Kazakhstan Part 2 – Tamgaly Petroglyphs

I first read about the Tamgaly Petroglyphs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in a book on the Bronze Age archaeology of the Scythian Nomads called :

 Kurgans, ritual sites, and settlements – Eurasian Bronze and Iron Age

Edited by Jeannine Davis-Kimball

Eileen M. Murphy
Ludmila Koryakova and Leonid T. Yablonksy


Visiting that site was the main purpose of my trip to Kazakhstan, and it wasn’t easy to reach. No tours or tourists were interested in such a place, so I had to hire my own driver to get out there. In doing my research this is the article that seemed to be the most comprehensive. If you are interested in the academic details of the site and the symbolic meaning of all the rock art this will provide the proper context.

Rock Art of Tamgaly, Kazakhstan

Tamgaly was about 160 kilometers northwest of Almaty and it took over two hours to get there. And it was in the middle of nowhere. Just two yurts and a fence and a few signs. Since it is a designated UNESCO site they do not allow anyone to explore the area on their own, so we were accompanied by one of the site’s guards, probably a retired soldier. I was the first tourist that they had seen in weeks. Early in the summer, the guard claimed that the temperature could reach 60º C. I rather doubt it gets that hot, but it was warm and sunny when I visited. The petroglyphs are distributed among five sites along the steep walls of a canyon.



I was in hog heaven! I spent the next few hours clambering over the rocks and taking way too many photos. Here are a few:


After we had seen all the rock art I wanted to see the Royal Burial Kurgan that was next to the canyon. It was a short hike over the hill to the intact Kurgan and the excavated graveyard nearby.


It was well into the afternoon before we made our way back to the Yurts. We were invited in for some tea and snacks. One of the men had some home-made kumiss; fermented mare’s milk. I’ve drunk this mildly alcoholic beverage all over Mongolia, but this was some of the smoothest I’d ever sampled.



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