The archaeological museum of Termez houses interesting exhibits recovered from the slew of archaeological sites in the greater Surkhandarya region. To get a good grasp of the historical context, it makes sense to visit the museum first before you head out into the countryside to view the sites themselves.
The museum’s collection focuses mostly on the Graeco-Bactrian and Kushan era. It is worth noting that its most famous exhibits, like the seated Buddha under the Bodhi tree and the Kushan prince’s head, are reproductions; the originals can be seen in the history museum of Tashkent (which you should visit at the end of your trip) and in Saint-Petersburg.
Besides plenty of sculpture, pottery and coins, highlights include scale models of some of the archaeological sites (Salalli Tepe, Kampyr Tepe, Khalchayan castle, Balalyk Tepe and Fayaz Tepe). There’s some fascinating Buddhist era artwork, painted with ochre, natably a copy of the 3rd century CE ‘Priest and Child’ (which some theorize to be the Greek Timedeos and Aphrodite), found at Balalyk Tepe.
Another mural shows a feast in which 2 men offer wine to a woman who refuses their offer. Most striking is the fragmented mural found at Tavka Kurgan in Shirabad entitled ‘Princess of Tokharistan’. It is actually believed to be a hunter, painted in rich orange, blue and white, with striking eyes preserved so well they belie their age – 1500 years old.
Other interesting finds include an ivory chess piece from Dalverzin Tepe, a more recent Timurid chess set and some 800-year old perfume bottles. A copy of the famous Ayrtam frieze and a reconstruction of a bodhisattva at Dalverzin Tepe hint at the treasures hauled off to other parts of the Soviet Union and beyond.
The ground floor highlights statuary, ranging from a princely head from Dalverzin Tepe wearing a pointed hat, a bust from Khalchayan, a headless statue from Kara Tepe and a large Buddha’s foot from nearby Fayaz Tepe.
The interesting map of archaeological sites in Surkhandarya will help adventurers plan their own expedition.
Like all museums in Uzbekistan, the archaeological museum does little in the way of storytelling. You are presented with objects, and a note saying what it is. It is up to you to interpret the exhibits. A guide can more easily put things into context for you.
- At-Termeziy 29A, +998 76 227-30-17
- Opening hours: 9-18 daily
- Entrance fee: 10 000 sum. Taking pictures costs an extra 7000 sum.
- Your ticket also pays for entrance to Fayaz Tepe.
- A small sister branch of the museum sits in the park around Old Termez and the Al Hakkim at-Termizi mausoleum.
Other sights nearby: