Situated in a group of hills running north of the line of the Ile Alatau, between the Shu and Ile rivers, Tamgaly (not to be confused with Tamgaly Tas), from the Kazakh word tamga, meaning “clan sign”, is one of the most impressive of the many petroglyph sites in Kazakhstan. Discovered in the 1950s, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, and its main petroglyph clusters are now well signposted.
There are more than 4 000 petroglyphs at Tamgaly. While they cover a long period, most of the petroglyphs date from the Bronze Age and early Iron Age. rock faces are packed with images of deer, some with distinctive branched antlers, bulls, dogs and hunters. Some are very beautiful, such as a petroglyph featuring an embossed cow design inside a larger cow figure which has been pecked out from the rock. Most remarkable of all are the “sun-headed” figures for which Tamgaly is particularly known. These typically consist of humanoid stick-like figures, with huge round heads. One of these has a certain resemblance to an enormous gooseberry. Another head involves a series of concentric circles around a central “eye”, baubles dangling from the circles. A third head consists of circles of dots. Below this third head is a line of little human figures, like bunting, which appear to be captured in mid-dance.
The distance from Almaty is around 150 km. The state of the road leading to the location is not good but driveable.