You are here

Home » Almaty province petroglyphs. Cave drawing in Almaty region.

Bayn-Zhurek - chronology.

Tours on rock figures saki time in Southern Kazakhstan.

There is no single point of view among researchers on the time of appearance of the most ancient pictures in Bayan-Zhurek. Z.S.Samashev separates several subjects with figures of sun headed personages and he sees shamans in them.
He dates those pictures by the epoch of neolith. But no close analogues to these pictures are given in this work. By our point of view these subjects are made elder, as they are seen out of context with other pictures. We consider in details the most ancient group of petroglyphs of Bayan-Zhurek.
It was already noted, that different time petroglyphs of Bayan-Zhurek are met together, so it is a reason to try to reveal groups of pictures of different epochs. So, in the third and in the fourth groups are concentrated the main cult subjects with a small quantity of renovations.
It’s a reason to refer to them pictures of men with hands aside, erotic subjects with participation of two or three men, people in a pose of adoration, men, shown in couples and participants of flights, and also maskers with rays (and, probably, with feathers) above their heads.
It's possible to refer to these group pictures of chariots, harnessed with horses. All these subjects are known on all monuments of rock art of Kazakhstan. In case of taking into account, that in petroglyphs of Bayan-Zhurek there are some “restored” pictures, we can refer to the petroglyphs of the fourth group, where is a small quantity of renovations.
There are concentrated the main cult subjects: pictures of masker with rays above his head and some subjects, probably, mirrors in hands, picture with chariot, harnessed by two horses. There were also discovered compound compositions with figures of horses and people.
Animals are pictured in the definite style: by thin line are marked tails, legs and hooves. On some some of them are seen hobbles on legs. Heads of horses are shown small. Short ears are marked.
Regrettably, that scene was renovated partially above figures is seen the latest rough carving. In case of considering this not renovated pictures, it is possible to observe, that they are made in the same style, as pictures of horses of Bronze Epoch in Eshki-Olmes.
So, almost all pictures were created in the Bronze Epoch, excluding clearly fresh pictures. As figure of masker is carved near the others and is not different from them either by techniques of carving, or by patina, there is no reason to connect this subject with the epoch of Eneolith, what is offered by Z.S.Samashev.  «Masker» himself is of the essential interest for researchers of primitive society's art.
In literature on petroglyphs it was considered, those personages, pictured with rays or rim around head, present themselves sun headed divines. But V.D. Kubarev, researching paintings of Karakol, came to conclusion, that part of pictures does not present and mark divines. In some figures of sun headed personages he sees “shamans” Z.S.Samashev agrees with such conclusion, considering maskers from Bayan-Zhurek.
The main argument of V.D.Kubarev in favor, that shamans are pictured, is presence of attributes – mirrors or some other circle shaped items in hands of personage and his costume. We can agree with this confirmation. Really on legs are seen the lines, looking like fringe. Pose of masker itself looks like a dance.  It is much difficult to define, who was pictured in the third group of petrogJyphs.
There figure of «masker» is unusual. His head is inside semi circle, and above head is seen rod with two disks. But it is not excluded, that this subject could be restored, or figure of masker overlapped some other picture, and on top we see fragment of vehicle or chariot. ln this case, figure of shaman will not be seen unnatural; it is close to the figure of the same personage from the fourth group of petroglyphs on top of hill.
Figures of sun headed personages and maskers are known in the South of Kazakhstan and Semirechie in Tamgaly, and also in the mountains of Karatau. But there maskers are «worn» in wolf or fox masks. In Kuljabasy is known the subject with picture of two figures with bodies of birds. All of them are dated  by the middle of the II millennium B.C. But why in Altai and Mongolia the analogous figures of shamans and men in masks with bull’s horns are dated by more ancient time, than in Semirechie?
There is n answer yet on this question. Pictures of personages with crooks in Europe were known in the epoch of Eneolith. The same subjects are presented also on rocks of Tamgaly, but they are dated by the Epoch of Bronze. Figures of sun headed personages from Saimaly-Tash are made in the same traditions, that in Tamgaly and in the canyon.  Karakyr, while the age of the most ancient group of petroglyphs of Saimaly-Tash is defined by the late III millennium B.C. We can suppose that world outlook of ancient citizens of Kazakhstan and Central Asia was traditional and had been changed slowly.
And described images existed during long period of time - from the Epoch of Eneolith to the Epoch of Bronze. We consider some more scenes and subjects of the most ancient group of petroglyphs of Bayan-Zhurek. Thirst of all, they are cult subjects, connected with mythological imaginations of Bronze Epoch's population: they are couples of men in a pose of fight with sexual features.
Their figures are shown in semi-turn, their fists are clenched. Analogous couples are known, first of all, in Semirechie: in Karakyr and Karatau. On photo fighters are shown with holes-symbols of fertility under hands of men, rarely are couples of men, referred to each other. There is not small quantity of pictures with figures of men, shown in couples. Each of them in full face is shown with risen up right hand, with left hand catching animals.
On tops of mountains among others are seen not rarely scenes of erotic character. This subject is met frequently, almost on all known monuments of the Bronze Epoch. Its sense by the first glance is simple and it is connected with cult of fertility, but in Bayan-Zhurek there are subjects with participation of three men, what makes difficult to interpreter these scenes.
The most close to the pictures from Bayan-Zhurek are scenes from Saimaly-Tash, where in erotic scenes also three persons participate, It is doubtless, that these subjects are evidences of pagan ceremonies. It is known, that in Middle Ages in Russia survivals of pagan imaginations took place. It is not excluded, that such ceremony could be acted for magic purpose and be accompanied by mass orgies. In Saimaly-Tash is subject with participation of several couples in pose of coupling.
Near them are pictured people in the same pose, where are seen not couples, but groups of three persons. Probably, in these scenes it is possible to see reflection of those traditions, which show the existence of specific calendar days, when it was accepted orgies of erotic character with participation of many people.
Despite of pictures from Bayan-Zhurek are younger than pictures of Saimaly-Tash, they are close not only by content of subjects, but iconographical. They differ by absence of plaits of men. By historical chronicles and some mythological subjects' analogous bacchanalia remained in the epoch of antiquity.
There are known ceremonies of harvest in honor of Dionis, god of wine making, connected with cult fertility, and Adonis, devoted to the god of dying and reviving nature. Those ceremonies were carried out indefinite periods - in spring and in autumn, or in winter.
Myths about Adonis are connected with death of Adonis and his revival. Women firstly cried over the dead, cut their hairs and during the day coupled with every passing man, by other evidences they coupled with foreigners. The other day they celebrated revival of divine.
Fiestas with dances, accompanied with orgies, are described in medieval chronicles. In «Story of Time Years» are mentioned spring holidays, accompanied by games with robbing girls. In the work of B.A.Rybakov are given some such samples, when holidays were accompanied by «saying bad words». By description or chronicle writer Nestor in games were song «demon» songs, wives were taken away, «having two, three wives».
Giving characteristics to the pagan ceremonies of Slavs, B.A.Rybakov writes, that these ceremonies are presented more completely in early sanctuaries and are going far by their routes; probably, they appeared in the Epoch of Bronze. Speaking about Volos (Veles), B.A.Rybakov in his other work writes: «Searching sources we can appear on that chronological depth, when hunter was masked into animal's skin, when magician priest, imitating process of hunting, was presented in animal's skin and was «haired»!"
In Jetysu-Semirechie and in the mountains Karatau are met pictures with images of man, impregnating goats and horses. When that subjects began to appear frequently it became clear, that they reflected definite ceremonies of ancient population. Analogous scenes are also on the rocks in the mountains Bayan-Zhurek and are connected, as many other pictures, with cult of fertility.  
Similar pictures are known in the mountains Karatau in canyon Koshkar-Ata and on hill Tekturmas. In petroglyphs of Bayan-Zhurek in the first case is pictured coupling of man with goat, in the second case – with horse.  Presented for Karatau and Bayan-Zhurek pictures are not enough clear, but there are several analogous scenes in pictures of Saimaly-Tash and in Mongolia, where the sense of these subjects is clear.
On picture of Bayan-Zhurek it is seen, that all erotic scene was renovated, probably, judging by  patina, in the Middle Ages, but not destroyed during restoration, as legs of personages are renovated partially and is seen only part of the initial picture.  Moreover, analogous figures are made in Tamgaly tradition: in following epochs that subjects disappeared. Those, who made renovations, did not destroy ancient subject.
On picture 11 is seen on a plate a big scene with participation of not mounted archers, scenes of hunting, riders on horses. Pictures were made in different times; part of the most ancient petroglyphs was renovated supposedly in Turkic time. All composition is divided for several blocks, not connected between each other by subjects. In center is situated erotic subject of coupling man with horse.
This is obviously cult scene. Man, impregnating the horse, is catching it by his two hands. On legs of horse are seen hobbles. Left front and back left legs were tied. Head dress or mask is seen on the head of man, probable it is goat mask, as it is seen the line, looking like horns. Above the horse is carved one more person on semi curved legs in head dress, referred to those catching the horse.
In low part of composition are carved the latest pictures of riders on horses, goats and camel. The second subject with scene of coupling with animal is also fragment of composition with majority of figures of animals and people. On the right side on top are carved small figures of two men; one of them is carried rod in his hand. Lower under them is laying a man with legs upward (killed or thrown down).
Lower on the right side is pictured a man and a goat. A man is carrying goat on horns and is connected with him by phallus. Sense of this subject is not clear yet, but, by the first view, it is connected with cult of fertility. We can suppose, that in ancient times existed ceremonies, called to ask well-being and fertility from gods. They were praying, similar to that ones, which were called to ask rains and harvest among agricultural people.  V.V.Bardavelidze offered the sample, when in Swanetia people carried a doll in a form of phallus in village, thus calling the rain.  
Ceremonies of cattle-breeding people could be other ones, but their sense remained the same. In Kelt mythology is known the ceremony, which was in impregnating of horse by priest or ring. It is known, that horses in Kelt mythology played the special role: horse was sacrificial animal. It was the main ceremony, which enlighten the beginning of fulfillment by king his functions. So, we can suppose, that here is shown the scene of «sacrificial matrimony». Analogues to the erotic subjects are widely presented in rock art of Altai, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Central Asia.
The subjects are connected with ancient pagan believes and go far too deep ancient times. Their semantic unity is observed mostly with cattle-breeding people and some agricultural people, on which paid attention many researchers of the XX century.  Of course, it is necessary to refer ancient traditions to primitive art carefully.  But scenes of coupling with animals, as they are met on wide space-are not of a sudden, and by note of D.S.Cheremisin, they are connected with mythological imaginations. Erotic subjects are presented also by subjects with pictures of man coupling.
The most close to them are pictures from Saimaly-Tash and Eshki-Olmes. In Bayan-Zhurek there is a row of cult subjects with participation of men: they are figures of man in a pose of adoration, picture of two men, taking each other by hands, and one of them is shown legs upward; the third participant in this scene stands nearby in praying pose with hands risen up.
Sense of subject is not clear, moreover pictures are renovated and to judge on them, what is pictured is rather difficult.  Interesting is picture with figure of a man with tail from hands of which are going strings to back legs of two goats. To archaic subjects is necessary to refer mostly cult subjects, made in traditional style, when ancient artist tried to distinguish the most important details of one or another personage. 
Such pictures were filled by important for a man of Bronze Epoch information. It is referred to pay attention on personage's pose as risen up hands note appeal to the highest forces divines, mask on head, probably, shows status of masker. Despite of picture been renovated, there are no traces of obvious damage. There are seen some things in his hands in a form of sphere or disks.
Similar things are seen with two men with hands risen up on. In front of them are pictured many goats and on the left side lower in figure of one more man. With the same disks in their hands and in pose of adoration is pictured whole group of three men, and that man  who is pictured on the right side is show in special costume, what let to see a bird in masker. Analogous figures of two maskers from Kulzhabasy have analogues partially with personage from Bayan-Zhurek, what let to consider, that this is not occasional coincidence.  
One more not clear picture of masker, renovated partially later, is interesting, as in figure of this personage we see also a man in mask: picture is done in ancient tradition. Body is shown in full plan; head is turned to the right side. It is difficult to define, which mask is on him, either wolves or bull's, but is seen clearly narrow muzzle and short horns.  
Several closes by style subjects with figures of men in masks are in the mountains Kulzhabasy and in the mountains Karatau, and also out of borders of Kazakhstan -in Mongol Altai. There is no single point of view concerning semantics of these pictures: in maskers with horns are seen masked hunters or priests – shamans.
Not rare are pictures of holes, and holes are carved not on plain boulders, as in valley of the river Bien, where they are compound part of petroglyphs. They are carved on rocks on tops of hills. On picture we see fisticuffs. Figures of men are pictured in profile, hands are with fists, going straight, to the side of enemy, and noses are big not naturally. Figures of men of the Bronze Epoch were often pictured without clothes with distinguished sexual features. In fisticuffs the both fighters are shown in trousers.
Between them are holes of oval form, and they are carved not on stone with pictures, turned upward, but מן side of plate. Similar petroglyphs are typical for the Bronze Epoch, but form of clothes here is met for the first time among ancient pictures. 
On pre top part of hills and on tops of mountains are carved several chariots. The clearest picture is situated in several meters from tops of mountains and is situated not far from picture of «shaman». On chariot is seen a man, handing reins. In harness are horses with entangled legs – one back and one front legs of each horse are tied.
Each wheel has four sprouts. Beam, yoke and reins are well and clear enough distinguished. Renovated picture of camel with rider is carved near by. Some more pictures of chariots are carved on the west crest of hill. 
Among them are petroglyphs with chariots, harnessed by horses and without harness animals, with big wheels with four sprouts and thorough small wheels. Pictures of wheel transport in petroglyphs let to define time of appearance of that pictures, which are corresponded to these subjects and form with them single composition. It is known, that the most ancient petroglyphs of Kazakhstan and Kirgizia are pictures from Saimaly-Tash.
In this sanctuary מן vehicles and chariots in harness among ancient petroglyphs we see mostly bulls; at the same time in the latest ones we see horses. In Bayan-Zhurek there is not small quantity of pictures of chariots, harnessed by horses. Some of them are pictured without harnessed animals. Most close to them are chariots from Eshki-Olmes, as well as many other subjects.
Definition of chronology of Bayan-Zhurek's petroglyphs is not simple task, as, from one side, chariots and corresponding to them subjects «tie» majority of petroglyphs to the epoch of chariots, what means to the middle of the II millennium B.C. or to its second half, from another side, chariots of Eshki-Olmes are done in another tradition: there are many micro pictures, carved or stretched on rock.
Moreover, in Eshki-Olmes, most close to Bayan-Zhurek monuments are many pictures, done with help of graffiti more lately by time. Presence of more archaic subjects done in Tamgaly style, let to recognize, that many pictures of Bayan-Zhurek appeared earlier, than in Eshki-Olmes. In the primitive societies art pictures of chariots were sacral act. In literature on petroglyphs it is already noted, that chariots are connected with cult of wheel and sun.
During last years appeared question, why pictures of them, carved on rocks, are presented in plan, when figures of transport animals are pictured sometimes in profile, and driver is shown laid behind chariot. Researchers put forward different hypothesis, including that ones, not connected with burial ceremony. By our point of view, the most truthful is explanation of these pictures, offered by M.S. Sergeyeva and F.R. Ballonov.  M.S. Sergeyeva offers to consider pictures with chariots, as cult pictures, so she sees special intention plan pictures.
She considers, that important is not exactness of pictures, but their essence. It was important for ancient artists to distinguish solar symbolic of wheel. F.R.Ballonov connects plan pictures: of wheel transport with three measuring pictures, when wheels, animals and man are presented from different points of view. Such tradition in petroglyphs is observed also in other subjects .
To archaic subjects can be referred - some subjects with maskers with two disks in their hands. Some of them handle them on hands, risen up above heads, and disks are connected between each other and look like spectacles shaped sign.
Content and semantics of these pictures are not clear. But for ancient people it was well, known mythological subject. It is necessary to take into account, that in comparison from Eshki-Olmes in Bayan-Zhurek are many archaic subjects.
To them can be referred figures of maskers, pictured in masks or with some attributes in their hands. Their pose shown, that they are cult subjects, rarely met in the other regions. Consider that ones, where on risen head hands people carry two spheres or disks. It is not clear, why two balls has each personage, why are they connected between each other.
Most likely, these subjects are symbols, underlining status of personages or showing their links to concrete images and to their connection with solar symbolic.
Analogous spheres are pictured in hands of personages from Mongolia. In rock art there are still many problems without answer.  But already now we can say that this art was imagination art, full of symbols, clear for ancient man.
On photo is carved compound composition. In the right side behind break in plate remained renovated part of petroglyphs. On top are carved figures of several men and one of them is pictured with legs going upward and head downward, what can mark, that this is dead man. Two men on top stand near each other. In hand of one of them is strange subject - it is not stick and, apparently, not spear.  
Analogous pictures of two maskers' personages were observed not long times ago in canyon Zhyngylshek in Karatau, and maskers from that canyon shown in masks with horns or ears on head. Pictured subject in left hand of מןו of them looks far like crook, but, probably, its whip. In Bayan-Zhurek, judging by poses of maskers, it is cult subject, as well as all composition.
Lower in the right side is carved figure of a man, catching goat. Pictures are small and not clear enough, so it is difficult to confirm, that here is shown scene of cattle-coupling (such scenes are in Bayan-Zhurek, in Karatau and in Saimaly-Tash), and also there is no sense to consider this scene, as picture of hunting, as each of the separate subjects in this big composition is connected with ancient pagan imaginations.
Some scenes, connected with every day life of cattle-breeders are not pictures drawn from nature. On photo 73 is shown scene of hunting with dogs. If to look at it attentively, it is possible to note, that hunter is shooting deer, horns of which are crowned by solar symbols. Analogues to those pictures are presented in a big quantity in petroglyphs of Mongolia.  Objects of hunting are deer, bull and goat, and from head of one hoof animals (bulls) is going close line, forming sub rectangular figure. Hardly this scene is picture taken from nature, as it is not possible to hunt animals of different kinds in one and the same time.
Solar symbols on horns of deer or bull can determine which of animals ancient people sacral ones were. So, this scene also can be recognized as cult scene. But some part of petroglyphs, of course, should be connected with every day life of ancient population. In Bayan-Zhurek is picture of sweep. Clear enough are carved beam, yoke, horses, on back side frame, but without wheels. Probably, on fence was pictured driver, but the biggest part of pictures was renovated and, probably, damaged. It is difficult to see a man figure in frame. In Bayan-Zhurek there are not small quantity of restored pictures and scenes.
It is not difficult to distinguish them, as they are much lighter, then ancient ones. Judging by formed patina, they were renovated secondary in the period of Middle Ages, while part of pictured was renovated already in Early Iron Age. In majority of cases those, who renovated considered carefully art of people of Bronze Epoch.  On photo is seen, how gracious figures of wild rams were restored secondary. It is easy to define fact of restoration by picture: in figures from the left side are not worked out partially legs, on the right side head and horns of animal are not carved secondary.
On figure of bull not renovated remained tail and part of horns. On photo to the ancient pictures of horses made in character style later «were drawn additionally» riders. How looked horses, carved in the Epoch of Bronze we can judge by figure of horse in the right part of all scenes. Its figure is renovated only partially and it differs from others, carved roughly.  On pic is shown hunting.
This is clearly renovated scene. Two pictures of goats in the left side remained untouched, and archer's foot of right leg is seen through newly carved surface.
This picture let to observe, how rough were the latest pictures and how easy it is to be mistaken under copying of all scene, not having possibility to separate exactly most ancient pictures from the latest ones.
So, pictures of the Bronze Epoch can appear much more, that it is considered under the first processing of materials. But it makes difficult not only to understand some subjects, but to define their expressive character. Some details could disappear for definition of chronology of petroglyphs and understanding of their intention.
In Bayan-Zhurek are petroglyphs without traces of renovation. To them are referred figures of people with hands going aside, part of maskers with risen up hands, pictures of part of chariots, deer and horses, dogs, snakes and holes.  To the same group can be referred scenes of hunting, part of spectacles shaped signs. Some figures of animals are made in rectangular style.
In case of considering stylistic peculiarities of petroglyphs of this region, it is necessary to note some similarity with ancient pictures from Tamgaly, Kulzhabasy and Karakyr. It is expressed in style, close to rectangular style: in some figures of animals, in underlining details and picturing of knots in a form of spheres on the edge of tails of bulls, in massive prolonged front part of horse's body and small heads of these animals. 
In the Bronze Epoch was formed tradition to show body of man in full face and foots of legs, as on profile picture, are turned to the side, to the left side or to the right side and nose can be marked to the opposite side. Such methods let for ancient masters to show in one and the same time the main details of picture. On the majority of male figures in the Bronze Epoch was considered to mark phallus.
Pictures of Bayan-Zhurek by choice of plates, by topography and partially by techniques of fulfillment are most close to the pictures from Eshki-Olmes, but also on this monument they are less than in Eshki-Olmes.
Here are much more the latest petroglyphs of the Epoch of Early Iron Age and in Middle Ages, when in Eshki-Olmes petroglyphs of Sakae time do not yield to them, but in some cases they prevail by quantity and expressiveness pictures of Bronze Epoch.
So, many subjects of Bayan-Zhurek have many general features with the same pictures from different regions of Eurasia. In Kazakhstan ancient pictures are dated by the Epoch of Bronze, in Mongolia the earliest petroglyphs are dated by the Epoch of Neolith and Eneolith, and the latest ones are dated by the Epoch of Early and developed Bronze.
Under the above it is necessary to take into account, that whole row of Kazakhstan petroglyphs has the most close similarity with pictures of developed Bronze in Mongolia, in Altai and in Central Asia.
Method of abstraction analogues gives possibility to date pictures in very wide frames. During last years by stylistic features it was a success to separate partially group of petroglyphs of transitional period from the Epoch of Bronze up to Early Iron Age in the mountains Eshki-Olmes, in Oi-Djailau, and also in Tamgaly. It is rather difficult to do it in Bayan-Zhurek. 
Here are no many subjects of transitional time, not worked out stylistic features, by which it could be possible to separate whole row of the latest petroglyphs of the Epoch of Bronze, and so it is possible to define time of creation the latest pictures in Bayan-Zhurek only approximately.  To the ancient layer can be referred cult subjects, chariots and row of pictures with «tailed» personages, and also not numerous figures of bulls and bulls with semi ring shaped horns and with knots on tails; they should be referred the most ancient group of petroglyphs.
It is more difficult to define pictures of the Epoch of Lake Bronze and transitional time. Some figures of animals, including horses, have similarity by row of stylistic features with pictures of these animals from Eshki-Olmes. Characteristic features for these figures are prolonged necks of animals and not naturally small heads, long, sometimes stretched tails. So, the biggest part of animals is necessary to refer to the middle of the II millennium B.C. and the second half of the II millennium B.C.

Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .Bayn-Zhurek Petroglyphs .

Authority
The book “Baya-Zhurek petroglyphs” K.M.Baipakov, A.N. Maryayshev. “Credos”, Almaty, 2008.

Alexander Petrov
photos.