural Relationships

7. Conclusion

Nature of the Occupations and Cultural Relationships

Works Cited