Oscar White Muscarella
Ancient Near East Department
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, New York
June 7, 2009
While traveling across Uzbekistan, I read about Central Asian empires I did not know: the Sogdiana Kingdom, the Khorezm Kingdom, the Kushan Dynasty, the Samanid Dynasty, and the Timurids. It's a dynamic history in a land with a deep past.
I did find one local term I remembered from your Ancient History class at City College: Zoroastrianism.
I recalled (with a little help from the Internet) that Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy at least 3000 years old and a possible precursor to Judaism and Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Basic tenets include the idea of a creator - one universal and transcendent god; truth and order versus untruth and disorder. Good thoughts, good words, and good deeds lead to order and happiness.
To visit the Zoroastrian sites, I needed to depart from the normal tourist route and drive much further west into the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan to a city called Nukus. According to my guidebook, the only sight in Nukus is the Savitsky Karakalpakstan Art Museum, itself, a worthy stop. But outside town I found a hillside necropolis at Mizdakhan and a haunting sight at Chylpyk.