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Altai Discovery Team Алтай Discovery Team

The ancestors of modern human beings lived o n the territory of Gorny Altai many hundreds of thousands years ago. The found archeological materials are the evidence of this.
The most ancient site of primeval people o n the territory of Gorny Altai is the unique monument of Ulalinka, situated o n the territory of today's Gorno-Altaisk - the capital of the Altai Republic. During excavations of this site, there were found various stone tools, made of blanks manufactured by means of fire technique, i.e. by way of heating and abrupt cooling of stones. Ulalinka materials are dated within 150 thousand up to 1,5 mln. years B.C.

A great amount of the materials found during excavations of cavern sites were referred to later periods of Stone Age: Cavern of Denissov, Ust-Kanskaya Cavern, as well as the materials of excavations of open-type sites: Kara-Bom, Ust-Sema and many others. All in all, Paleolithic monuments indicate that Gorny Altai is closely connected with the most ancient stages of evolution of human beings - from Paleonthrops to modern type.
At the end of IV millenium B.C. Stone Age finishes its history in Gorny Altai and a new period starts - the Age of Paleometal. Copper was the first metal, bronze appeared later. Copper and bronze were widely used by the ancient Altaians in manufacturing of arms, tools, household utilities and ornaments. Archeological monuments of Paleometal Age are referred to Afanasyevskaya and Karakolskaya cultures. 
Afanasyevskaya culture monuments are presented by sepulchral vaults, settlements and cult monuments: Balyktuyul, Yelo, Yelo-Bashi, Nizhni (Lower) Tyumechin, Semisart, Pervy (First) Mezhelik, Kara-Koba, Bolshoi (Big) Tolgoyek and others. Sepulchral vaults of this culture are of the greatest interest; these are small enclosures called "cromlechs". In cromlechs there are usually oval or rectangular pits with ceilings. The buried people lie in these pits o n their backs or o n the side, with their legs bent. There may be found household articles such as sharp-bottomed and flat-bottomed ceramic vessels, smocking vases, work tools and ornaments.
Karakolskaya Culture - is a peculiar archeological culture of the end of III - beginning of II millenium B.C. Rectangular enclosures, as well as cemetery, stone boxes and polychrome pictures o n box slabs are a characteristic feature of this culture.

At the Age Paleometal, the population of Gorny Altai passed from hunting, collecting and fishing to productive forms of economy such as farming and cattle-breeding. From that period o n, the Altaians took to building of melioration constructions, cultivation of ploughed fields, growing of millet, barley, rye, etc. Domestic herds consisting of sheep, goats, cows, horses were shepherded in the Alpine meadows in summers and were taken back to the valleys for winters.
In the first millenium B.C. the Bronze period in Gorny Altai gave way to that of Iron. The flourishing of the period is connected with the monuments combined into Pazyryk archeological culture of Skythian type. These monuments are known all over Gorny Altai - these are the famous burial mounds of Pazyryk, Bashdar, Tuyekta, Shibin, Ulandryk, Ukok, and thousands of others.
Usually, Pazyryk culture sepulchral vaults are chains of burial mounds stretching from the north to the south. Under stone embankments there are frames of logs with wooden ceilings or stone boxes. Accompanying burials of horses may as a rule be found in the northern part of the pit. In the mounds o ne may find metal stamps, knives, daggers, mirrors, bit, buckles and various bone articles. In permafrost burial mounds, articles of wood, leather, felt and fabric are preserved. Embalmed bodies found in the burials of Pazyryk culture are still considered a world sensation (to read about Ukok princess - a world sensation, CLICK HERE)
commemoration and ritual constructions, stellas, petroglyphs, irrigation constructions, etc. are referred to Iron period.
The monuments of the subsequent Hun-Sarmat period of Gorny Altai were almost unknown until lately. However, about 20 monuments of the period of VI centuries B.C. were found and explored during the last two decades. Here belong the burial mounds of Ust-Edigan, Tchendeck, Verkh-Uimon, Sary-Bel, Bulan-Koby, Airydash, Kuraika and others. Other archeological monuments such as settlements, shrines, production centers are also known.
The found materials certify that Gorny Altai Pazyryk culture did not disappear completely, but transformed into Hun-type culture, which was later called "Bulan-Kobinskaya". The Bulan-Kobins, in their turn, took an active part in the formation of Altai population of Medieval epoch, which started with the Turkic period.
The Turkic period of Gorny Altai is presented by various archeological monuments. The most famous o nes are burial mounds and commemoration complexes of Kuderge, Kurai, Tuyekta, Yakonur, etc. Burial monuments are round mounds with soil pit, where man's body and a horse are buried. Commemoration complexes include a stone enclosure of a rectangular or square form, a stella or a statue - a sculpture of a warrior - and relatively small stones dug vertically and in rows. 
Famous monuments of Runic script are also referred to the Turkic period. There are approx. 100 of such monuments found in Gorny Altai. They are written in three Runic alphabets. The Turkic period also covers a considerable amount of petroglyphs performed in the stamp or graffiti technique, production centers and other monuments: ancient town sites, irrigation canals, roads, passages, etc.

"Petrified" Ancestors.

Every epoch leaves its unique traces to posterity preseving historical memory and preventing generation link from breaking up. The Old Turkic epoch that occupied a distant period of time o ne thousand years ago has its traces too. They are stone fences obscured by vegetation, mysterious burial mounds, enigmatic petroglyphs and characters o n wind-carved cliffs, stone sculpture. All this was left by the nomads who lived o n the vast territories of Siberia and Central Asia. The nomads founded powerful states, had their own written language and established close contacts with the civilizations of the South -from China to Bysantine. Their images are found in valleys scattered between mountains. The Dark silhouettes of stone statues seem to grow from the ground themselves.
Stone statues are also found in the heart of Asia -the Altai Mountains.

"Petrified" ancestors. To keep the memory of o ne's dead fellow-men is probably o ne of the ancient human traditions. Memorial pillar o n burial places of the Turkic-speaking tribes are mentioned in some medieval Chinese chronicles.
The design of memorial pillars varies from rough unpolished stone pillars with vague anthropomorphic features to real masterpieces of sculpture. Kezer Tash, a statue that used to tower in the Kurai Step is o ne of these masterpieces.

The man has a placid tranquil face, a long moustache and a pointed beard. There is a small hat o n the top of his head. In his right hand the man holds a vessel that reminds of silver pitchers found in burial mounds by archeologists. Whom is the drink of Kezer's symbolic vessel for? For himself, for the funeral repast, with his relatives? Or is it a gift to the Supreme Yod of Sun? It is significant that the statues face the East where the Sun rises.
His left hand is o n the decorative belt. Metal, siver and golden plates of such belts are found in burials. In ancient society they indicated the social status of their owner. Judging by his beft Kezer belonged to the Old Turkic elite.
There is a small bad attached to the belt. Ethnographers say that the bags specially designed for keeping small things in them have been used up till relevantly late Middle Ages. A saber in sheath attached to the belt is a necessary attribute of a medieval ruler and warrior.
The majority of other statues are much plainer. Some of them have o nly carved faces, the other have also some items of clothing and weapon. Sometimes instead of a statue a big rock vaguely resembling a man was installed o n burial place.
Studing the old stone sculpture of the Altai Mountains, o ne can learn a lot about the appearance of people who died centuries ago, about their beliefs and mentality and characteristic features of their masonry."Petrified" ancestors. For a thousand years they have stood in secluded areas of the Altai Alpine valleys to witness our life ironically or perhaps sadly with their eternal eyes and to remind us there is no future without the past. The thread of time must be preserved.



In 1990-1995, South Altai troop of the North Asia complex expedition of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences conducted research at the Alpine plateau Ukok, situated near the Chinese, Mongolian and Kazakh borders. In the course of excavations of o ne of the mounds of Ak-Alakh sepulchre, a unique burial of a woman was discovered.
Her remains were found lying in a wooden framework (3,3m х 2,3 m) made of larch and rough-hewed smoothly from inside. The framework was set at the bottom of the sepulchral pit. The whole space of the sepulchral cell - right from the ceiling made of eleven closely fitted logs down to the very bottom - was filled with ice. A linen - several strips of black felt sewed together - was spread instead of a floor right over the previously laid out pebbles. There was a massive trough in the southern corner of the sepulchre. Its lid was hammered in by copper nails with round heads. Leather ornaments presented as figures of deer were found in the trough as the ice inside of it melted. There were dishes with food near the trough. Two flat-bottomed ceramic jugs, destroyed by ice, lied o n the floor. Pieces of meat remained lying o n the dishes. There was even an iron knife stuck into a piece of meat, the handle of the knife representing symmetrically arranged effigies of the upper part of a wolf's snout with Capricorn's horns. Thus, wolf's sharp-toothed jaws appeared to be the center of the composition adorning the handle. 
Six horses were laid in the northern part of the sepulchral pit just like in all other Pazyryk burials. Horses' hair, plaited tails, wooden harness ornaments, components and felt covers of saddles were preserved.
The woman was lying o n her right side in a sleeping pose with her legs bent slightly in her knees and hands crossed o n her belly; she was lying over double-folded thick strip of felt, her head o n a felt pillow-bolster. She was covered with a fur counterpane with appliques representing vegetable ornament, made of golden foil.
Her clothes were well preserved. All seams of her ample silk yellowish shirt with long sleeves covering her fingers were trimmed with thin red cord, while its hem, neck, the edges of the sleeves and the center of the shirt were decorated with a red ribbon; her lengthy two-colored (red and white) woolen skirt had a thick red belt wound of woolen thread; o n her legs she had long white felt stockings decorated with patterns of felt appliques in the upper part.
The dead woman had her personal things in the sepulchre. A mirror in the form of a square piece of bronze plate framed by a round wooden setting with a handle and with a deer effigy cut o n its back side, laid over the skirt near the woman's left hip. The polished surface of the bronze plate was rubbed with mercury, which not o nly made the surface shine, but also imparted the plate with the properties of a real mirror. The amulets - beads, bronze pendants - were threaded and tied together. There was also a "vanity case" - horse hair brush; some spread out blue and green powder-like substance - vivianite - a mineral used in manufacturing of blue paint; components of a peculiar pencil - a rod made of iron rings where vivianite served as a slate. Such pencil could be used for ritual face painting. There was also a stone saucer with coriander seeds. 
It is obvious, that this is a sepulcher of an outstanding woman. The spacious sepulchral cell, body embalming and the body's laying over a decorated trough, the six horses with extremely beautiful and recherche harness - all these speak for the fact that this was a wealthy woman of a special society position. 
The woman's shirt may be considered the real evidence of her wealth and high social status - a real value for the Pazyryks: it could be come across o nly in "tsar" mounds. It is noteworthy, that it was the first time when Pazyryk clothing made of silk was discovered. According to ethnographic sources, the difference in clothing between the rich and the poor among Pazyryk cattle-breeders was very often reflected in the materials used. 
The Ukok young woman had tattoos o n her arms - from shoulders down to her wrists. There are also tattoos o n some phalanxes of her hands. The blue-color "pictures" can be quite distinctly seen o n her white skin, but they preserved o nly o n her left hand, while there are o nly fragments of tattoos o n her right wrist and thumb.
Her right shoulder bears an effigy of a fantastic animal - a deer with gryphon's beak, and horns of a deer and a Capricorn. The horns are decorated with gryphons' heads, the latter can also be seen at the back of the animal, whose body is depicted "twisted". Below there is an effigy of a ram in the same pose with his head thrown back; closed jaws of a spotted ounce with long and twisted tail are depicted at the ram's hoofs.
There are some signs indicating that the dead woman, buried by her fellow-tribesmen with such profound respect, was remarkable for a certain gift that she possessed. This does not obligatory imply that she was a shaman or a priestess. The young woman could be a healer, a story-teller, a fortune-teller. In the ritual practice of Sayan Altai, there are known over 30 titles for various specialists - those possessing certain secret knowledge - who always existed behind shamans serving an obligatory background for them. 
The image of the young woman, who had died 2,5 thousand years ago, astounded imagination of many people. "I write to tell you that the spirit of Pazyryk woman turned out my life. When I saved money, I made a tattoo in the form of a she-deer o n my left wrist… I made a tattoo of a male deer o n my shoulder for my 39th birthday… I am a 1/8 Lenan - this is a North American Indian people, who o nce lived down the Delaware River… o nce they lived southward of Lake Baikal (it's about 1000 km from the place, where the Lady is buried), and then moved to the North America through the Bering Straits…" - these are lines from Rosa Donnam's letter (California, USA). And Elizabeth Johnson (California, USA) sent a slide to Novosibirsk depicting a quilt decorated with the figure of fabulous animal from the Altaian Lady's tattoo.
A Spaniard, Migel Anhel Gordilio Urkuia, is going to fly above those places where the Pazyryks were buried, and he decorated the tail of his airplane with depiction of a deer-gryphon. An ancient symbol of extinct people starts a new life…

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