The petroglyphs in the landscape of Tamgaly, Kazakhstan, dating from approximately 1400 BCE to the 20th century.
Offering us unique insight into the rituals and social organization of the pastoral peoples who inhabited this site through time, the archaeological landscape of Tamgaly contains about 5,000 petroglyphs (rock carvings), which are distributed throughout 48 complexes largely associated with burial grounds and settlements.
The central canyon has the densest concentration of petroglyphs, contains ‘alters,’ and has been interpreted to have had ritual significance. The central canyon is devoid of dwellings, and is thought to have been a place for sacrificial offerings.
During the Middle Bronze Age we see Tamgaly-type petroglyphs, which include zoomorphic beings, people, a huge variety of animals, and ‘solar deities (sun-heads).’ During the Late Bronze Age the petroglyphs become smaller in size, and display less variety in what is depicted. Here scenes of pastoral life are popular, reflecting the prominence of nomadic cattle breeding activities during the time. During the Early Iron Age, scenes showing the hunting of wild animals remain present, but we also see camels starting to appear in the art.
If you are interested in reading more about the ‘solar-headed’ petroglyphs I would recommend The Archaeology of Shamanism (2001, Routledge), specifically chapter 5. This publication is edited by Neil Price, professor of archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, who is a specialist on shamanism in archaeology.
The petroglyphs within the archaeological landscape of Tamgaly are listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site -their article on the landscape was of great use to me while writing up this post. Photos courtesy of & taken by Ken and Nyetta.