There is certainly a market in every modern city – whether it is big or small. Therefore, it was like this always and everywhere. Since the ancient times, the first cities in the world were formed around the places of trade. Urban marketplaces in Asia and Europe were the special territory, where people met every day not only to sell or buy some goods, but also to catch up with each other's news, exchange opinions, take part in public events - spontaneous or organized ones. Tsar's heralds announced state decrees, merchants negotiated deals, vagarious artists and musicians entertained people on marketplaces. In other words, in ancient times and the Middle Ages, bazaars played the role of the most important social centres that hosted the events, which lately made history. However, the original, purely economic, or more precisely – the commercial role of bazaars makes it possible to compare them with the heart, which by rhythmic impulses drives blood through the veins and ensures the life of the whole organism. Thus, a city can’t exist without a market.
At different times, the city flea markets had different shapes. We do not know what the bazaars of the Hellenistic East looked like, where the international trade on caravan roads existed - there are no written evidences and archaeological data at the disposal of the modern science. Perhaps, these were simple areas in convenient places, where traders and their clients gathered at a certain time. Surely, they were hiding from the sun under light shelters and awnings. It is quite admissible that special shops and malls were built in large cities. Unfortunately, time has not kept anything. Meanwhile, many historical cities of Turkmenistan with citadels, mosques, caravanserais, mud houses and inner yards, craftsmen’s workshops arose associated with a bazaar and around a bazaar. It served not only as a means of satisfying customer’s demands, but also as a place for production of handicraft articles. Along with ordinary bazaars, there were special, specialized markets designed for the sale of certain types of goods, livestock, and slaves. Thus, there were markets for the sale of bread and seeds, greens and fruits in Merv of the Great Seljuks era. An old wheat market was located near the cathedral mosque, not far from the city gates.
Special officials, who monitored the accuracy of the monetary test, the measures of weight and granular materials, as well as the monetary exchange rate to prevent the speculation in currency supervised the bazaar trade. Merchants, as well as urban artisans, paid fees and taxes. The exact amounts and principles of tax collection remain unclear, but it is known that usually the local administration collected taxes from traders in proportion to their incomes, and the profit of merchants was registered, if it reached 16,000 dinars a year. There is some information on trade fees and taxes in the Seljuk period. In particular, there is a reference to charging caravans at the entrance to the city the duty, called "tayyarat". In the 12th century, in the Seljuk Empire, anyone who traded meat paid 50 dinars per year, and those ones, who sold cloth or woolen cloth - 500 dinars each.
Intra-urban markets in Dehistan, Khorasan and Khorezm in Arabic geographical works are designated by the words "suk" and "aswak", in Persian sources - "bazaar". The Arabic word "suk" meant the market place: a bazaar and a shopping street with the rows of shops. The archaic Avestan term "chavrusuk" literally meant a "quadrilateral" market, the analogous to the later "chaharsu" or in the contract form "charsu". According to written sources, the place of charsu in Merv is well known - in the centre of Sultan-kala, next to the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar. A few years ago, a Turkmen-British archeological expedition led by archaeologist Tim Williams launched the excavation of a large bazaar located hundred metres apart from the famous mausoleum (photo 2). The developed shopping centre at the intersection of the two main streets, leading to four city gates is a phenomenon typical for a large Central Asian city.
The tradition of laying bazaars along the city highways of an eastern city takes its origins in antiquity. Arab historians described "beautiful covered bazaars" of the 10th century. Covered bazaar streets of medieval Asian cities stretched from the central intersections towards all four city gates, while judging by the huge trading complex of the 12th century on the sites of the Diyarbekir settlement in Dashoguz Velayat, the shops had a sectional structure. Covered with domes, the streets with benches on the sides, crossing the whole city, are known from chronicles of the Timurid period. English traveler Anthony Jenkinson found such a street in Kunya Urgench that he visited in 1558: "There is one long street covered from above, which serves as a market place in the city". Probably, this street was excavated by archeologists during the expedition led by Academician Sergei Tolstov in the early fifties of the last century. The only structure on this street that preserved until our days is known as the portal of the caravanserai. Since 2014, archaeologist Ejegul Muradova from the National Department of Turkmenistan for the Protection, Study and Restoration of Historical and Cultural Monuments has resumed the excavations, which were not completed by Tolstov's group 60 years ago (photo 3).
"The main point of multi-chamber shopping streets is the combination of an enfilade of domed parts in the drive way with a sectional structure of corner shops - dukans on the sides of it and a linear development of space", architectural historian Liya Mankovskaya wrote. Shopping streets were often built in light frame structures with reed cover, so, of course, they were non-durable and were not preserved. Nevertheless, the method of such an organization of the trading space was reproduced again and again. The large bazaars of Isfahan, Tabriz or Istanbul, which exist today, can give a clear picture of the dissapeared ancient markets of cities such as Merv, Amul or Old Urgench (photo 4).
The covered bazaars of the pre-Islamic Merv, Bukhara, and other cities in the region, according to al-Macdisi (X century), were called by the Sogdian word "tim". Trade was also conducted in local small bazaars - courtyards, along the perimeter of which the artisan workshops were built. Based on the ancient written sources, it can be concluded that in the pre-Arab period the bazaars became profile and differed in the types of crafts. The term "tim" meant only a function and was applied to both individual buildings and to trading rows. It was the same several centuries later. The synonym of "tim" was the word "khan" that is "a hotel, inn". The dictionaries provides another synonym for "tim" and "khan": the Arabic word "menzil" is a building for trade and housing. It means that the buildings named "menzil" combined the functions of temporary housing and trade, it was confirmed by one interesting document of the 11th century - Vakfnama by Ibrahim Tamgach Khan. It lists the premises of the khan, caravanserai and tim, and in each of them has living rooms-hujras, stavling, mews, haylofts.
Thus, caravanserais combined the functions of a temporary housing, dormitory, production and trade. By the 11th century, the commodity-money relations had acquired the character of the credit and bill system that resulted in establishing the specialized financial offices of the money jobbers, a part of the bazaar structures.
All types of public buildings, including religious ones, were concentrated in the urban trade area. Cathedral mosques and madrassas were invariably located among bazaars. The transformation of the medieval bazaar into a universal social complex reflected the objective process of city formation, observed everywhere where cities were formed.