The Tamgaly Petroglyphs in Kazakhstan

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Since we started our research trips into the Central Asian countries we have developed a growing interest in the petroglyphs that can be found in the area. Some of them, like the Tamgaly petroglyphs about 160 km away from Almaty, are inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

In the Gorge of Tamgaly more than 5000 petroglyphs can be found, the earliest of them dating from around 2500 BC. Getting to the actual petroglyphs involves a 15 minute walk from the parking lot and most of the rock carvings are concentrated 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?

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Although we have visited a few other petroglyph sites in Central Asia, this is the first time we see the famous sun-headed persons, and also depictions of a sort of cart. Although archaeologists and scientists still ponder if these are images of real carts or if they depict a mythological scene, they have clearly wheels with spokes. Again this hasn’t been resolved yet, but it might actually have been Central Asians who invented the wheel more than 4000 years ago.

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Reasons for visiting the Tamgaly Petroglyps

The images on the rocks are quite striking – people with sun discs instead of heads, dancers, disguised persons who may be hunters or participants in cultic performances; plus 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?

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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.

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