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Discovery of petroglyph sequence at Kara Turug

25 Oct 2017
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An article on siberiantimes by Sergey Zubchuk and Olga Gertcyk - Mountainside gallery where all civilisations added their own art from Bronze Age to medieval times - reports on Kara-Turug petroglyphs on the border between Russia and Mongolia.

Discovery of petroglyph sequence at Kara Turug, Mongolia

The epoch of the bull. Image: Marina Kilunovskaya.

There are around 500 petroglyphs spanning some 4,000 years until the end of the first millennium AD. Every major civilisation added their own distinct imprint to the collection of rock art at Dus-Dag mountain in modern-day Tuva Republic, from the age of the spear until well into medieval times.

Archeologist Dr Marina Kilunovskaya, senior researcher at the Department of Archaeology of Central Asia and Caucasus, Institute of the History of Material Culture, St. Petersburg, states that the art marked their presence. To their credit, successive civilisations coming here did not destroy the art of those who went before them. The successive presence probably had a lot to do with salt - there are copious local supplies - but they left their art depicting their life and beliefs, which remains with us today.

The petroglyphs - until now unstudied - were made by people who lived in this area in different times, starting from the Bronze Age in the third millennium BC.

Discovery of petroglyph sequence at Kara Turug, Mongolia

The common depiction of the mountain goat or sheep (left). Depiction of a dwelling (right). Images: Marina Kilunovskaya.

The Bronze Age petroglyphs at Kara-Tarag -  there are 20 groups of petroglyphs - depict houses. Ancient populations built log structures for burial chambers as well as houses for dwelling. The people, predating the Scythians, led not only a nomadic life but also a sedentary domestic life. The images of houses are unique, depicting people as well as animals such as goats, bulls, and dogs. 

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This was an epoch of the bull. There are depictions related to the bull; well-known horned faces, so-called masks, of gods with horns. Battle scenes are depicted, as well as images of chariots.

Dr Marina Kilunovskaya goes on to state that the Bronze Age era is the time of the first wave of migration to Central Asia, Mongolia, and the Sayano-Altai highlands, when an Indo-European population came here. They were cattle breeders, moving along the 'steppes corridor' to the east.

Discovery of petroglyph sequence at Kara Turug, Mongolia

Kara-Turug. Images: Marina Kilunovskaya.

The next layer of culture are the Scythian petroglyphs. For them the central deity was the deer. So we see deer appearing on the rocks. The carvings are not very naturalistic, so we presume this was kind of deity. There are also hunting scenes.

Following this came the Xiongnu times; they have a distinctive and dynamic style, depicting hunting and battle scenes. Then the carvings of the Turks; warriors in armour with banners.

One enduring depiction through the epochs is the mountain goat or sheep. They all hunted this animal.

The methods of carving differed in every epoch. In the Bronze Age they used sharpened bone and stone. Bronze was not suitable. In Xiongnu times they begin to use durable iron. The Scythian appear to have always made sketches with charcoal before engraving.

Locals have treated this ancient rock art with great reverence; it has not been vandalised.


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