National Geographic : 1905 Nov
THE SUPPOSED BIRTHPLACE OF CIVILIZATIONS IT can be stated without exaggeration that in central Asia, particularly in Russian Turkestan, there are hun dreds, perhaps thousands, of square miles of buried towns and cities. What pro cesses of nature converted the region from a Garden of Eden, filled with mil lions of prosperous and wealthy people, into waterless wastes, inhabited only by nomads, are mysteries, to solve which little attempt has been made until re cently. Mr Raphael Pumpelly, known so widely for his work in China, suggested to the Carnegie Institution in 1902 that an examination of the Turkestan ruins might (I) reveal the birthplace of civil ization, (2) show how changes in man's environment alter man himself, and (3) give a clue to recent geological time, which is now more or less told by guess ing. Inasmuch as geological changes have occurred in central Asia since man has lived there, evidence may be discov ered among the traces left by the earlier inhabitants which will tell how long these changes were in the making. The Carnegie Institution gave Mr Pumpelly a grant sufficient to enable him to make an extended reconnaissance of Turkestan. Mr Pumpelly was accom panied by Prof. William M. Davis, of Harvard University, and Mr Ellsworth Huntington. The results have just been published in a special volume by the Carnegie Institution.* In view of the exceeding importance of the investiga tion, we make the following liberal quotations from Mr Pumpelly's report: The investigation was proposed be cause (i) there is a school that still holds the belief that central Asia is the region in which the great civilizations of the Far East and of the West had their origin; and (2) because of the supposed occurrence in that region, in prehistoric times, of great changes of climate, resulting in the formation and recession of an extensive Asian Medi terranean, of which the Aral, Caspian, and Black seas are the principal rem nants. * Explorations in Turkestan, by Raphael Pumpelly, William M. Davis, and Ellsworth Huntington, with 174 illustrations and maps. Pp. 325, 9 x 12inches. Washington, Carnegie Institution, 1905. Paikent, a Sand -buried City The ruins of Paikent represent the type of cities abandoned for lack of water and then buried by the progressive desert sands. Paikent was a great center of wealth and of commerce between China and the west and south till in the early centuries of our era. The recessions of the lower ends of the Zerafshan River brought its doom. Now only the citadel mound and the top of parts of its walls rise above the waves of the invading sands.