A previously unknown Asian civilization used writing 4,000 years ago, hundreds of years before Chinese or Sumerian writing was developed.

An archeological excavation near Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, revealed an inscription on a piece of stone that seems to have been used as a stamp or seal. This discovery suggests that Central Asia had a civilization comparable to that of Mesopotamia and ancient Iran as far back as the Bronze Age.

Archeologists have uncovered ?monumental structures,? including mud brick apartment complexes. The ancient society seems to have herded goats, grown crops and made bronze tools and ceramics about 300 years after the pyramids of Egypt were built. It is not known what they called themselves.

2,000 years later, the region became the heart of the Silk Road from China to the West and the civilization must have integrated into the surrounding societies. The area has been studied by Russian archeologists, but was closed to Western researchers until recently.

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