Monday, April 13, 2015

Visiting the Ruins at Old Nisa.

At Old Nisa.

Old Nisa (also known as Parthaunisa) was an ancient city of the Parthian kingdom, located about 18 km southwest of Ashgabat. It is traditionally assumed that Old Nisa was founded by Arsaces I who ruled the Parthian kingdom from about 250 BC–211 BC.  Old Nisa was also reputedly the royal necropolis of the Parthian kings, although it has not been established that the fortress at Old Nisa was either a royal residence or a mausoleum.


After visiting Gypjak Mosque, we drove to the outskirts of Ashgabat to spend time at Old Nisa.  I noticed several things when I got out of the van - that we were the only folks around, that it was cold and windy,  that the landscape around us was grass covered hills, and that the wild poppies and camomile flowers were in full bloom. 

The bright red and yellow flowers added a nice pop of color to the landscape.

We followed Jabbar up a set of steps, leading to the main site.  It was a chilly walk.  By the time I got to the top, I had decided to head back down to the van and get my down jacket - my fleece jacket was not doing much to break the wind and keep me warm.


At the top of the steps was a platform.  From there, Jabbar gave us a brief description and history of Old Nisa. 

Old Nisa is a UNESCO World Heritage site (inscribed in 2007) and excavation work is still ongoing.  So far, archeologists have discovered  substantial buildings, mausoleums and shrines, many inscribed documents, and a looted treasury. Many Hellenistic art works have also been uncovered, as well as a large number of ivory rhytons (aka jug), the outer rims (coins) decorated with Iranian subjects or classical mythological scenes.  It's remarkable that any artifacts were recovered given that Old Nisa was totally destroyed by an earthquake, which occurred during the first decade BC.


We continued on the path leading towards the ruins.  The surround landscape was lush green.  There were mountains in the distance but where we were, it felt like a plateau - relatively flat.  By summer, everything that's now green will be a shade of brown.  We're lucky we're here at this time of year.



Wild flowers dotted the landscape.  I stopped at several points along the walk just to take in the view.  It was so pretty.


I think the yellow flowers are mustard but I don't know for certain.

As we neared the ruins, I could see that much of it had been reconstructed but unfortunately, not enough for us to really be able to make anything out.  The lack of any signage didn't help either. 




There was a single walkway that leads around the complex.  We simply followed it.  From the looks of what was around us, it was obvious that a lot of reconstruction work was taking place.


In fact, we crossed paths with a lone man who was busy mixing up a batch of mud - presumably to be used for replastering walls.



The adobe is a mixture of mud and straw.

Looking out towards a slit window.

Our walk took us in and out of the ruins.  Somewhere along the way, one of the archeologists, working on the site, joined us.  He wasn't a guide so he didn't explain anything to us but anytime we had a question, he would answer.....through Jabbar as the interpreter.

In many ways, I think I enjoyed the views of Mother Nature more than I did of the reconstructed ruins of Old Nisa.

Surprised that Pat got a photo of me from behind.  Usually, our positions are reversed! :-)

New adobe bricks.



The walls and columns are of  Old Nisa are mainly reconstructed -  the only original parts are the outline (labyrinth-like) and some pieces half-hidden underground.  Jabbar made a point to show us the original pieces like these decorative stones.



He also pointed out remnants of the original columns.


One of the more unusual features of  Old Nisa were the columns that came in groups of three.  I can't remember the significance, if any, of the number.

Only the base is original.  The bricks you see are reconstructions.


As we passed through the complex, Jabbar did point out several important rooms to us - like the throne room which was marked by a niche like spot that archeologists believe a throne was once situated in.

Another set of the triple columns with the original  bricks at the very bottom.



For Pat and I, it was a quick walk through Old Nisa.  It was nice to visit the site but I only wished there had been more descriptions of what it was we were looking at.  Perhaps I'll get to come back one day, after they've completed reconstruction work, and it will all make more sense to me.  For now, we have more of Ashgabat to see!