Julio Bendezu Sarmiento
MAFTur (Mission Archéologique Française au Turkménistan)
2018 Grant Recipient
The French-Turkmen Archaeological Mission in Turkmenistan: The Iron Age Occupation at Ulug Depe
Dr. Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento obtained his PhD in Prehistory, Ethnology, and Anthropology at the University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne in 2004. His first researches focused on the funerary archaeology and the biological anthropology of the populations of the Bronze and Iron ages in Kazakhstan. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, he gained extensive experience in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan (including Karakalpakstan), Turkmenistan), but also in Iran and the United Arab Emirates, where he worked both as an archaeologist and an anthropologist. Since 2007, he has been the director of the MAFOuz-Protohistory (French Archaeological Mission in Uzbekistan - Protohistory), working at Dzharkutan in Uzbekistan. Since 2009, he has been the co-director of MAFTUR (French Archaeological Mission in Turkmenistan), of which he became director in 2013. His work evolved over the course of his career as a researcher at IFRI (French Research Institute in Iran) from 2005 to 2007; Deputy Director and then director of IFEAC (French Institute for Central Asian Studies) from 2007 to 2009, and Deputy Director and then Director of the DAFA (French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan) in Kabul since 2013. Since 2009, he has also been a researcher at the CNRS.
This grant will be for the study and publication of the final report of the excavations led from 2001 to 2012 at Ulug depe by the Turkmen‐French Archaeological Mission (MAFTur), directed by O. Lecomte and M. Mamedov (joint project of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the National Department for Preservation, Studying and Restoration of History and Culture Monuments of Turkmenistan). Ulug depe is an ancient Protohistoric site in the foothills of the Kopet Dagh Mountains of Kahka District in the Ahal Province of south-eastern Turkmenistan (175 km east of Ashgabat). The site, by its location near Dushak in the Kopet Dagh range piedmont, close to the mouth of a gorge leading to neighboring Iran, displays by its size (5ha at its top, 13ha at its base) and height (30m above the level of the surrounding plain) the longest stratigraphy in Central Asia, from the late Neolithic (5th mill. BCE) to the Middle Iron Age (ca. 700 BCE).
During the years he worked at the site, O. Lecomte focused on one of the lesser‐known periods in Central Asian archaeology, the Iron Age. Since 2014, a new team has been working at Ulug depe under the direction of Dr. Julio Bendezu Sarmiento, providing complementary data on the Iron Age. Thanks to the long stratigraphy of the site, the following successive stages of the Iron Age have been identified: The Early and Middle Iron Age, while the site seems to have been surprisingly abandoned prior to the Achaemenid conquest of Central Asia. Early Iron Age remains are characterized mainly by new pottery types and new funerary practices. Being the latest occupation of the sites, the Middle Iron Age remains are better preserved and belong to a two‐part urban settlement. The main occupation certainly occurs during Yaz II period (around 1100-700 BC). With his team, O. Lecomte brought to the light a unique proto‐urban settlement centered on an impressive square “citadel”, associated to a still poorly understood material culture. Large, public buildings (a warehouse, a “palatial complex”, a “manor house”, and the so‐called “citadel” at the top of the site) are concentrated in the upper part, while houses were distributed along some streets in the lower town. The town was surrounded by a badly preserved city wall, set on earlier structures. The urban layout of Ulug depe appears to be unique in Central Asia and Iran for that period. Several sites of this period have been partly excavated in the past years, but none of them have been extensively published, and Ulug depe will be the first. The report will focus on this period, aiming at defining the chronological framework, documenting the socio‐economical organization, and establishing the map of the settlement.