Letter: Turkmen need our archaeological help

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Sir: It was good to read Brian Aldiss's letter (11 June). He may be interested to learn that in recent years there have been two major British archaeologial expeditions to Turkmenistan - collaborations between University College London, the Turkmen Academy of Sciences and the St Petersburg Institute for the History of Material Culture, both sent out under the direction of members of this institute.

These are the Jeitun expedition, which has recently completed its sixth season exploring the origins of agriculture, and the International Merv Project. The latter, beginning its third consecutive season this autumn, is recording the historic city of Merv, one of the great Central Asian cities, once as famous as Bukhara and Samarkand.

Though supported by the British Academy, the British Museum, other British funds and the National Geographic Society (US), to all of whom we are deeply grateful, we have failed to obtain official support of any kind from the Foreign Office or the British Embassy in Moscow.

Like Mr Aldiss, we have found the Turkmen eager to co-operate with us and anxious for all the help and advice that we can give them. We strongly support Mr Aldiss's plea for action by the Government. The British are losing out and the Turkmen are successfully turning elsewhere for support.

Yours faithfully,

GEORGINA HERRMANN

DAVID HARRIS

Institute of Archaeology

University College London

London, WC1

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