Georgina HerrmannTreasures in the desert

Published in 1996icon-clockTime to read: 0min 50s

Dr Georgina Herrmann has been a key figure in unearthing the archaeological treasures of Merv on the ancient Silk Route in Central Asia.


Merv is the oldest and best-preserved of the oasis-cities along the Silk Route, the ruins in this vast oasis spanning 4,000 years of human history. Dr Georgina Herrmann, an Honorary Professor at University College London, was one of the driving forces behind the international effort to understand the secrets of Merv, a series of ancient and medieval cities in the Kara Kum Desert in the republic of Turkmenistan, that brim with archaeological treasures and knowledge of the past.

The 60-odd existing monuments at Merv are unique. Nothing like them has survived elsewhere.

The area was once filled with palaces and gardens, fruit groves and streams. Silkworms from China created a prosperous fabric industry. The impressive libraries of ancient Merv were fabulously endowed, attracting scholars from all over the world, including the famous astronomer-poet Omar Khayyam.

Herrmann co-founded the International Merv Project in 1991 to investigate the site. She led the project for a decade before retiring and played a central role in Turkmenistan’s application to UNESCO for World Heritage Status for the Merv site, which was granted in 1999. It became the first archaeological site to be listed in Central Asia.

Significant accolades for her work at Merv include her election in 1999 as a Fellow of the British Academy and the bestowing of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal in 2001.

  • 500 BC to 1300 AD

    Period during which Merv flourished

  • 8 weeks per year

    When the conditions at Merv are appropriate for digging


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