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Petroglyphs in Cholpon-Ata.

Rock Drawings in Cholpon-Ata dating back to the third millenium BC, they have been discovered in a number of sites in Kyrgyzstan. There is a major collection in Cholpon-Ata, mainly depicting animals and hunting scenes.
Kyrgyzstan abounds in monuments of  prehistoric art. One of the most remarkable petroglyph sites is the Cholpon-Ata mountain area in the Issyk-Kul region. (Cholpon-Ata means "father of the morning star").
The Cholpon-Ata open-air museum, created in 1987 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located at the foothills of the Kungey Ala-Too Range, at an altitude of 1600 - 1800 meters.
This unique site covers an area of 42 hectares and comprises thousands of granite boulders adorned by hundreds of carvings. There are about 400 stones with petroglyphs at the site. The stones, which were used as “canvases” by skillful ancient and medieval carvers, vary in size from 30 cm to 3 meters; they were deposited by mountain torrents at the locality.
The images on the stones are stylistically diverse and are dominated by depictions of animals such as ibexes, deer, argali (mountain sheep), camels, horses and snow leopards. Hunting scenes, attacks of animals by beasts of prey, numerous images of horse riders and archers as well as depictions of nomadic tamga (emblem) can be encountered.
A great number of carvings at the site are from the Scythian-Saka epoch that flourished in the  VIIIth - IIIrd centuries BC.
These are some of the most stunning examples of the Scythian-Saka “wild animal style” in Central Asia. According to the opinions of some scholars, the Cholpon-Ata historical site provides evidence of being an immense open-air temple used for solemn ceremonies that were a part of spiritual life of the early nomads.
At the museum complex there are circular stone structures preserved as part of an ancient observatory. One of the local features is that there are ancient burial sites connected with the stone carvings.
There are scores of petroglyph sites which frame Issyk-Kul Lake, however, the images of the north shore outnumber those of the south and west sides. This is because the gorges and grottoes of the south shore have not been extensively explored.
Nevertheless, there is one more exceptional locality of petroglyphs in the Issyk-Kul region - Ak-Chunkur (in Kyrgyz it means “White Cave”) situated 3000 metres above sea level. The occupation layer of the cave has a late Stone Age character.
As the result of excavations, stone implements were discovered in Ak-Chunkur. The walls and cupola of the cave are decorated by depictions of animals and inscriptions in red iron ore and black dye.
The Japanese development agency, JICA, is working with Kyrgyz women to produce high quality felt products using natural dyes and petroglyphic patterns. Passengers on an Uzbek Journeys tour to Kyrgyzstan explore Cholpon Ata's stone garden before heading to Karakol. It is a fascinating site.
And you can also visit the the small boutique in Karakol that sells the JICA-supported items.

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Lilya Kas'yanova

Alexander Petrov.