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Excursions to Eshkiolmes Petroglyphs.
It is necessary to solve problems of division into periods and chronology of Eshkiolmes petroglyphs before using rock pictures in the mountains of Eshkiolmes as the historical source. It was already mentioned above that in the river valley and adjoining mountains, the population lived on prolongation of all epochs, stating from the middle of the II millenium B.C. and so it is rather difficult to separate that or another groups of pictures of the total mass and define their dating.
One and the same petroglyphs were liabIe to renovation and remarking. Sometimes ancient pictures had been simply renovated to remove patina - sunburn and make them more light and visible. But the separate details and pictures more important from the point of view of other epoch's people had been added during renovation more often. The bright sample of such renovation can be the scene on pictures 29, 71. Horses of the late bronze epoch had been renovated in ancient Turkic times. The artist renovated, made brighter the ancient figures, but introduced some strokes and details which changed the appearance of animals.
Ancient figures were depicted with sagged abdomens, narrow muzzles and splendor tails made by thin carving. In middle ages the high pommels, sweat-cloths were drawn in addition to the renovated figures and it became impossible to date all scenes by the stylistic features. Many renovated figures of people and animals are on the rock blocks of Eshkiolmes Mountains. Mostly the medieval masters tried do not destroy ancient pictures during renovation, but in cases when it was necessary to show the form of weapon or the details of cloth, they pictured that things which were in use in their times.
So, for example, in the scenes of hunting or battles made in the epoch of bronze, multi compound bows and arrows' heads were added in the Middle Ages. In some cases it is possible to define the most ancient layer or petrogliphs on patina formed during a big period, but it is possible only in that case when the ancient picture is recovered by more late period. So, it becomes possible to define consequence of drawing pictures.
At present time there is no one universal method to define precisely the time of appearance of that or other petroglyphs. Archaeologists use usually few methods: analyses topics, date petroglyphs by the stylistic features, by the separate details of horse harness, weapon or clothes. Sometimes it is become possible to define the time of depicting by the types of weapon: coinage or axe, by the form of knife, mace or bow. Plates with pictures in ancient burials of basis of houses also let to clarify the date of petroglyphs. For example, findings of plates with figures of animals made by «animal style» in the early Scythian burial mound Arjan played the role of chronological bench-mark.
Picture of goat was discovered on the burial plate from the burial mound Karakudyk; this plate was brought to the burial mound from the canyon Tamgaly. But such findings are rather rare. So, to solve the problem of chronology of a big group of petroglyphs, where the pictures of several epochs are mixed, is extremely difficult. Today it is possibIe to separate big groups of petroglyphs in the limits of that or another epoch. It is much difficult to define the consequence of picturing of one epoch. In spite of all difficulties, today we can define the biggest group of pictures of the epoch of bronze in the mountains Eshkiolmes.
It is known a row of subjects which could appear not earlier than the XVIII - XVII c.c. B.C. and not later than the epoch of early iron (early I millenium B.C). They are, first of all, the various pictures of chariots made by the technique of stamping and graving. Chariots are shown with people during the hunting, fight and separately as independent pictures without people, and sometimes even without horses. Chariots were pictured in plan and from the side; some pictures are miniature, earch 3 - 5 cm and were made by the method of graving and even simple stratching above stone.
There are the scenes where are shown all small details or chariot and absolutely conventional schematic pictures. Pictures of chariots could appear on the rocks only when the chariots themselves got sprerad. In the epoch of bronze the chariots became the most effective mean during the war, namely they, as the rule, solved the result of battle. Future, the image of chariot was worshiped; they became the main for transporttation of gods. In the mountains Eshkiolmes are known more than one hundred pictures ofchariots and with every year their quantity is increased in the result of new investigations.
It is interesting, that light battle chariots were pictured, with beam of two horses harness. Such construction let to improve in maximum their conrollability and manoeuvrability. In the ancient scripts it is described how the wheel-wrights slow down the motion of one horse and quicken the other one, for the turn under a big speed. Fight chariots of Eshkiolmes are differed essentially from the chariots of eneolyth and early broze, from Saimaly-Tash and even from the chariots of the epoch of bronze in the mountains Kulzhabasy with bulls in harness.
In the early pictures from Saimaly-Tash are shown the continuose disk shaped wheels, drovern with knout or lash going by foot near the vehicle. Chariots had been improved on prolongation of centuries. Firstly, hard disk shaped wheels were changed by more light ones with four, and later with eight or more spokes. It was necessary to improve controllability and maneuvrability of Chariots troop to force the way in the row of infantry. For this purpose, the hard bridle for horses was changed for bridle with bone and with bronze ones later.
To the second half of the second millenium B.C. the wheel troops represented already the most powerful force of ancient armies. The military nobility and for the first turn chariot men was defined to that time. It is known from the descriptions of battles with khettes, assirians, Egyptians; pictures of chariots are known on the bas-reliefs of Urartu palaces; burials with chariots had been investigated there also. The pictures of improved chariots with movable harness, beams and light wheels with 8, 12 and more spokes dominate in the mountains of Eshkiolmes.
In the epoch of late bronze simplificated, schematic pictures of chariots in a form of two circles with the Christ inside, without driver and horses became the subjects of carving. So, it had been transferred into the emblem and symbol of chariot. The huge quantity of pictures of chariots in the sanctuaries of Kazakhstan and the Eshkiolmes mountains is the evidence of their wide spread and their importance in the life of population of Kazakhstan and Semirechie. Archaeologists and historians consider that the horse had been domesticated in the steppes of South Ural region and Northern Kazakhstan.
The numerous rock pictures of this animal let to consider that the horse had been domesticated early by comparison, but it became in a wide use in military chariots only in the epoch of late bronze. In connection with the considering historical epoch it is necessary to consider the image of horse in the rock paintings' art of Semierechie. Pictures of the definit race of horses with chariot had been engravedon the rocks. Ancient artists knew this animal very well and created his significant image - this is not tall horse, sometimes with sagged abdomen, lux.urious tail and thick mane.
Pictures of horses in Eshkiolmes do not look completely like the horses of west Semirechie's petrglyphs. Special style of horse pictures, graved or cut figures to date them by the late II millenium B.C. even in that cases, when the horses are pictured in such style without chariots and driver. It seems rather diffieult to define the time of disappearing of ehariots in military aetions and, consequently, in the rock pictures of Semireehie tribes. Obviously, it happened in theI millenium B.C. in conneetion with assimilating of horse under riding. In the spurs of Djungar Alatau and on the rocks in Koksu river valley we see a lot of battle scenes with warriors having weapons in their hands.
Together with eudgels there are subjeets where the warriors are pictured using eoinage weapon. It is known that this weapon appeared in the epoeh of late bronze, but was in use also in the following time. Taking for the basis the style of horses' pietures, .ehariots and weapon, we can define all layer of pictures referred to the late bronze epoeh. But always it is necesary to take into account that dating by the stylistie features is difficult: firstly, there are different by style, technique of pieturing of people and animals in the frames of one epoeh, the common style was not formed yet at that time, characteristie features and clear features were not appeared, in comparison with the following epochs.
See only, when even it is possibIe to observe some stable elements in iconography, these features are not the defining faetors, as they are combined very often with the technical methods using stone carving. Sometimes different traditions are combined - row of people' and animal' figures is done by the teehnique of stamping, the part is done by he technique of graving, and the main mass of figures is shown by the combined method, when the figures of animals are done by stamping, sometimes with following polishing, and the details: ears, manes, tails, sometimes legs are done by carving. In the article of A.E.Rogozhinsky 5 periods in evolution of rock art of bronze epoch in Eshkiolmes Mountains are defined.
He defines 5 main types of pictures of bronze epoch, differing by the technique of production, style and repertory, and also by the stratigraphie situation on the rocks. Eaeh type is referred by A.E.Rogozhinsky to the corresponding period - XIII - XII c.c. B.C., XII - XI c.c. B.C., IX - VIII c.c. B.C., VIII - VII c.c. B.C. But such fractional division is p.rematurely; definition of periods is artificial and does not correspond to the fixed superposition ofone style pictures by another one.
For example, the pictures, referred by A.E.Rogozhinsky to the 4 type (IX - VIII c.c. B.C.) are met not one time under the pictures of the 2 and the 3 type which are dated by him as the XII - X c.c. B.C. Observations and the work experienee of many years on this monument and in the other sanctuaries of Semirechie let to define the group of more late petroglyphs of bronze epoch of the XIV - XIII c.c. B.C., and more late – XII - IX c.c. B.C. The most ancient group is presented by unessential quantity of pictures of bulls - aurochs, goats and people in a style characteristic for the west Semireehie.
These pictures can be dated by the time of settling of this region, by the middle of the II millenium B.C. In the mountains Eshkiolmes the ancient petroglyphs are met in the 13 canyon and pretop ridges between the 12 and 13 canyons. The most interesting are the figures of goats, made in rectangular style from the 13 canyon. Pictures of people with trailed plaits can be also referred to that time. But it is not possible to refer to the most aneient the group of horses, the figures of whieh look like the pictures in reetangular style from Saimaly-Tash.
These petroglyphs have more analogues with the pietures from Altay of the late bronze epoch. The horses in chariots were pictured quite often in such manner. Series of cut micro pictures can be referred to the second, more late by the time group. Some cases were observed, when such drawings were recovered, and sometimes even destroyed partially by other pictures of bronze epoch. In this regard the most interesting is the scene with figures of two personages with lifted up hands in a «pose of opposition».
Figures of people cover a big quantity of pictured arrows in flight with leaf shaped edges. Very often repeating graphic drawing, recovered by other pictures let the big group of graphic pictures to consider the most ancient in regard with the figures of people with small bows and quivers behind shoulders. In the scene with sun-headed personage on the chariot from the 12 canyon are seen the figures of shots, recovering the arrows in flight. But it is not excluded that shot men and bows, arrows were made in one and the same time, and renovations and corrections could be done in the result of completing of all scene in one period.
Figures of warriors with coinage weapon, some dynamic scenes of hunting, pictures of predators, part of figures of bulls with twisted into rings horns can be surely be referred to the late pictures of bronze epoch. Complicated multi figured composition from the 11 canyon with pictures of predator in animal style and people with coinage weapon, wolf and archers with the definite sexual features can be, probably, referred to this period. Some figures of animals are cut in animal style, but archers are made in more ancient tradition.
This composition and some others, evidently, were put in the transitional period from the epoch of bronze to the early iron epoch. Despite of the fact that common style was not formed yet in the epoch of late bronze, as it had happened in the epoch if early iron, by which we could define surely a big group of petroglyphs and to connect it with the definite period, it is necessary to note that in rock art are seen some different traditions and many new technical methods.
So, apparently, it is not possibIe to explainby mistake this variety of methods and styles only by migration of a big group of population from Siberia and Altay. Opposite of this confirmation is the circumstance, that rock art, developed in the river Koksu valley and surroundings is more rich, various and bright than in that region from where it could be adopted,by the point of view of researchers. Obviously, that these traditions appeared in a zone of contacts of different tribes, as local, settled in West Semirechie a little earlier and which established the bright images of rock art, and alien Fyodorovsky, which adopted and reworked the traditions of predecessors. The valley of Koksu River in the epoch a late and final bronze appeared as the most suitable place on this stage of settling of Semirechie.
By archaeological and ethnographical materials it is known that the separate tribes had been settled, occupying the definite ecological niche. Sometimes the conditions in such region promoted the stable preservation of their own, local traditions. All newly coming of population adopted thelocal culture and slowly was assimilated among the local population. Apparently, the Koksu river valley and the region of Eshkiolmes Mountains were referred to such stable ecological niche.
As the result the following conclusions can be made, such as: the most ancient is a small group of petroglyphs, concentrated in the upper parts of canyons,on a hills, rock ridges, close by some features to another dated pictures from the West Semirechie, where the similar pictures amounts the majority. This group of pictures is referred to the period of developed bronze and is dates by the middle of the II millenium B.C. The main mass of pictures of Eshkiolmes is referred to the period of late bronze and is dated by the XII - X c.c. B.C.
By the period of final bronze X - IX c.c. B.C can be dated the part of pictures, close by the style to the art of nomads and already having some obvious features of «animal» style.
Source of information:
«Petroglyphs in Eshkiolmes mountains».K.M. Baipakov,A.N. Maryayshev, S. A Potapov, А.А.Gorychev.Almaty. 2005.
Alexander Petrov's photos.