Achaemenid Settlements > Ulug Depe

Ulug Depe


Ulug Depe, also spelled Ulugtep, was an ancient settlement located in present-day Turkmenistan, historically associated with the Achaemenid Empire. Ulug Depe was situated in the Kopet Dag mountain range in southern Turkmenistan, near the modern city of Ashgabat. It occupied a strategic position along the southern route of the Silk Road, connecting the Persian Empire with Central Asia and beyond. Ulug Depe was established as an agricultural and trading settlement during the Bronze Age, around the 3rd millennium BCE. During the Achaemenid period, Ulug Depe became part of the Persian Empire and served as an important outpost in the region.

Role in the Achaemenid Empire:

Ulug Depe played a significant role in the Achaemenid Empire as a frontier settlement guarding the southern borders of Persia. It served as a military outpost, agricultural center, and trading post, facilitating commerce and communication between Persia and Central Asia.

Cultural and Economic Importance:

Ulug Depe was a multicultural city, inhabited by various ethnic groups including Persians, Turkmen, and nomadic tribes. The city thrived economically due to its strategic location along trade routes, benefiting from the exchange of goods, livestock, and agricultural products.

Archaeological Significance:

Ulug Depe is known for its archaeological remains, including ancient fortifications, residential structures, and burial sites. Excavations at Ulug Depe have revealed insights into Achaemenid urban planning, architecture, and material culture in Central Asia.


Ulug Depe's historical significance extends beyond the Achaemenid period, encompassing its role in subsequent Persian, Hellenistic, and Islamic periods. The city remained an important settlement throughout antiquity, reflecting the enduring influence of Persian culture and civilization in Central Asia.

In summary, Achaemenid Ulug Depe was a significant settlement in ancient Turkmenistan, serving as a frontier outpost and trading center along the southern Silk Road. Its strategic location, cultural diversity, and economic importance contributed to its prominence in the Achaemenid world and its lasting legacy in the history of Central Asia.

Ulug Depe is an ancient Bronze Age site in the foothills of the Kopet Dag Mountains in the Karakum Desert of Kaka District (Kaahka) in the Ahal Province of south-eastern Turkmenistan. It covers around 13 acres (53,000 m2) and lies on a mound at a height of about 30 meters. Located near Dushak,[2] its oldest layers are dated to around 5,000 years ago. In the early Bronze Age, Ulug Depe was a flourishing agricultural town, located on the fertile belt along the northern foothills of the Kopet Dag mountain range.[2] In the late 1960s, the Soviet archaeologist, Victor Sarianidi revealed the importance of Ulug Depe, with the occupation of the site ranging from the Neolithic (6th millennium BC) to the Achaemenid period (1st millennium BCE).

The site has been extensively excavated by the French Center of Archaeological Excavations in conjunction with the National Department for Preservation, Studying and Restoration of History and Culture Monuments of Turkmenistan, led by Olivier Lecomte since 2001.[2] The excavation of the site has also been joined by specialists of the state historical-cultural preserve Abiverd and archaeologists from other countries, including students of the Paris University. In 2007 the mission was joined by the Archaeological Research Laboratory and Guimet National Museum with field work funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[3] It is now recognized as a key site for studying the interaction between Central Asia, Elam, Mesopotamia and the Indus Civilization given its location.


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