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Petroglyphs of Asy Plateau.

Explorers Petroglyphs Tour Kazakhstan.

"And beyond the distant, - the joy of the mountains, valleys,
fields -
Opens the face of victory, everything is fuller and brighter,
he bright red light of a flourishing day
Like a flower of giant gardens, full of life and fire"

Balmont Constantine. "At the hour of dawn."

Tours on Petroglyphs to Asy Plateau.

Petroglyphs on the Asa mountain plateau, belong to the system of Zailiysky Alatau, occupy one of the highest altitude places for the accumulation of petroglyphs in Kazakhstan and may be second only to petroglyphs in the Aksu Dzhabagly reserve.
In July 2003, the Kazakh-American Archaeological Expedition (CAAE) (headed by K. M. Baipakov, K. Chang) continued the excavation of the Asy-II settlement of the bronze era, which began in July - August 2002, the cultural layers of which, apparently date back to the Bronze and Early Iron Age.
Asy-II is located 1.5 km east of the settlement of Asy-I, excavations were carried out in the summer of 2000 by the archaeological detachment of the SAE IA NAS RK under the leadership of A. N. Maryashev, S. A. Potapov.
To the north of the settlements on the rocky outcrops of the mountain range during previous reconnaissance Maryasheva et al. Petroglyphs were discovered. CAAE participants studied and photographed petroglyphs, 2.5-3 km north and northeast of the Bronze Age settlements Asy-I and Asy-II, located on the left (northern) bank of the river.
Asy (on the edge of the floodplain terrace) (Enbekshi-Kazakh district of Almaty region). A relatively compact (explored) cluster of petroglyphs (sanctuary) 1.5 x 1 km is located in the upper part of the Asa plateau at an altitude of 2500 - 2700 meters above sea level and has a southern exposure of rocky outcrops (positive landforms) covered with a characteristic patina formed by the mountain sun and atmospheric phenomena.
It should be noted that in this area, rocky outcrops and individual large stones with the “right”, southern exposure, are covered with dark patina, formed as a result of the reactions of rock and the sun. Images of people of the Bronze Age are located on the southern slope of the mountain range and stretch along the river.
Asy for many kilometers, interrupting and again resuming, and only in this area up to 1.5 km long the surface of the stones is covered with a significant number of drawings. Obviously, the place was not chosen by chance: a mountain gorge with an upcoming hill, protected from the dominant western mountain wind, with a south, southeast exposure, overlooking the wide Asy plateau, creates the feeling of a natural temple.
The location of petroglyphs fully possesses originality and aesthetic activity. A plentiful spring spurting from under a cliff with petroglyphs is an extremely rare phenomenon on the southern slopes in this area, but which determined the place of the sanctuary.
Near the sanctuary, at the foot of the mountains there is a burial ground of the Bronze Age, and closer to the river. Ases from north to south stretch the chain of barrows of RZHV reaching the river terrace. The terrain landscape, not subject to changes in connection with the economic activity of man, monuments of archeology from the Bronze Age to ethnographic time.
There are a rather large number of petroglyphs (more than a thousand images that are still waiting for accounting, fixation, etc. provided by the methodology for studying petroglyphs, the implementation of which is complicated due to the inaccessibility of the terrain).
The plots of many petroglyphs are difficult to recover, due to the destruction of the surface crust of stones, patina heterogeneity, especially manifested in this sanctuary, located in the upper part of the mountain plateau.
The most common plot is wild animals: mountain goats and deer, including noble ones, as well as domestic animals: horses, dogs, two-humped camels, chthonic: snakes. Many images of men, in the so-called ritual poses or dancing, horsemen, archers and hunting scenes.
There is an image of solar signs (a ball or circle is knocked out next to a person). An image of a chariot belonging to chariots with a transverse crossbar was found, as far as one can judge from the picture of not better preservation.
The charioteer, shown in a plan view, standing on the platform of the chariot, is poorly visible. Next to the chariot, a second person is guessed. The wheels are large enough, in one wheel there are 8 spokes, in the second it is not clearly visible.
One of the horses was lost as a result of natural cleavage; the horses are shown with their backs to each other; There is also an image of a certain labyrinth or plan of the sanctuary, which can be interpreted in this way, based on the elaboration of P.U. Marikovsky interpretation of the semantics of petroglyphs.
The absence of images of sun-headed and mummers, based on developed analogies, indicates the organization of the sanctuary in the late Bronze Age, To some extent, this dating is confirmed by the presence of a nearby burial ground and settlements, some chronological progresses are possible after detailed archaeological research and accurate analysis of the samples taken.
The presence of petroglyphs with images stylistically reminiscent of deer stones (the image of deer, some of which with bent legs) and a mountain goat with spiral horns allows us to talk about the existence of a sanctuary in the transition period to the early iron age or in the very initial period of the early iron age.
A distinctive feature of Asa's petroglyphs is small forms of images (shredding compared to shrines of the Tamgaly type), which obviously indicates a similar tendency for the development of Semirechye petroglyphs in the period from Middle Bronze to Late.
In the areas of distribution of petroglyphs of the Bronze Age, there is no single scenario for the evolution of the size of drawings. For example, in Norway, all development went from large realistic images to shredded sketchy ones, which is also characteristic of the region of the river.
Hangars, at the same time for Karelia, development went in the opposite direction. In science, there is an understanding that petroglyphs are, as it were, visual accompaniment along with the sound and other sensory organs that are possible for human perception to achieve a blissful sleeping state or trance state. But the rituals that were performed in similar natural temples, only brought by the hand of man, are still quite foggy.
The subject of shrines with petroglyphs, as well as the sacrificial stones with holes often accompanying them, has been raised in recent years by many Kazakhstani researchers of petroglyphs and shrines in the Zhetysu region (A.G. Medoev, P.U. Marikovsky, A.N. Maryashev, Z. S. Samashev , V.V. Saraev, A.E. Rogozhinsky, A.A. Goryachev, S.A. Potapov, etc.).
Most studies are conducted as descriptions of petroglyphs, their cataloging. The dating of the main motifs of petroglyphs is sufficiently developed. The study of the significance of religion for historical societies is difficult to overestimate.
Religion - a special institution of traditional society - is a whole phenomenon that incorporates many aspects of the society of its modern era. It incorporates not only deities, ideas and teachings, but to a large extent determines the behavior of people.
Religious concepts govern not only the relationship between man and deity, but also between people and society. The problem of studying the cults of the Bronze Age is the lack of widespread writing at that time.
It can be noted that traditional pagans did not feel the need for writing (the developed states of the ancient East developed writing systems in connection with administrative needs, and religious laws were among the first to be ordered, canonized), unlike the servants of monotheistic religions who kept every letter of the Scriptures.
Such phenomena of fine culture as painting and sculpture remain crucial in the study of the pagan worldview of much later periods in the history of neighboring regions. One of the sources for studying ancient cults may be ethnographic studies of the XXth century. in various regions of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, etc.
Modern shamanism of Central (Central) Asia is a popular topic among Soviet ethnographers, in particular, they asked questions about the attribution of local variants of shamanism in one or another region of Central Asia. So, V.N. Basilov seemed close to Siberian shamanism, despite the complete difference in the clothes of Siberian and Uzbek shamans.
G.P. Snesarev was sure of a slight “Siberian” influence on local archaic pre-Islamic strata (perhaps this depends on the area of ​​research), but both spoke of the surprisingly persistent effect of old beliefs on the population.
The stability of local traditions in the pre-Islamic period in Khorezm could be evidenced by the fact that over the years of extensive archaeological research, not a single burial complex has been discovered associated with the corpse dating back to the 6th century. BC. - VIII century.
AD A significant number of works are devoted to pagan rites, organically included in Islam. Another source for the study of petroglyphs may be studies of synchronous shrines with petroglyphs in other regions. For example, Norwegian researchers, speaking about the genesis of the cave drawing in relation to Northern Europe, give cupped holes as the most ancient tradition of knocking on stones.
The most common explanation, which is the cult of fertility, where the hole itself symbolizes the female genital organs. In this case, cases of cult sexual intercourse occurring at local sanctuaries - places of accumulation of petroglyphs, with subsequent actions, such as mixing the boy's seed with corn grain and placing the mixture in an ancient hole on a stone, are described.
Such rituals, in ethnographic time, took place already in extremely hungry years of unprecedented droughts and it is difficult to deny their clearly cult orientation to increase productivity and fertility.  The tradition of holding such rites can be traced to the 1860s, despite the fierce opposition of the church, i.e. such holes, wore or clearly belong to the cult of fertility and were one of the simplest and at the same time universal symbols, knocked out on the stones of Northern Europe, starting with the Upper Paleolithic.
Tribes of the Indo-European linguistic community (Iranian) managed to spread over the vast expanses of Eurasia in the era of early, middle Bronze, when the total number of tribes was relatively small, which indicates that initially the cult of fertility occupied a most important place in their worldview.
This idea is also confirmed by the presence of such a large number of phallus-shaped pestles, spread everywhere, in the zone of resettlement of the Andronovo tribes and other cultures belonging to the Indo-European language family.
One of the largest researchers in the cult of fertility was Oscar Almgren, who believed that the purpose of cult rituals was to awaken fertility among people and in nature. The study of the spiritual content of the cults of the Bronze and early iron age eras is usually based on Indian or Iranian holy books, although by the time the Vedas were compiled, the original Iranian paganism had undergone significant changes under the influence of developed local, Near Asian, and later Mediterranean pagan cults. It would be more logical to assume the inner closeness of Indo-European paganism, the traditions of which have remained unchanged for millennia, in particular in the North of Europe.
The cults of the Andronovites were pagan. But whether they were original or belonged to any circle of cultures introduced and possibly well-known. The material culture of Andronovites was studied by many scientists.
Perhaps the most consistent was E.E. Kuzmina. Studying issues related to the funeral rite, the types of dwellings of Andronovites, the methods of pottery production and the role in the production of women, the composition of the family, the time and place of domestication of the horse, the use of wheeled transport, she was able to prove to a large extent that the Iranians and Andronovites are generally one ethnic group and its corresponding archaeological culture.
The same results were obtained when analyzing the species composition of the Andronov herd: the large role of horse breeding and the breeding of high-breed fast-moving horses, the number of sheep, the complete absence of pigs and breeding of two-humped camels - Bactrians, which, unlike other cultures of Eurasia, including Indo-Europeans, is typical only for Iranians as carriers of a pronounced culture of nomads.
Indo-European paganism, characterized by a spell and protective graphic ornamentation, can be traced in the so-called amulets, which are depicted on commonly used household items or noticeable parts of the home. In ethnographic time, it still manifested itself in wooden carvings of window frames for dwelling houses, spinning wheels, cradles, household utensils, etc., or in patterns on clothes.
According to B.A. Rybakova, such ornamentation preserved almost completely inviolable the ancient symbolism coming from the Neolithic, characterizing ceramics of the Andronovo time, as well as the reconstruction of Andronov’s clothes on ceramics and embroideries of ethnographic time.
On the rites of Slavic paganism in the X century. Al-Masoudi mentions: “The Slavs had a temple with a drop-down roof to observe the sunrise. "The dead were buried by turning their heads east, etc." . About the parallels between the graves in Tagisken and two thousand years later in the Chernihiv region, wrote L. A. Lelekov.
Common Indo-European pagan traits are consistent with data on cults of the Andronovo cultural community, we note the same ideas for worshiping the Sun, images of the God of the Sun or solar signs, the same worship for fire, a home, the same rites of burial.
The central point (mystery) of the pagan ritual is the sacrifice performed before the idol. In the center of the sanctuary, an altar was set up to offer sacrifices to one's deities. Victims constitute the most significant part of any religious cult.
Each fellow tribesman recognized the need to bring to the altar various gifts from his labors. Among the predominantly settled peoples, it was bread, wine, etc., among nomadic peoples: domestic animals, usually without physical disabilities, selected by suit and other signs, it is obvious that hunters have objects of hunting - wild animals.
According to pagan traditions, sacrifices personified the ideas of people about the cyclism of life and death, about creative destruction as a condition for the continuation of life. A massive (up to 3 m in length), flat, almost horizontal, elongated stone with broken shallow holes, grooves and the image of a mountain goat, matching its characteristics to the altar, was found at Asa’s sanctuary.
A possible confirmation of this version will be the identification of the cultural layer around the altar during archaeological excavations. Asa’s sanctuary is obviously quite typical for religious complexes of a similar purpose and chronological order and does not have a special unique value, however, the preservation of the monuments during the complex work, the analysis of their spatial relative position, will give the most complete picture of the various aspects of the life of the ancients.
The virgin nature of Asa, the upper river. Turgen with a famous waterfall and trout farms already attract a large flow of tourists. The work of several archaeological expeditions, discovering a huge number of diverse cultural heritage sites, can cause an additional influx of people interested in Russian history.
True, all this should be carried out with proper management, at the head of which a careful attitude to the natural and historical heritage will be put.

Zheleznyakov B.A. "Petroglyphs (sanctuary) of Asy plateau".

Photos by
Alexander Petrov.