Since 1990 an archaeological expedition of the Centro Scavi is active in Old Nisa, focusing on the spread of Hellenistic culture in Asia and its consequences in Parthian and Sassanian times. Between 1990 and 1999 excavations were performed inside of the Round Hall, in order to complete the data collected by the Soviet archaeologists in the past decades. In years 2000-2006 fieldworks focused on a sector immediately north of the Round Hall, where the monumental remains of the Red Building were brought to light. Since 2007, a new excavated area was opened in the south-western corner of the citadel, exposing a large complex of structures that include warehouses.

Turkmenistan - Nisa

Excavations, studies and restorations in Old Nisa
Old Nisa, Baghir
Scientific director:
Antonio Invernizzi (until 2003), Carlo Lippolis

The work carried out by the mission of the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino per il Medio Oriente e l'Asia in Old Nisa (Mithradatkert), in nowadays Turkmenistan, realized thanks to the contribution of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from 2001 until 2007 also of the Compagnia di San Paolo of Turin, is part of the more general field of research on “The legacy of Alexander the Great and the origins of Parthian art. Research on the spread of Hellenistic culture in Asia and on its effects in Parthian and Sasanian times”. The initiative’s purpose is to study how Hellenistic culture spread in Asia, and its encounter with Iranian culture; as for central Asia and Parthian culture, Old Nisa provides a privileged starting point for understanding the art and architecture of the early Arsacid period.
For more than 20 years, the Centro Scavi di Torino has been conducting field works thanks to the cooperation of Turkmen authorities: in recent years with the National Department on Preservation, Study and Restoration of Historical Monuments of the Culture Ministry and the National Museum of Ashgabat; in the earliest years of research, with the State University of Ashgabat (History and Archaeology Institute).

Old Nisa (Mithradatkert)

The Parthians (or Arsacids) belonged to the wide confederation of Scythian nomads of the central Asian steppes. According to classical sources, their group (Parns, Aparns) originated from the regions south of the Aral Sea. Towards the middle of the 3rd century BC, Arsaces I took over Parthia, freeing it from Seleucid rule. This foreshadowed a glorious and centuries-long epic that saw the Parthians dominate the eastern regions, then compete with Rome and finally succumb to the Sasanids in the first decades of the 3rd century AD. One of the first major cities founded by the Arsacids was Old Nisa, the ancient Mithradatkert. Its importance lies in the fact that it is one of the most ancient examples of an official and monumental centre of the early Arsacid period: a crucial time in which the social, political and cultural trends that converged into the Parthians’ various arts were being developed, defined and consolidated.

The archaeological area of Nisa extends at the feet of the Kopet Dagh mountain range, in southern Turkmenistan. Two nearby sites, New Nisa e Old Nisa, emerge today from the plains at the foot of the mountains near the modern village of Baghir, 18 km west of the capital Ashgabat. The two centres, atop natural elevations, as known taday, were founded in Parthian times. New Nisa was probably the city, surrounded by towered walls and with an inner citadel. Old Nisa (the fortress of Mithridates), on the other hand, was the ceremonial centre and royal citadel. The latter is much better-known, as it has seen a succession of Soviet, Turkmen and Italian excavations (the last of which are still underway) take place since the 1930s. Today, our knowledge of the inner layout and of the main features of the citadel of Old Nisa, although still incomplete, is satisfactory. The favourable topographical position of the citadel of Mithridates and the imposing curtain of turreted walls made of unbaked bricks probably gave visitors the impression of being a fortified stronghold; today, although the walls of Old Nisa now appear as gently undulated structures at the edge of the plateau, they have maintained their majestic appearance. However, the research that has been conducted there for more than 70 years has increasingly highlighted the fact that this complex possessed neither military nor strategic functions: in short, it was neither a stronghold nor a fortified royal residence, but a centre that was actually used to hold ceremonies celebrating the Arsacid dynasty, that simultaneously exalted Parthian royalty and the power of a new ethnic group that imposed itself on the international scene. In this celebrative dimension – and it is here that Nisa’s art illustrated its wealth and mystique – art and architecture borrowed from various cultural traditions: some were ascribable to the dynasty’s origins (the world of the steppes), others displayed Iranian (Achemenid) influences, while others were influenced by the spread of Hellenism in Asia with and after Alexander the Great.

The Centro Scavi’s research

Inside the walls, protected by 48 towers built from unbaked bricks (the building material used for all constructions in Nisa), two main building complexes are recognisable: a northern sector containing the monumental Square House from which most of the known materials from Old Nisa come from, and a central sector with an ample uncovered courtyard which several monumental buildings overlook. These include the two complexes studied since 1999 by the mission of the Centro Scavi di Torino: the Round Hall (1990-1996, 1999) and the Red Building (1995, 2000-2006).
The work carried out by the Turin expedition included excavations, restorations, studies and documentation and technical analyses. From 1990 to 1999, excavations were performed inside the Round Hall, completing the data collected by the Soviet missions in the previous decades. One of the aspects that characterised the recent field studies was the recovery of fragments of unbaked clay sculptures, that since ancient times were heaped on the room’s floor in dismal conditions; the delicate and complex operations included the cleaning, consolidation, detachment, documentation and restoration of dozens of pieces that are today preserved in the capital’s museum. Between 2000 and 2006 excavations focused on an adjacent sector immediately north of the Round Hall, where the remains of a monumental Arsacid building, the Red Building, had been identified. Since 2007 new excavations were begun in the SW corner of the citadel, near the fortified walls. The excavations, still in progress, brought to light a complex covering a wide area, displaying an approximately square plan, with rooms along the main walls and a central court. In some of the rooms, used as warehouses, peculiar findings such as big jars (khums) and clay sealings were found.

The National Museum of Turkmenistan and the Fine Arts Museum of Ashgabat has provided the opportunity to systematically collect and store all the materials from Old Nisa, as well as the availability of work spaces for conducting studies, restorations and technical analyses. The fruitful cooperation with the museums allowed the updating of the documentation of several classes of materials that led to the publications of the Centre on metalwork, marble and clay sculpture and ivory rhyta.

The Round Hall

The building containing the Round Hall was located in the southern sector of the citadel’s so-called Central Complex. It was studied by Soviet missions in the 1950s and 1980s, and in 1990 the Italian archaeological mission resumed its study with systematic excavation campaigns in order to complete the planimetric survey of the complex, which was still partly unexplored. At the same time, the excavation of the central area’s ancient levels was completed and the walls’ structural characteristics were observed. The excavations also led to the recovery of fragments of the architectural decoration and of fragments of the unbaked clay sculptures that decorated the building.

As all the structures in Nisa, the building is made of unbaked bricks and its sides measure approximately 30 metres; it is composed of an ample circular central hall with a diameter of 17 m that is inside a quadrangular perimeter. Access to the inner hall was provided by three distinct passages that underwent several modifications. The floor plan of the inner circular space inside a square perimeter makes the Round Hall an unusual building that to this day still cannot be directly compared to other designs, although it bears generic similarities to both Western designs and to traditional central Asian designs. The unusual planimetric characteristics, the building’s monumental size and the findings inside the rooms would suggest that the building was used for sacramental purposes. It is G. Košelenko who hypothesised that the complex is a mausoleum dedicated to an important member of the Arsacid dynasty; this has now been confirmed by the identification, proposed by A. Invernizzi, of the fragmentary portrait found in the room as a portrait of Mithridates I.

The structural study carried out on the building walls finally allows us to propose new reconstructive hypotheses of the building’s internal and external aspect and of its roof. The structural features of the walls of the Round Hall are extremely interesting: preserved up to a height of over 4 metres, they display a complex texture in the various sections of masonry that make up their bulk, made from unbaked bricks, consisting of a thick square perimeter in which a thin circle of bricks is inscribed and constructed independently. The remarkable dimensions of the room and the passage from the curve of the inner walls to the straight lines of the building’s outer perimeter attest to the extensive technical and static know-how of its ancient builders. The reconstructive hypothesis of a building consisting of a cylindrical drum enclosed in a square perimeter and a wooden pavilion roof, recalling classical models, proposed many years ago by the excavators, cannot be maintained today. The recent studies and the static calculations carried out by the Turin mission showed that the inner walls were not based vertically on the floor, but were built slightly slanting from their start. Therefore, a new reconstructive hypothesis can actually be advanced, postulating that the hall was covered with a dome of oriental style (with a hyperbolic, elliptical or oval cross section) made of unbaked bricks.

The Red Building

The Red Building, which earned its name because of the red plasters found in the inner rooms and on the façade, has been entirely excavated over the course of six campaigns. In most recent years, the Italian mission’s efforts in Nisa were concentrated on the monumental complex whose importance is evident from its size (over 40 m on each side), from its position (overlooking the central courtyard) and by several architectural and decorative features (stone friezes, coloured plasters). However, while the importance this building must have possessed is easy to imagine, recognising its specific purpose is more difficult; the building’s architectural features generically suggest that it was used for ceremonial purposes, like all other buildings in the central sector of the citadel.

2000-2001 Campaigns
The resumption of excavations in the sector north of the Round Hall identified poorly preserved beaten clay structures on top of the Arsacid structures starting with the first levels, just under ground level. From the beginning, it was obvious that, in addition to Parthian buildings, structures built in later periods, presumably in Islamic times, were also being brought to light. The walls of the Islamic complex are made of beaten clay (pakhsa); the use of a mixed technique contemplating the use of bricks (30x30x5-6 cm) alternated with pakhsa blocks was observed only sporadically. A good part of the structures was built directly on the Parthian walls, and it is likely that some of the oldest walls were reused (as the base of the walls’ grade plane) because they were still in good conditions. The entire area where the Medieval building was erected was prepared for the complex’s construction: the filling – possibly artificial – of several rooms and the vertical laying of several rows of reused Parthian bricks attest to a construction that was planned in order to create a solid platform on which the Islamic complex’s walls could rest. The floor plan of the Medieval building comprises a rectangular central courtyard measuring approximately 13 x 10 metres, overlooked by three iwans to the north, west and south. On the east side, research has uncovered two rectangular rooms and a long corridor facing north and south. Fragmented structures to the sides of the iwans attest to the presence of rooms and structures all around the central courtyard, whose dismal conditions unfortunately did not make an analytical survey possible. The dating of the Islamic complex is based exclusively on small ceramic fragments that would place the building between the 12th and 16th centuries.

2002-2003 Campaigns
The 2002-2003 excavation campaigns almost completely brought to light the very large (approximately 42 m on each side) Red Building, whose walls are preserved up to a height of approximately four metres. The Arsacid building is made from mud bricks, but some of its architectural details reveal the special care and importance it was always given. It overlooks the citadel’s large central courtyard and has a quadrangular shape, characterized by a large central hall with 4 columns surrounded on three sides by rooms and corridors and preceded, on the north side, by a front portico. The courtyard’s elevated portico was accessible through a stone staircase with three steps, at the centre of the façade. It measured approximately 13 x 17 m and was delimited to the west and east by two projecting rooms (24 and 27); it was decorated with a frieze of astragal and grooved stone slabs. Finally, four stone bases supporting wooden columns rested on the portico.
Two entrances opened at the sides of the façade, which led to side rooms 24 and 27. They protrude beyond the building’s perimeter by approximately 8 metres and constitute the side wings of the elevated portico. The two rooms, that were closed in a late stage of the building’s use, had plastered walls. The lower part of the walls was decorated with red plaster, which was more resilient than simple white plaster and was obtained with a preparation containing clay, sand and gravel. The building’s façade ran behind the portico; it consisted of projections and recesses that however were probably concealed by the plaster finish. An exceptionally well-preserved second frieze made from sandstone slabs ran along the base of this façade wall. The original ochre and red colours, which, alternated with the stone’s natural grey-green colour livened the façade, may still be seen on several slabs. These colours were probably also used on the upper part of the walls, as attested by the fragments of coloured plaster. The entrance to the building, almost at the centre of the façade, led, through a vestibule, to the central hall: a large quadrangular room with four columns with stone bases and anchor rings and wooden shafts. The remains of traces of colour and gold leaf on wooden fragments (of the columns and of the roof’s beams) give only a pale idea of how lavish this great hall’s decorations were; its walls, however, were smooth and whitewashed. Only the room’s west wall, probably the main one, revealed the presence of niches. The room’s floor, as in most of the rooms of the complexes in Nisa, is simply beaten clay and covered by a thin layer of plaster. Curiously, the large central hall with the columns is not connected to the rooms that delimit it on the east and west sides. In addition to the façade’s vestibule (and the south corridor), the only other space connected to it was room 21, which must have been especially important. In fact, room 21 displays a peculiar coloured plaster finish (red on the walls, as in the portico’s side rooms) that is also applied to the floor’s surface (here the plaster was ochre). A large half niche was recessed into the room’s west wall: this may suggest that the room served a cultural (or anyhow specific) purpose. All of the other rooms along the east and west sides of the building were not connected to the central room. They are characterized by access from the outer corridors and their sizes vary, but they are anyhow quite small. Room 15 of the west wing stands out, once again because of the distinctive decorations of its walls. it is a small quadrangular room that does not contain any special structures or installations, apart from a niche in its north wall. However, what set it apart from the other rooms was the lavish decorations of its walls, which comprised a red band on the lower half and coloured bands on the top half.

2004-2005 Campaigns
The 2004-2005 excavation campaigns entirely uncovered the east, west and south corridors of the Red Building. It is now clear that entrances from the outside, in almost all cases off-centre, opened onto each corridor. The stratigraphy inside the rooms highlighted the presence of two or three main phases of frequentation that roughly correspond to those observed in the complex’s inner rooms. The most recent missions sounded the northeast corner of the building’s façade, where restorations and reconstructions that were probably made during the final phases of the complex. The most significant element is given by the building’s south façade, which is also distinguished by a fine red plaster finishing.
The collaboration with the National Museum of Ashkhabad has also made possible a parallel project of documentation, analysis and restoration of the main classes of materials from the new and old excavations in Old Nisa in these most recent campaigns and simultaneously with the excavation. A team of specialists peformed chemical and physical analyses (spectrophotometric X-ray) on possible traces of colourings in the artefacts: marble and clay statues, rhyta and architectural decorative elements.

2006 Campaign
The 2006 campaign saw the conclusion of work on the ground in the Red Building’s sector. The main excavation operations concerned the area in front of the building’s two façades, to the north and south. The works enabled the layout of the fronts of the lateral overhangs, on which restorations and reconstructions performed over the long period in which the Arsacid building was used are visible, to be better defined. A temporary shelter dug directly into the ground, which most likely dates to the late Medieval phases of the site’s frequentation, was also brought to light. The excavation established that an ample uncovered area between the citadel’s fortification walls and the nearby Round Hall extended in front of the south façade. An ostrakon inscribed in Pahlavi and several fragments of a stucco eagle that was probably part of the inside decorations of the Red Building, as also attested by other similar findings during previous campaigns, originate from this sector. Another limited sounding was made at the boundary between the Red Building and the Tower Building, where the walls belonging to the latter’s complex rest against the building site examined by the Italian expedition. The excavations were complemented by a geophysical survey carried out with an electromagnetometer and a magnetometer on almost all of the citadel’s inner area by experts from the University of Siena together with the Centro Scavi di Torino. In the ongoing acquisition campaign, the EM83 electromagnetic probe was interfaced to a portable GPS through an Allegro handheld computer; this way it was possible to georeference each individual point of acquisition, an essential basis for accurately mapping the area. The final objective is that of obtaining two maps of the area under investigation (one of its electrical conductivity and one of its magnetic susceptibility), in order to then reconstruct the ground’s properties and to identify the anomalous areas ascribable to possible archaeological objectives to study in future campaigns.

Excavations in the south area of the citadel

The Italian-Turkmen archaeological expedition in Nisa has focused since 2007 on the south-western sector of the site. This corner sector of Old Nisa, indeed, had never been systematically investigated before and elicited no particular interest during the early decades of archaeological research. The structures here found belong to two distinct (but joined) buildings, the extension of both being considerable; their complex architectural history cannot seemingly relegate it to later stages of use of the area, but rather to a quite long span of time (Parthian period).

A first, large quadrangular building (so-called "South-Western Building") stands on the very inner corner of the ramparts and contains rooms around a central open area. It was supposed to house food stocks with relevant preparatory – as well as other productive – activities. Remains of more than one hundred khums(large storage-jars) have been brought to light in many of the rooms of the building - especially on its western, eastern and southern sides – together with some ostraka that report amounts of wine, flour and oil that were likely stocked there. Moreover a hundred unbaked clay masses bearing seal imprints and meant for sealing the large jars (or doors) have been discovered. Their examination is still under way and might cast further light on the organization of these warehouses and their administration. The "South-Western Building" stretches over an excavated surface of about 50×55 m. The plan of the building consists in a parallelogram, with its outer walls parallel to the fortification lines. This confirms what was already attested elsewhere at Nisa, i.e., that the building of the main internal complexes adapted itself to the fortification line. The building is made up of a inner row of rooms on the four sides of a rectangular open area – believed to be originally a courtyard – and subsequently further subdivided internally by the erection of smaller walls. Some of these internal structures – particularly those made of pakhsa – are likely to be ascribed to Islamic periods, as shown by the finding of late material (dating from between the 10th and 16th centuries). Such phases can be recorded in several sectors of the building, owing likely to the partial reemployment of some of the premises; the highest concentration, however, is found in the inner courtyard area and in the northern and north-eastern sectors of the complex. There exist, however, brick- or pakhsa walls dating back even to the Parthian age. The overall situation of the courtyard is made more difficult by extensive trenches, the largest of which are likely to have been excavated by Soviet missions; unfortunately no accurate excavation reports of them exist.

On the northern and eastern sides of the building, likely at a later stage, a second row of rooms were erected. To the east, against this outer row of rooms, the so-called "Eastern Building" was then built. This building has been excavated only partially. Up to now, the excavations have brought to light a complex measuring about 25×28 m whose specific purpose is as yet unknown, although an exclusively storing function is to be ruled out. The preservation of part of the walls in this area is very precarious, particularly at its northern end, where it makes it difficult to reconstruct the entire plan. The building is made up of rooms varying in shape and, generally, of modest size. Only two inner rooms have shown traces of khum cavities – likely a ‘private’ storehouse for this building. Of particular interest are the three rooms, each with two column bases, on the southern side on the complex. Of these rooms only the central one had twin-step bases and stone torus (of the so-called ‘Achaemenid’ type found elsewhere at Nisa), whilst the other bases were in beaten clay. As attested in the eastern room, where the lower portion of the two columns were preserved, these columns were curiously made of unbaked clay and then covered with white plaster. The presence of columned halls highlights that this building was of some relevance, maybe with a more private character compared to the South-Western Building: we cannot rule out that it was employed as the residence or representative building/office for a high-ranking personality whose duties concerned the adjacent complex of storehouses.

As a preliminary statement, according to some ostraca found in the area the two buildings were in function at least since the late 2nd and during the first two decades of the 1st centuries BC.

Clay sculptures

The production of clay statues in Nisa is comparable to that of other sites in central Asia and anticipates some of the important developments of Kushan and Greco-Buddhist sculpture. This type of decoration was also contemplated for other buildings in Nisa; first and foremost, the building containing the Round Hall.
The first fragments of painted clay statues were found in the Round Hall since the trenches performed by Marušcenko and Eršov (1934-1936), but they were left at the bottom of the opened trenches even when in 1949 the JuTAKE (Complex Archaeological Expedition in Southern Turkmenistan) excavations began; their recovery began only in 1990, when the team of restorers from the Italian Archaeological Expedition began cleaning them and systematically removing the soil. Sofar, approximately 100 fragments have been recovered from the Round Hall and around 10 from the Red Building; they are now stored in the storerooms of the National Archaeological Museum in Ashgabat. The recovered fragments belong to statues depicting figures wearing draped or military clothing; in most cases they consist of portions of clothing and hairstyles, and of body parts (heads, hands, arms) in fewer cases. Among the latter, the exceptional fragment of a bearded male head that has been identified, through comparisons with coins, with Mithridates I especially stands out. Fragments of clothing ad hairstyles are also especially interesting, because they give us an idea of the artistic trends that must have influenced Nisa’s sculptors when they prepared their works. In fact, the iconographic and stylistic study of the fragments allows the sculptures of the Round Hall to be considered as an exceptional example of Hellenistic art in central Asia. Thanks to the studies conducted so far, it is possible to advance some interesting hypotheses on the sculptures of the Round Hall. They probably consisted of numerous male and female statues, which were at least five; at least three were clothed with tunics and mantles, one wore Iranian dress and one was probably a warrior. They had Greek harstyles, with their shoulder-length hair in curls or plaited and, in the male statues, with beards with long wavy wisps or with short curls under the chin. It cannot be determined for sure where these statues, which were greater than life-sized (2.30-2.40 m), were positioned inside the room. Given the assumption of a helliptic dome, they were probably not on the walls, but were probably placed on the floor, possibly on wooden bases. It is also impossible to determine if they were grouped together or placed apart from each other, maybe at regular intervals.

One of the most interesting features of the clay statues is their “composite” technique of execution: the various parts (heads, arms, hands, clothing and hairstyles, for example) were modelled separately (some were cast and some were modelled by hand) and then joined to each other. In order to hold such statues together, an internal framework, also of different materials and shapes (wood, metal and plaster), on which the layers of clay were applied one at a time. A vivid polychromy characterized the statues’ final appearance: in fact, abundant traces of blue, red and pink remain on the fragments of clothing, while black and red are prevalent on hair. To this regard, interesting discoveries have been made thanks to several chemical analyses that were performed in the laboratories of the Valle d’Aosta’s Regional Board of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, which shed light on the composition of the various types of clay and colour pigments used in the final stage of pictorial finishing. During the 2005 excavation campaign, measurements were also made directly on the samples stored in the National Museum of Ashgabat with two spectrophotometers provided by the “Nello Carrara” Institute in Florence.


Among the finds made in Nisa by the JuTAKE, the most exceptional comprise the approximately 50 ivory rhyta (tall decorated vessels used for serving and pouring liquids) whose fragments were found on the clay counters in one of the rooms of the Square House (Masson-Pugačenkova 1982). Although the rhyton’s shape is of Iranian origin, it was also widespread in the Greek world and in the steppes. The technical and artistic level of the masterpieces from Old Nisa is very high. The importance of this exceptional class of materials is at the basis of missions that in recent years have seen specialists from the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino work on some of the pieces that were found. This work included cleaning, restoration, integration and consolidation of some of the poorly preserved friezes (2002), and all pieces were graphically (drawings, 2001-2 and 2005) and photographically documented. The rhyta from Nisa are composed of several pieces assembled together and are subdivided for the most part in an upper frieze with figures, a smooth central body and an end piece that also depicts figures. The iconography of the depicted subjects is immediately ascribable to a Hellenistic context (including the twelve Olympian gods, Dionysian processions on the friezes, themes from Greek mythology on the end pieces), but the execution of these motifs always displays central Asian influences, evident from the fuller figures, the exaggerated shapes and in the recurring presence of typically eastern subjects such as the gryphon and the Gopatshah. The study of the Nisean rhyta led to the publication of the volume Nisa Partica. I rhyta ellenistici.

Marble sculptures

The most famous of the sculptures brought to light by the JuTAKE is the co-called Rodogune, from the name of the Parthian heroine that Soviet archaeologists gave to this statue, which depicts Aphrodite Anadiomene, identified with the Iranian Anahita. The strong influence of Hellenistic culture is also obvious in the other statues, Artemis the huntress, Dionysus leaning against a young satyr, another statue of Aphrodite, and the archaistic female figure attesting to how the artists that made it were aware of the various aesthetic trends in Hellenistic times. The depiction of figures and deities in exclusively Greek dress is not surprising in an extremely receptive cultural context such as that of Nisa, where the two styles (Greek and Iranian, side by side in a complex syncretism) are always present. The most recent Italian missions have also promoted the study, documentation and analysis of the marble sculptures from the Square House. These studies led to the publication of the volume Nisa Partica. Le sculture in ellenistiche. The statues, whose dimensions are usually one third of life size, originally decorated the citadel’s buildings. Analyses of the statues’ original pigmentation were performed during the 2005 campaign with the aid of an X-ray spectrophotometer. The study of the colours (plasters, statues), followed by archaeologists from the Centro di Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino, is still underway in the laboratories of the Valle d’Aosta’s Regional Board of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.

Metal sculptures

The JuTAKE excavations of the Square House in the citadel’s north sector yielded another significant class of materials: the metal figurines, sculpted in the round or in relief, in gilded silver or bronze and usually of small sizes, most likely decorated furnishings or other objects, from vessels to weapons. They make up a heterogeneous group that is extremely indicative of the artistic, stylistic and technical trends that characterised the entire Nisene production. The representations of Athena, Eros, gryphons and sphynxes, centaurs and eagles once again highlights the simultaneous presence of typically Greek iconographies alongside themes that were typical of the world of the steppes, i.e. of the origins of the ruling dynasty. An in-depth iconographic and stylistic study (Invernizzi, 1999) highlighted a series of comparisons with Greek and Iranian works that are significant of understanding this production, which appears to belong to the period between the 2nd century B..C. and the 1st century A.D. Although their size and expressive detail makes them minor works, the metal figurines from Nisa are a body of work that gives us to a better understanding of the Arsacid rulers’ taste and ideology.


(publications edited by members of the Centro Scavi di Torino)

Invernizzi, A. – Košelenko, G.A. - “Soviet-Italian Excavations in Old Nisa (Season 1990) ”, Mesopotamia,XXV, 47-50.

Invernizzi, A. - “Corinthian terracotta assembled capitals in Hellenized Asia”, in A.Invernizzi (ed.) In the Land of the Gryphons, (Monografie di Mesopotamia V), Firenze.

Gabutti, A. - “The Italian Excavation in Old Nisa: the Northern Corner of the Round Hall Complex”, Mesopotamia XXXI, 161-177. Invernizzi, A. - “Archaeological research in Old Nisa 1990-1994”, in La Persia e l’Asia Centrale da Alessandro al X secolo, Atti dei Convegni Lincei, 127, Roma, 237-249.

Invernizzi, A. - “New Archaeological Research in Old Nisa, 1990-1991”, in V. Sarkhosh Curtis, R. Hillenbrand, J.M. Rogers (eds.) The Art and Archaeology of Ancient Persia. New Light on the Parthian and Sasanian Empire, London-New York, 8-13.
Invernizzi, A. - “Old Nisa and the Art of the Steppes”, Bulletin of the Asia Institute 10, 33-38.
Invernizzi, A. - “Parthian Nisa. New Lines of Research”, in J. Wiesehöfer (ed.) Das Partherreich und seine Zeugnisse, Beiträge des internationalen Colloquiums - Eutin, 1996, (Historia Einzelschriften, 122), Stuttgart, 45-59.

Invernizzi, A. - Sculture di metallo da Nisa, (Acta Iranica 35, vol. XXI), Leuven.

Invernizzi, A. - “The Square House at Old Nisa”, Parthica 2, 13-53.

Invernizzi, A. - “Arsacid Dynastic Art”, Parthica 3, 133-157.
Invernizzi, A. - “Arsacid Palaces”, in I. Nielsen (ed.) The Royal Palace Institution in the 1st Millennium BC, Athens, 295-312.
Mollo, P. - “Le sigillature da Nisa Vecchia”, Parthica 3, 2001, 159-210.
Lippolis, C. - book review a V.N. Pilipko, Staraja Nisa. Zdanie s Kvadratnym Zalom, Moskva, 1996, Parthica 3, 2001, 221-234.

Bader, a. – Gaibov, V – Gubaev, A. – Košelenko, G.A. – Lapchin, A. – Novikov, S. - “Ricerche nel complesso del Tempio Rotondo a Nisa Vecchia”, Parthica 4, 9-45.
Lippolis, C. - “L’ancienne Nisa, la forteresse de Mithridate”, Dossiers d’Archéologie, n. 271, Marzo 2002, 42-45.
Lippolis, C. - “Nisa-Mitradatkert : l’edificio a nord della Sala Rotonda. Rapporto preliminare delle campagne di scavo 2000-2001”, Parthica 4, 2002, 47-62.

Lippolis, C. - “Novije Issledovanija Staroj Nisji”, Kulturnye Ziennosti 2000-2001, Ashkhabad, 195-200.
Lippolis, C. - “Nisa-Mithradatkert: the building to the north of the Round Hall. Preliminary Report of the 2000-2001 excavation campaign”, Central Asia Cultural Values, vol. I, n. 2, June 2003, 1-17.
Lippolis, C. - book review a V.N. Pilipko, Staraja Nisa–Osnovnye itogi arheologicheskogo izuchenija v sovetskij period, Parthica 5, 2003, 3-13. Cellerino, A. - “Un recipiente in cristallo di rocca da Nisa Vecchia”, Parthica 5, 97-122.
Trossarelli, C. - “Caratterizzazione del recipiente di Nisa mediante esami non distruttivi”, Parthica 5, 123-126.

Invernizzi, A. - “Thoughts on Parthian Nisa”, in Parthica 6, 133-143.
Lippolis, C. - “Nisa-Mitradatkert : l’edificio a nord della Sala Rotonda. Rapporto preliminare delle campagne di scavo 2002-2003”, Parthica 6, 161-177.

Bollati, A. - “Antécédents de la sculpture gréco-bouddhique en argile crue à Nisa parthe”, in Z. Tarzi (ed), L’art et l’archéologie des monastères gréco-bouddhiques du Nord-Ouest de l’Inde et de l’Asie Centrale, Actes du Colloque international du CRPOGA, Strasbourg 17-18 mars 2000, Paris, 29-49.
Invernizzi, A. - “Representation of Gods in Parthian Nisa”, Parthica 7, 71-79.
Lippolis, C. - “Osservazioni sui fregi in pietra dall’Edificio Rosso di Nisa Vecchia”, Electrum 10, 59-72.
Nisa: Lippolis, C. - voce su Enciclopedia Archeologica Treccani, Roma (380-381: per Nisa partica; 988-989: per Nisa islamica)

Invernizzi, A. - “Cornici dentate da Nisa Vecchia”, in P. Callieri (ed.) Architetti, Capomastri, Artigiani. L’organizzazione dei cantieri e della produzione artistica nell’Asia Ellenistica, Studi offerti a D. Faccenna, 2006, Roma, 49-57.
Invernizzi, A. - “La cultura di Nisa partica tra steppe e impero”, Quaderni dell’Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, 13, 47-66.
Lippolis, C. - “Les recherches italiennes sur l’Ancienne Nisa”, Dossiers d’Archéologie, n. 317 (octobre 2006), 58-65.

Invernizzi, A. - “The Culture of Parthian Nisa between Steppe and Empire”, in J. Cribb, G. Herrmann (eds.) After Alexander. Central Asia before Islam, (Proceedings of the British Academy 133), Oxford, 163-177.
Lippolis, C. - “Nisa-Mitridatkert. Alle origini dell’arte dei Parti“, in V. Messina (ed) Sulla via di Alessandro, Catalogo alla mostra di Torino – Musei Civici di Arte Antica e Palazzo Madama, febbraio-marzo 2007.
Lippolis, C. - “Ricerche a Nisa Partica: arte ed architettura dei primi Arsacidi“, Atti dei Lincei della Giornata in memoria di Giorgio Gullini,  193-210.

Invernizzi, A. – Lippolis C. - Nisa Partica. Gli scavi italiani nel complesso monumentale arsacide 1990-2006, Le Lettere, Firenze.
Appolonia, L. – Radicati, B. – Piccirillo, A. – Chatel, V. - “La materia e i colori”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 197-209.
Bertolotto, G. – Rosa Brusin, B. - “Attività di restauro a Nisa Vecchia e al Museo nazionale di Ashgabat”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 210-215.
Blasi, C. – Coïsson, E. – Ferretti, D. -  “La Sala Rotonda di Nisa Vecchia: ipotesi geometriche di una copertura a cupola e loro validazione statica”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 66-81.
Bollati, A. - “Le sculture in argilla cruda dipinta”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 167-196.
Caramiello, R. – Arobba, D. – Fossa, V. - “Primi risultati di analisi archeobotaniche nel sito di Nisa Vecchia”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 351-361.
Cellerino, A. - “La ceramica”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 269-316.
Lippolis, C. - “La Sala Rotonda-Gli scavi”, 7-42; “L'Edificio Rosso-Gli scavi”, 83-166; “Materiali, tecniche costruttive e catalogo degli elementi architettonici dalla Sala Rotonda e dall'Edificio Rosso”, 216-268; “Conclusioni”, 365-387, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008.
Masturzo, N. - “L'architettura della Sala Rotonda di Nisa Vecchia”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 43-65.
Menegazzi, R. - “Gli elementi in pietra”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 143-150.
Menegazzi, R. - “Gli oggetti”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 317-328.
Messina, V. - “Gli sferoidi in gesso”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 329-343.
Morano, E. - “Iscrizioni partiche da Nisa Vecchia su ostraka e intonaco”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 344-347.
Rizzi, P. - “Analisi di frammenti metallici da Nisa Vecchia”, in Invernizzi-Lippolis (eds.) 2008, 362-364.
Invernizzi, A. - “On the occasion of 60th anniversary of the discovery of the Nisa rhytons”, in Parthica 10, 9-18.
Lippolis, C. - “I rhyta di Nisa Partica e la celebrazione della dinastia Arsacide”, Ligabue Magazine,  52, 84-115.
Pappalardo, E. - “The rhyton No. 52 from Old Nisa: An interpretative proposal”, in Parthica 10, 63-80.
Manassero, N. - “Têtes coupées on the cornices of the Nisa rhyta. Nothing to do with Dyonisus?”, in Parthica 10, Accademia Editoriale, Pisa-Roma, 81-98.
Lippolis, C. – Messina, V. - “Preliminary Report on the 2007 Italian Excavations in Parthian Nisa”, Parthica 10 (2008), 53-62.

Invernizzi, A. - Nisa Partica. Le sculture ellenistiche, (Monografie di Mesopotamia XI), Firenze.
Lippolis, C. - “Notes on the Iranian traditions in the architecture of Parthian Nisa”, Electrum 15, 53-66.
Lippolis, C. - “The Colour in Parthian Nisa: some consideration on Polychromy in Sculpture and Architecture in Ancient Turkmenistan”, Proceedings of the IInd international Symposium of the Terracotta Army and Polychrome Cultural Relics Conservation and Research (Xi'an 23-27 march 2009),  Xi'an, 426-434.
Piacentini, P. – Lippolis, C. - L’Iran dei Parti. Scavi a Nisa e materiali archeologici delle collezioni, catalogo alla mostra, 25 febbraio - 25 marzo 2009 Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale “Giuseppe Tucci”, Roma.

Invernizzi, A. - “A Goddess on the Lion from Susa”, Problemy istorii, filologii, kul'tury 1 (27), (on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of A.G. Koshelenko), Moskva, 28-35.
Lippolis, C. - “Parthian Nisa. Some Consideration Based on New Research”, P. Callieri, L. Colliva (eds.), South Asian Archaeology 2007 - Proceedings of the 19th Meeting of the European Association of South Asian Archaeology in Ravenna, July 2007, vol. II (BAR Int. Series 2133), Oxford, 165-177.
Lippolis C. - “Notes on Parthian Nisa in the Light of New Research”, Problemy istorii, filologii, kul'tury 1 (27), (on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of A.G. Koshelenko), Moskva, 36-45.
Pappalardo, E. - Nisa Partica. I rhyta ellenistici, (Monografie di Mesopotamia XII), Firenze.

Invernizzi, A. - “Parthian Art-Arsacid Art”, Topoi 17, 189-207.
Lippolis, C. - “Architecture and Colour in Parthian Nisa”, Topoi 17, 209-228.

Lippolis, C. - “The Dark Age of Old Nisa: late Parthian Levels in Mihrdatkirt?”, in P.B. Lurje, A.I. Torgoev (eds.) Sogdians, Their Precursores, Contemporaires and Heirs, (Transactions of the State Hermitage Museum LXII), St. Petersburg, 60-70.
Lippolis, C. - “Old Nisa, Excavations in the South-Western Area. Second Preliminary Report (2008-2012)”, Parthica 15, 89-115.

Lippolis C. - “Parthian Nisa. Art and Architecture in the Homeland of the Arsacids”, in P. Leriche (ed), Art e Civilisation de l’Orient Hellénisé. Rencontres et échanges culturels d'Alexandre aux Sassanides. Hommage à Daniel Schlumberger, Paris, 223-230.

Lippolis C., Manassero N. - "Storehouses and storage practices in Old Nisa (Turkmenistan)", Electrum, in print.

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