Site Logo  Tanbaly Petroglyphs
Not a million miles west of Almaty, near a village called Kopa, is an extensive location in the Kazakh steppes, its approach not immediately betraying the archaeological fascination of the territory beyond its car park.
For many centuries it was used for rituals and ceremonies, evidence of which has for the most part long since disintegrated into history, but by no means all, there being a host of curious illustrations which have survived on the rocks for millennia.

Petroglyphs, as a type of fine art, have appeared across the territory of Kazakhstan since ancient times although many in turn have not been preserved. The several monuments that have been discovered intact during recent years have not only added to the fascination for this ancient art, but also given insights into ways of life at the time of their creation.

The most famous centres of petroglyphic fine art in this country are located in southernmost Kazakhstan near a town called Zhetisu (Seven Waters - which could mean Seven Rivers in this context) and very little was known about them until recently. Meanwhile, at the end of the 1950s, this very unique sanctuary of Tanbaly was discovered and research work started in the 1980s.

Its petroglyphs date from more than one period, their being mostly attributable to the Bronze Age. The total number of paintings in the main canyon is approximately 2,000, divided into seven main categories which include images of sun-headed idols, disguised warriors, married couples and women in childbirth. Many scenes of hunting and bull sacrifice remind us of the parallels between many ancient cultures, and in extensive evidence are a number of solar symbols.

For such a long trip it pays to have at least an open mind about these illustrations on the rocks, but whatever you may conclude about their origin and meaning, it is hard to deny that their survival through the many ages is a fascination in itself, long before we start to ask questions about why they were put there.