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Tamgaly

There are more than 1,500 known sites with rock drawings and carvings, called petroglyphs in Kazakhstan. In most cases, petroglyphs located in areas that used to serve as camps for nomadic tribes: in valleys, at springs, in caves. Basically, the drawings depict fragments of the life of hunting, nomadic tribes: deer and mountain goats, sheep, cattle, horses, riders.

Tamgaly (not to be confused with Tamgaly Tas) in the Zhambyl region is located about 170 kilometers northwest of Almaty. Scientists discovered this place in 1957, and now Tamgaly claims to be a UNESCO status and may soon become a famous legacy of world culture. This place is one of the most beautiful rock paintings in Kazakhstan. It is located on a hilly area in the north of Zailiysky Alatau. After several millennia, there are almost 5000 exhibits in this area.

The drawings, which are located on steep cliffs of hills, are about three centuries old, but works of art have a different history and time of creation. Scientists suggest that many of arts appeared in the first century AD. The drawings tell modern inhabitants of the planet about the daily life of ancient peoples, about their values and views that lived here. In total, stone cliffs encompass about 4,000 images, which still retain their original appearance. Local communities usually call this place the Temple of the Sun. This can be understood if a visit happens on a sunny day. In this case it becomes possible to hear how the voice echoes throughout the canyon, and the sky seems like a huge dome that covers people and nature. Such an atmosphere allows to visualize what it was 3,000 years ago to people who were alone with nature and rocks. This helps to better understand their cave art.

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to imagine a stay at the very beginning of the era as clearly and distinctly as possible: many drawings have lost their clarity over time, some of them are hardly visible at all. Also in the modern world there are people who are not interested in history and doesn't worry about protecting cultural heritage. Such people spoil the cave art. In addition, it is important not to forget that in wartime on a hilly terrain various tank tests were carried out, which entailed the appearance of large cracks in the rocks.

The Bishkek road to the west of Almaty leads to this place of the traveler. At a distance of about 100 km west of the southern capital, 6 km from the village of Targap, there will be a northbound road leading to Kopa. After 25 km on the way there is a railway in the small village of Kopa. After another 39 km (still towards the north), there will be a sign on the left pointing to “Tanbaly”, it directs several hundred meters down the dirt road. A map in a small parking lot indicates five numbered groups of petroglyphs that are located on both sides of the valley, where there are open vertical rocks. Further, the route is controlled using various guiding signs, by which it can be understood whether it is possible to go in any direction. It is also very important to pay attention to signs that warn of danger in any territory.

There are more than 4,000 petroglyphs in Tamgaly. It was created at different periods of time, but most of them relate to the Bronze and Early Iron Ages. The images depict idols led by the sun, pregnant women, sacrifices, hunting and a huge variety of flora and fauna. The drawings are most clearly visible after lunch, when the sun's rays fall on the rocks. Stone rocks combine images of cattle, pets, hunters. Many of the drawings really captivate the eyes of even the most sophisticated tourist.

The most famous and most beautiful are considered to be “sun-headed” figures, which Tamgaly is especially famous for. It usually depicts figures resembling people with large round heads. Often, the drawn characters even have two or three heads, each of which looks different and testifies to different traditions of the people. One of them is very similar to the fruit of a giant gooseberry. The second is an "eye" around which various trinkets are collected. The third head holds many small human figures. Such creative solutions to this day cause indelible interest among visitors to the canyon.

The canyon was a sacred place for rituals among nomads three centuries ago. From the parking lot, a special trail on the right side leads to several fenced burial grounds of the Bronze Age. One of these places includes 4 graves, each of which is lined with large stone slabs surrounded by an outer ring of stones. Edited 2020apr29