The Watch

Old Nisa

near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

2004 World Monuments Watch

With its ancient tell surrounded by high defensive earthen ramparts, and its impressive palace complex, the ancient Parthian city of Old Nisa is one of Turkmenistan’s most significant cultural sites. Once considered a rival of Rome for control of the Near East, Parthia flourished between 300 B.C.and A.D. 300. Although the archaeological excavations of Old Nisa over the past 70 years have considerably enriched our understanding of the ancient Parthian Empire, they have been detrimental to what remains of the city, since excavated elements of the site have been left exposed to erosive rains without any conservation effort. The National Department for the Protection, Research and Restoration of Historical Monuments, the Turkmen governmental agency that controls the site, is working with CRATerre-EAG (the International Center for Earth Construction) at the Grenoble School of Architecture to consolidate and preserve the already exposed elements, and persuade archaeologists to take conservation into consideration as they continue to excavate.

Since the Watch

Annual excavations have continued at Old Nisa since Watch listing, with greater attention paid to conservation. In 2005, the Tehran office of UNESCO and Watch nominator CRAterre-ENSAG provided training and equipped a conservation and testing laboratory. Meanwhile, the Parthian Fortresses of Nisa were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2007. Last update: January 2011

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