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Mysterious rock carvings on Asy plateau

   

Rock engravings and images are found all over Kazakhstan. The most ancient – commonly called "petroglyphs" - date back to the early Bronze Age (3500-2000 BC), and are mostly represented by separate images of animals and objects. In the late Bronze Age (1600-1200 BC), especially in the era of the early nomads, there are multi-dimensional compositions united by a kind of topic (mythological, ritual or everyday life). Rock paintings of the Middle Ages (V-XV centuries AD) are usually performed in a "propagandistic" manner, and they are often made over the older images (military scenes, attributes – flags, bows, battles etc.) - inscriptions already accompany some of them. In the late medieval era (XVI - XVII centuries) petroglyphs appeared with ethnographic stories from the life of Kazakhs (e.g. symbols of different tribes and communities carved on border steles and stones).

Granite, porphyry, diorite, sandstone, slate-phyllite were the materials for engravings. The technique included three methods: pinpointing, carving (tracing) and painting using ochre (in some places, all three were used, as in the Tesiktas grotto).
To explore all the variety of rock art of all époques, you should go for Asy plateau, which looks one of the most remarkable places in Almaty region, in our opinion. The huge highland valley (about 70 km long), located at an altitude of 2500 to 3000 meters above sea level, has been used since ancient times as a nomadic pasture, and perhaps not only temporary one (as it is used nowadays, in summer). The fact that the valley was used for a long-term residence is evidenced by the existence of burial mounds (in huge quantities) of early nomads, Scythians (Saki) and Turkic tribes. Those communities, most likely, followed a semi-sedentary way of life, or a kind of variation of semi-nomadism (contrary to popular belief about the constantly roaming and warring ancestors). This is also evidenced by the excavations of the settlements that were done in this region: semi-dugouts of a frame-and-column structure (8x8m and 10x10m) and a large wooden funerary complex with an underground furnace near the Kyzylbulak stream, as well as "royal" Saki mounds and settlements (stone huts) on the plateau. Until now, the question of survival in the incredibly harsh winter and midseason conditions at such an altitude, remains open ... But the facts persist: the plateau was a place for living, breeding of animals, hunting and art preforming, for many generations.

Being enthusiastic travellers, we explore the Asy area for a long time: in past publications we shared our "discoveries" of the incredible sanctuary under the Amanzhol Pass, the flooded burial mounds at the bottom of the Bartogai lake. We call them “discoveries” since we didn’t find any descriptions in the open sources, and even the marks on the archaeological map. Meanwhile, there is a real luck of information about historical monuments on Asy: the researching of A.Maryashev and A.Margulan helped us very much, but…we still keep searching for the details.

The explorer’s hunger, as you know, only increases in terms of lack of information. Each trip we discover new amazing places. From the last expedition, besides the common images of goats, wolves, camels, donkeys (!), Deer, horses and dancing shamans / riddled people made in different techniques, we brought some really unusual photographs like signs (rounded and hieroglyphic), lonely standing "shaman" with long-fingered hands, kinds of "maps" etc. We have not yet been able to decipher them ... But we were able to accurately note the features of the drawings placement: most often they are met on flat granite stones (on the cleavages of horns facing the southwest, with a typical "tan"), in rocky hills on southern slopes of Asy valley (orographic left of the river, if you go down from the Asy pass to Bartogay). Large number of drawings (kinds of open-air galleries) were often seen opposite to long chains of burial mounds along the plateau, or “at a head” of the chain.

If you look closely, you’ll see a lot of mounds on the plateau: “grouped” or stretched out in a line. Most of them are burial grounds of the early Iron Age, built on the banks of rivers (there are 117 in all). "Royal" Saki (scythe) burial mounds (of huge sizes), meanwhile, are often found in the valley (there are 18 of them).

Geographical info on the area: the plateau of Asy (Assy), the easternmost Zailiysky Alatau ridge (one of the two main ridges of the Northern Tien Shan). If you move down from the Asy pass to the east, the Sarytau hills will be seen on your right (orographic); on your left you’ll see the Bokaindytau range. After the Asy river turn (in the area of the famous "Red rocks"), the Alabaytal mountains will appear on the right, and the Ortatau hills will be visible on the left. Apparently, all these ridges abound in rock art. Keep exploring!

More info about Asy plateau can be found here

Asy dolmens new findings Asy landscapes
shaman ancient burial dancing men
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