Mary Museum

Mary Museum



This museum is housed in a sparkling white-marble palace across the river from the centre of town. This is Turkmenistan's best museum outside Ashgabat, whose ground-floor archaeological displays provide an excellent introduction to both Ancient Merv and the Bronze Age sites of the northern part of the oasis. The enormous premises is home to a collection of taxidermy, temporary exhibits and a gallery of Turkmen art, but the real reason to visit is the superb archaeological collection on the upper floor, full of discoveries from Margush (Gonur), as well as impressively detailed models of both sites.

There are several English-speaking guides working here, and a tour is included in the ticket price. Wherever the collection is, make an effort to see it. There’s an extensive ethnography section, including a large collection of Turkmen jewellery, carpets, stuffed animals, a fully decorated yurt and pottery from the time of the Mongol occupation. But best of all is the archaeological section, bringing together artefacts found at both Merv and Margush, including pottery, weapons, household implements and jewellery. The fine quality and design of household items from Margiana is striking and rivals the collection of the National Museum in Ashgabat. A skeleton of a Margiana priestess was once also on display, though a series of deaths and misfortunes among museum staff persuaded them to have the original returned to where it was found.

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