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Mizdarkahn Necropolis

What In The World?

Last year Pam and I visited one of the oldest and perhaps strangest places on earth. It is located in Karakalpakstan, a semi-autonomous region of Uzbekistan. Mizdarkahn is a burial site on the border with Turkmenistan dating to at least the 4th century BC. This ancient cemetery is located on a set of three barren hills next to the ruins of the Gyaur Kala fortress, a large military stronghold that contained a palace and a temple. It was established by Persians and populated for centuries by fire worshipers and Zoroastrians before the Muslim conquest and the armies of Genghis Khan eventually arrived. The fortress and city were finally taken by his descendant, Amir Timur, in the 14th century AD who then reduced the entire complex to rubble.

However, that was not the end of the story or the usefulness of the site. It remains one of the oldest continuously utilized burial places in the world, filled with ossuaries and burial places of kings and queens, kahns, princesses, warriors, religious figures including priests, imams, and thousands of believers and non-believers. People still come there for burials, to pray, and leave memorial objects in honor of the departed.

princess tomb
Pam in the Tomb of a Princess

The Special Story of Mizdarkahn

Cemeteries, particularly very old ones, are fascinating to me. They contain a great deal of history and information about interesting people, places, and events. Mizdarkahn does not disappoint. In fact, among the world's burial places it has a very unique story to tell.

First, it is huge - 494 acres. There are gravesites literally stacked on one another. Some are holes in the ground with graves and bones buried under centuries of sand and debris from ravaging dust storms. Some places are just low spots bordered by rusted or painted iron fences. Others are marked by mud brick structures in various sizes and shapes ranging from those barely covering the ground to high, domed mausoleums.

But there's another reason this place is special. Legend has it that Adam's grave is here, the first man created by God. As you might expect, the site is a holy place to many people of various religions. A mud brick mausoleum was erected to mark the grave. The structure itself is known as an 'Apocalypse Clock'. The story goes that each year a brick falls from the walls of a building. When the last brick falls, it will be the end of the world. For centuries pilgrims have piled up the falling bricks, hoping to put them back in place, believing that God sees their efforts, hears their prayer for salvation, and perhaps will delay the Final Judgment Day.

cemetery stones
Apocalypse Clock Stones

Adam's Tomb?

Of course, no one knows whether this is Adam's grave. There are at least a half dozen other places in or near the cradle of civilization that lay claim to Adam's remains. Only God knows, and He isn't telling. Having been there, I can tell you there is definitely something mysterious about the place. It's more than just a creepy graveyard. Mizdarkahn has been a pilgrimage site for Zoroastrians, Muslims from the various branches of Islam, people of various other faiths and religions, conquerors, kings, armies, adventurers, travelers, traders, mourners, scholars, tourists, and the occasional wandering animal.

Mizdarkhan tombs
The Tomb Complex

Which brings me to the end of the world. Not literally, but you know what I mean. For centuries people have considered the end of the world and wondered if it would happen in their lifetime? So far, we're still here. I'm currently in a small group reading and studying the Book of Revelation. There's a lot to learn and a lot that we still cannot possibly know or understand. No matter what your opinions it certainly gets you thinking. And we're not alone.

Will the World End? When?

Some 2000 years ago, Jesus' disciples asked Him when the world would end. He replied in Mark 13:32-33, “Now concerning that day or hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son—except the Father. Watch. Be alert. For you don’t know when the time is coming." He did however give us some signs. With all that has happened and all that is going on in the world now, maybe it is worth a little of our time and attention.

According to Jesus, Adam's tomb falling apart is not one of the signs that the end of the world is near. And with apologies to Pink Floyd fans, no one needs another brick in the wall. Our best human efforts to save the planet are not likely to make a difference anyway. What does make a difference is what we believe, the way we live, and the way we treat one another. Whether the end is near or not, I want my life to make a positive difference in the lives of my family, friends, community, and the world as it exists right now. I imagine you do too.

I believe everyone's existence and well-being matters, both to us and to God. I know my existence matters because of Jesus. What about you? Let's end this blog with another story from the ancient world. The Apostle Paul found himself in Athens among people that were likewise interested in these matters. Maybe this account will have meaning for you too.

Acts 17:22-31

Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for:

‘In him we live and move and have our being’ as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

The End - For Now

We all have to deal with death and the temporary nature of mortality with our ancestors, ourselves, our families, and those who will come behind us. It is left up to each one of us to determine whether there is meaning to these things or not. Jesus certainly spoke of the end of the world. He demonstrated God's message of the transcendence of eternal life and love through His life, death, and resurrection. He promised to return and establish justice and peace for eternity. His words and actions are compiled in the Holy Bible. As with my experience in Mizdarkhan and reading of the Book of Revelation, it is a fascinating study. I hope you will likewise take the time to study these things and satisfy your own curiosity.

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