A Sanctuary of the Hellenistic Period at Torbulok (Tadjikistan)

Excavations in 2014 and 2015

Gunvor Lindström

German Archaeological Institute

A sanctuary of the Hellenistic period was recently discovered at the village of Torbulok in southwest Tajikistan. Its discovery was based on a random find of a large limestone vessel, identified as a perirrhanterion – a vessel for Greek purification rituals. Excavations, started in 2013 by a German-Tajik team, give insights into the structure of the sanctuary and confirm the dating to the 3rd and 2nd century BC, as Bactria was part of the Hellenistic world. The unearthed installations and objects show the performed rituals were inspired not only by Greek customs – like the purification ritual – but also by local traditions, with a high importance of water and ashes. The site seems to have functioned as a pilgrim sanctuary, associated with an ancient settlement at a distance of ca. 30 kilometers.

Gunvor Lindström is an archaeologist specializing in the cultures of the Hellenistic Orient. She received her PhD in Classical Archaeology from the Free University Berlin in 2002. She has spent most of her postdoctoral career at the German Archaeological Institute, where she is currently a Research Assistant. She focused on Central Asia in 2003 with a study on votive objects and deposits in the Oxus temple, the main sanctuary of Hellenistic Bactria. In 2012 she discovered a sanctuary of the Hellenistic period in Torbulok/Tajikistan, and in 2013 she started to excavate the site. In addition to her research work in Central Asia, she explores the diffusion of Hellenistic art in the Near East, Iran and beyond. In 2009 and 2010 she curated the exhibition “Alexander the Great and the Opening of the World,” which went on view in Germany, Austria, and Spain. 

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