Ulug Depe is an ancient Bronze Age site in the foothills of the Kopet Dag Mountains in the Karakum Desert of Kaka District (Kaahka) in the Ahal Province of south-eastern Turkmenistan. It covers around 13 acres (53,000 m2) and lies on a mound at a height of about 30 meters.
Located near Dushak, its oldest layers are dated to around 5,000 years ago. In the early Bronze Age, Ulug Depe was a flourishing agricultural town, located on the fertile belt along the northern foothills of the Kopet Dag mountain range. In the late 1960s, the Soviet archaeologist, Victor Sarianidi revealed the importance of Ulug Depe, with the occupation of the site ranging from the Neolithic (6th millennium BC) to the Achaemenid period (1st millennium BCE).
The site has been extensively excavated by the French Center of Archaeological Excavations in conjunction with the National Department for Preservation, Studying and Restoration of History and Culture Monuments of Turkmenistan, led by Olivier Lecomte between 2001-2012 and at the present by Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento. The excavation of the site has also been joined by specialists of the state historical-cultural preserve Abiverd and archaeologists from other countries, including students of the Paris University. In 2007 the mission was joined by the Archaeological Research Laboratory and Guimet National Museum with field work funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is now recognized as a key site for studying the interaction between Central Asia, Elam, Mesopotamia and the Indus Civilization given its location.
Of major note is a fortified mud brick citadel with buttressed walls, which dominates the lower part of the ancient city, dated to pre-Achaemenid times. An operation began in 2004 to help uncover relics relating to the occupation of this site, producing figurines and other clay objects. The archaeologists have discovered a set of geometric ornaments and stone figures with depictions of the goddess of fertility. They also discovered ancient grape seeds, revealing much about the system of large settlements of ancient farmers who lived in the foothills of the Kopet Dag mountains including other settlements of Kara Depe, Namazga Depe, Altyn Depe, Yylyn Depe etc. The artifacts discovered in Ulug Depe are on display at the Ak Bugdai Museum in Ashgabat.
Study conducted by the French team in 2007 revealed several main phases of occupation in Ulug Depe. Further pottery including vases were discovered dating to the Namazga III and Namazga IV chronological periods.
- "Turkménistan - Ulug Depe" (in French). French Ministry of European Affairs. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
- Brummell, Paul (2006). Bradt Travel Guide Turkmenistan. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 127. ISBN 1-84162-144-7.
- "French archaeologists present new findings to Ak Bugdai museum". turkmenistan.ru. October 31, 2007. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
- "La mission archéologique Franco-Turkmène" (in French). Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
- Johanna Lhuillier; Armance Dupont-Delaleuf; Olivier Lecomte; Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento (2013), "The Middle Iron Age in Ulug depe: a preliminary typo-chronological and technological study of the Yaz II ceramic complex", in Marcin Wagner, Pottery chronology of the Early Iron Age in Central Asia, Kazimierz Michałowski Foundation, Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw, pp. 9–28