MINERAL RESOURCES AND METAL EXPLOITATION
The impressive feature of the region is the presence, besides mining exploitation, of the settlements of ancient metallurgists, where they smelted copper, tin, and, possibly, gold. In most cases, ore processing took place in the vicinity of its sources. Traces of metal production have been documented at settlements, short-time stations, places of ancient smelting works, manufacturing areas (Sarazm, Tugai, Ljavljakan,
Karnab, Aktashty, Tym, Madami, Beshbulak, Chakka, Navbag, etc.). The number of sites attributed to metallurgy and metalworks has increased due to geological-archaeological studies made between 1961 and 1975 by the “Ancient Mine Openings” project of the Uzbekistan Ministry of Geology. A great number of these sites (Bronze Age miners and metalworkers’ seasonal camps) have not yet been published, or consist of hardly accessible reports (Lopatin et al. 1964; Kireev et al. 1969; Maksudov et al. 1975). The sites are localized in areas near streams, or on non-submersible terraces between two catchment basins where the link is clear between shepherding and the location of mineral resources. The character of these complexes (thin cultural layer with little material, small area) points at their non-permanent nature (with the exception of Sarazm), with short-time camps of various populations on their routes to mineral sources.
The Zeravshan valley contains significant mineral and ore resources (see also Chapter 28). Here one can find deposits and occurrences of gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, tin, arsenic, bismuth, and iron ore. They are mostly attributed to the main mountainous formations - Nurotau, Mal’guzar, Karatjube, Ziaetdin, Zirabulak. The basic raw resources also include non-ore forms of mineral resources (feldspar, talc, graphite, etc.), stones for coating (marble, granite, gypsum, etc.), and for ornaments (turquoise, chalcedony, onyx, etc.) (Popov and Tyljaganov 1976). Many of these places attest to ancient exploitations. Thus, in its work in the Nuratau Mountains, the “Ancient Mine Openings” project has identified a great number of gold and turquoise deposits with earlier traces of exploitation; ancient traces of mining of cinnabar, copper, and turquoise have been found in the Malguzar Mountains; tin and silver-arsenic ores in the Ziaetdin-Zirabulak Mountains; and copper and turquoise in the Karatube Mountains. It has to be underlined here that the majority of these ancient mining works, slag heaps, remains of smelting furnaces, and mining settlements functioned during the Bronze Age and were operated by Catacomb-Srubno-Andronovo prospectors and metallurgists (Avanesova et al. 2005: 17-27; Avanesova 2012a: 3-35). New research enables us to assume that the region was involved in an expansion process because of its ore resources. From our current knowledge and the extent of the gathered materials, we are now able to make a general interpretation of the ongoing activities in this region.
The majority of the complexes are represented by short duration and reoccupied stations, scatters (the cultural layers having been destroyed by later anthropic factors), and production sites related to mining work. Traces of underground activities (tunnels) and specific remains of the daily lives of Bronze Age metalworkers in the Ziaetdin-Zarabulak Mountains speak for themselves (Ruzanov 2000; Partsinger and Boroffka 2008; Avanesova 2012a: 3-35). According to geologists’ reports, ancient smelting sites are attested all over the Zeravshan area (Maksudov et al. 1975). Unfortunately, none of the settlements has been studied yet, except for Sarazm and Tugai, which give only a fragmentary knowledge of their character. However, despite our small database, we have a complete picture of all the stages of the technological development of metalworking in the area: miners, metallurgists, blacksmiths, foundrymen. The character of the sites is determined by the presence of metal ore, metallurgic slags, smelting furnaces (or their remains), stone ore-mining tools, crucible fragments, molds, sintered (fritted) elements, metal prills, etc. The cultural background of these sites is illustrated by their material remains (pottery etc.), which characterize groups of shepherds and farmers of different periods and with different cultures. Metalworking, in which the polyethnic steppe group led a major mediating role, was oriented not only to answer local needs, but also to meet massive barter exchanges with areas devoid of metal ores.