watercolor painting of sun rising above mountain range; landscape is barren except for a few trees on plateau in foreground.

"Sunrise," Maria Gervais; depicts sunrise above Hisorak site in Matcha; watercolour on paper, 2017; with permission of artist.

CANCELLED: Rostovtzeff Lecture Series: Sogdian Culture: Its Prelude, Blossom and Afterlife

Lecture 4: Accumulation of Archaeological Data: More Clarity or More Confusion?

Pavel Lurje

State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Note: This event has been CANCELLED. We apologize for any inconvenience.

The Sogdians, an eastern Iranian people who lived in the central part of modern Uzbekistan and neighboring areas of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in the Late Antique and early Medieval periods (4th to 10th centuries CE), produced a culture that made a deep impact on the history of Eurasia. In the last decades, the study of the Sogdians has developed greatly in many countries, and the recent launch of a Sogdian digital exhibition at the Freer|Sackler Gallery marks a new phase of interest in the Sogdians. Archaeological remains and excavated documents tell us the multifaceted story of a society of landlords, merchants, craftsmen, and brave knights—and also of women and their rights and opinions. This is also a story that lacks imperial ambition, but shows religious pluralism in vibrant cities and the life in diasporas, most famously documented in the inclusion of Sogdian merchants in Chinese society, thus contradicting the common opinion of xenophobia of the Celestial Empire. The Sogdians produced outstanding work of visual art, combining intricate ornamental decorations with the rich narrative of epics, tales, and fables. Dr. Lurje's lectures will highlight crucial elements of Sogdian culture, putting together the jigsaw puzzle of archaeological, artistic, textual, and linguistic sources, and introducing discoveries of recent fieldwork activities at Panjakent, where Dr. Lurje has worked for the last 25 years.

The last lecture of the series will be devoted to the results of recent fieldwork conducted by the Panjakent Archaeological Expedition, a continuation of a mission that started in 1946 and has not been interrupted for a single field season since. Panjakent has been the primary source of information on Sogdian city-life and monumental arts since work began at the site. Outlining the main results of the last decade of fieldwork, this lecture will focus on city-planning; types of dwelling, which are sometimes quite unusual; fortifications; the unexpected discovery of a third, minor temple in the city; wall paintings of different types and dates; and large pottery assemblages. Since 2010, the expedition has also conducted fieldwork at Hisorak (medieval Martshkat), a fortified settlement situated in the upper reaches of the Zeravshan valley at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet above sea level. Soil and climate conditions at these altitudes proved unusually favorable for the preservation of organic materials, so many examples of textiles, wooden objects, and documents were found there along with architectural remains and mural paintings. The emergence of such a large and complex settlement in a very remote area is still an enigma. This lecture will include the exciting results of Dr. Lurje's most recent fieldwork season at Panjakent and Hisorak.

Pavel Lurje is Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Section of Central Asia, Caucasus and Crimea in the Oriental Department of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Already as a student in the Department of History of the Middle East and Iranian Philology at Saint Petersburg State University, he began working on the long-term archaeological project in Panjakent and later also on projects in Bukhara and Semirechie (Kyrgyzstan). He received his PhD in 2004 from the Saint Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, where his dissertation focused on "Historico-Linguistic Analysis of Sogdian Toponymy." After his PhD, Dr. Lurje was a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for Iranian Studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, where he worked on a long-term research project focused on Sogdian onomastics. Since taking up his position at the State Hermitage Museum in 2009, his primary research projects have involved archaeological fieldwork at Panjakent and curating the Chorasmian collections of the museum.

Registration is required at isaw.nyu.edu/rsvp. Please note that separate registration is required for each of the four lectures in this series.

The Rostovtzeff Lectures are supported in part by a generous endowment fund given by Roger and Whitney Bagnall.

Admission to lecture closes 10 minutes after scheduled start time.

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