A wonderful moment – walking along a dry river bed, alongside the great cities of Bunjikat in Tajikistan. I stopped to photograph a large chunk of earthen walling. A bunch of kids got very excited. My translator, Oliya Akhmedova, told me they asked: ‘would you like to photograph our wall?’ Awesome that they owned it. Awesome that they knew it was important; that it wasn’t ordinary.
The wall is part of the lower city, a place I am passionately interested in, in part as everyone else seems to love the elite citadel, with its amazing wall paintings; but I love the lower city, where people lived, loved, struggled and played out their lives. Why are archaeologists obsessed with the elite and the powerful? Maybe because they wrote (literally) history? Maybe because the material culture is more likely to hit the news, be in a museum, be some sort of legacy? But cities full of people, full of life, full of stories that make us human.
By the way – I have no idea what this huge chunk of wall is doing just here – but I plan to try to work it out.
by Tim WILLIAMS