On Sunday 31 July I decided to return a little know site of petroglyphs in Kazakhstan, called Kuljabasy after the mountain range where they are located, past a small military town called Otar in the direction of Bishkek. The long stretched out low mountain range is intersected by several valleys. The petroglyphs are nested in these valleys where people have lived for thousands of years. I had been there last year at the end of May when I explored one valley. This time I explored a new valley rich in carvings covering several periods from the bronze age through the Turkic Middle Ages. When walking through these valleys it’s clear why people stayed there. They offered protection from the elements, particularly in winter. Most of all though they are abundant with green pastures for herds of animals to feed off with wells feeding small little streams of water. The rock facings are glistening black in southerly direction. A perfect canvas for petroglyph art.
At the mouth of the valley where it opens up to the plain the remnants of an ancient mausoleum next to the rock covered bronze age grave stand testimony to the long period of inhabitation of the area. As with other valleys explored in the past people who used to live inside the valleys would bury their death at the mouth of the valley, either looking on to a river or an open plain. Hence, if one sees burial places one can assume the the valley extending from it used to be inhabited.
On of the most originals and finely carved drawings is the one of two Saka warriors side by side. They have head coverings or hats, they have weapons. An axe in the hand and a sword on the side. The body features have been finely stylized, almost in an exaggerated manner to make them more pronounced and recognizable. They are estimated to be from around the 6th century BC, or about 2’700 years old!
Some of the larger rock faces are canvas for a multitude of scenes carved over hundreds if not thousands of years hence reflecting multiple periods. One such canvas has a lot of scenes of men with bow and arrow hunting next to pictures of camels, goats, horses, dogs, etc..
Sadly modern man’s only attempt to equal the artists of the past is to put their names on the rock face on top of the age old drawings. it’s just a sign that today people in Kazakhstan either don’t know of the richness of their history nor care. Mostly the Government doesn’t seem to care as very little effort goes to further discovery and even less to protection and development of what is already discovered. The advantage for the lone interested person as myself is that it gives you more satisfaction of looking like Indian Jones in search of lost treasures than a tourist paying for an organized tour in a museum
Last Updated: 01-08-2011
Copyright © 2012 Hans Dewaele – All rights reserved