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Turkmenistan

Nokhur Cemetery

Cemetery with goat-horn bedecked gravestones 

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At the cemetery of the isolated village of Nokhur, nearly every grave is marked by a wooden post adorned with the horns of a mountain goat.

They are thought to fight off evil spirits, and help the soul of the deceased to ensure a safe passage to heaven. Aside from their appearances at the village cemetery, skulls of mountain goats are found at some of the houses’ doorways of the village as well.

The Nokhuris, the mountain tribe of the region, have always considered mountain goats sacred animals, admiring their strength and endurance. The reverence of mountain goats clearly predate Islamic traditions, and although today the Nokhuris are devout Muslims, parts of the ancient belief system has continued to survive.

The cemetery of Nokhur is an excellent example of how Islam works in Central Asia. Other than in the Middle East where the arrival of Islam virtually erased all traces of pre-Islamic religions, in Central Asia certain parts of pre-Islamic belief systems have simply been incorporated into the newly arrived religion, creating a syncretism often symbolized in the burial rites of local tribes.

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Nokhur, Balkan Welayaty, Turkmenistan

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