The Tamgaly Petroglyphs in Kazakhstan


Since we started our research trips into the Central Asian countries we have developed a growing interest in the petroglyphs in the area. We have visited petroglyphs in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Some of them are inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Among those are the Tamgaly petroglyphs in Kazakhstan about 160 km away from Almaty,

In the Gorge of Tamgaly, scientists have discovered more than 5000 petroglyphs! The earliest of them date from around 2500 BC. Getting to the actual petroglyphs involves a lengthy drive plus a 15 minute walk from the parking lot. Then, however, most of the rock carvings are close together in a few groups of several hundred images. Clearly marked paths bring you close to the beautiful oxen, horses and camels.

Who invented the wheel?


Although we have visited a few other petroglyph sites in Central Asia, this is the first time we see the famous sun-headed persons. Also for the first time we can marvel at ancient depictions of a sort of cart. At least, they have clearly wheels with spokes. In spite of this, archaeologists and scientists still ponder if these are images of real, actual carts: They might also depict a mythological scene. Again this remains unresolved, but it might actually have been Central Asians who invented the wheel more than 4000 years ago.


Reasons for visiting the Tamgaly Petroglyps

The images on the rocks are quite striking. We find people with sun discs instead of heads, dancers, and curiously disguised persons. Presumably these could be hunters or participants in cultic performances. In addition there are lots of different animals including the long-extinct aurochs and spiral-horned ibexes. They are very old and it is fascinating to imagine the people who carved them. Why, how and on what occasion did they do it? How long would it take?


How to get the Tamgaly petroglyps

We rented a car with a driver for the day, which was quite expensive and something we rarely do. But to get to the Tamgaly petroglyphs, you really need your own transport as there is no village nearby. While a 4 WD is not really necessary, a car with a high undercarriage is advisable, as the last 10 or 20 km are on a very bad road.

NB: Tamgaly is a different location from Tamgaly Tash where the petroglyphs are newer and slightly more accessible.

*** We were not sponsored in any way to write this travel blog article. We paid the taxi ourselves, and the site was free of charge. ***

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  1. I found this post interesting. I just finished drafting a post on petroglyphs we saw on our visit to Chile. The Tamely Petroglyphs in Kazakhstan look in good shape and clear to see. The images are indeed quite striking. Good to know a car rental is required to visit.

    1. Dear Linda, in Central Asia there are a lot of amazing and very rarely visited petroglyph sites. Some of them are quite difficult to reach and require several hours of hiking.

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