Golden Mountains of Altai
The Altai Republic is а part of the southern Siberia in the Russian Federation, including the Altai mountain range. It has external borders with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. The Altai Republic is one of the most original regions of Asia due to the richest natural and cultural heritage. During the centuries, priceless monuments of human history and a huge cultural heritage of global civilization was formed here.
By the decision of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, on December 2, 1998 five unique natural monuments – the Mount Belukha, the Teletskoye Lake, nature reserve «The Ukok Plateau», the State Nature Reserve «Altaisky», the State Biosphere Reserve «Katunsky» were inscribed into UNESCO World Heritage list as component parts of «Golden Mountains of Altai» property. The World Heritage Property «Golden Mountains of Altai» has a total area of 1,51 million ha.
The Pazyryk Сulture is one the related Central Asian cultures of the Scythian time. On the large area of the Altai Mountains it existed from the 6th to the 2nd centuries BCE, having left clear evidences presented by unique burial complexes. The archaeological sites presenting cultural heritage of Pazyryk time include burial mounds (the frozen tombs of tribal nobility) and petroglyphs made in an «animal style».
The objects proposed to be included into the property «Golden Mountains of Altai» are:
– archaeological monuments (mounds and petroglyphs) of Pazyryk Culture:
Pazyryk is a group of archaeological mounds (N50°44’45” E88°4’16”). It is located at a distance of 80 km southeast of Lake Teletskoe and on the territory of buffer zone of the Altaisky Zapovednik, which is the World Heritage Property component.
Ukok is a group of archaeological mounds (N49°22’67”, E87°33’72”) located on the Ukok Plateau which is a part of the World Heritage Property «Golden Mountains of Altai»;
Katanda is a group of archaeological mounds (N50°54’89”, E85°34’62”) situated in the cooperation area of Biosphere Reserve «Katunsky» – another component of the World Heritage Property «Golden Mountains of Altai». It is at a distance of 5 km to the northwest of the Katanda Village;
A petroglyphic complex Elangash (N50°08’85”, E88°18’28”) is located in the Elangash River Valley in Kosh-Agach district, in the cooperation area of the natural park «The Ukok Quiet Zone». The task of the park is conservation of the natural objects of Ukok Plateau which is also a component part of «Golden Mountains of Altai».
– the similar archaeological monuments of Pazyryk Culture (mounds and petroglyphs):
Bashadar, a group of archaeological mounds (N50°54’89”, E85°34’62”) is in Ongudaisky region, on the left bank of Kulada River, at a distance of 1 km to the northwest of the village of Kulada;
Tuekta is a group of archaeological mounds (N50°50’72”, E85°52’98”) situated also in Ongudai region, on the left bank of Ursul River, in the north-eastern part of the village of Tuekta;
Kalbak Tash presents a petroglyphic complex (N50°40’27; E86°82’08”) located on the right bank of the Chuia River, 18 km southeast from Inya village of Ongudai district on the pass named Kalbak Tash.
The outstanding importance of the Pazyryk cultural values in Altai was stated in the album «Preservation of the frozen tombs of the Altai Mountains», published in 2008 by UNESCO.
The archaeological sites of Pazyryk cultural heritage include burial mounds (kurgans) and petroglyphs.
Multimillennial history of the Altai Mountains is closely linked with large-scale events that took place in the vast spaces of North and Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
Due to the unique discoveries in the Pazyryk burial mounds (Ulagansky administrative district ) scientists use terminological definition «Pazyryk Culture» for archaeological sites of Skythian times.
The most famous monuments of the Pazyryk Culture are: archaeological mounds in Pazyryk, Ukok, Bashadar, Tuekta, Katanda, and petroglyphic complexes – Elangash, Kalbak Tash. All mentioned monuments are located in the territory or in buffer zones of natural objects nominated «Golden Mountains of Altai», and also in adjacent areas. According to characteristics, they all are the Pazyryk archaeological monuments of the same type.
The highly developed and unique Pazyryk Culture became a world heritage. Currently in the Altai Republic over six hundred burial mounds (kurgans) associated with the exponents of Pazyryk archeological culture have been investigated. Objects found in the frozen tombs are of high importance when investigating the social history and worldview ideas of the Pazyryk populations.
The phenomenon of permafrost ice lense formation under the stone mounds of the kurgans was registered nowhere so far outside the Altai Republic. The permafrost created a thermal insulating layer that prevents the soil from heating in summer and provides fast freezing of soil in winter due to free convection in the stone mound of the barrows. Thus, a special microclimate different from surrounding climate outside was created in the stone mound.
Objects found in archaeological barrows were superbly preserved. They are horse harness, carpets, clothing, shoes, hats and articles from wood, precious metals, leather, fur, felt, as well as all kinds of textiles and horse equipment.
Discovering the mummified bodies of people with tattoos on the skin in the burial mounds of Altai became a sensation, enriching the cultural heritage of all humanity.
All the burial monuments of the Pazyryk Culture have the same general structure: the diameter of stone mounds range from 25 to 50 meters, the height above the ground is measured from 2 to 4 meters, the depth of the grave pit is up to 7 meters, the total area of the grave pits is from 25 to 50 square meters.
Inside the burial pit there was placed a funerary chamber made of hewed logs with double walls and double ceiling, at the southern wall was placed a wooden sarcophagus up to 5 meters, carved from a thick larch and closed with a slotted lid.
Objects from the archaeological barrows such as tools, household items, clothing, jewelry, and items of weaponry make it possible to represent the material culture of the Altai Mountains populations that lived more than two thousand years ago.
Perfectly preserved funerary constructions, made from a log cabin testify ancient skills of home construction. The Pazyryk populations still remain the only ancient people in the world, which tattoo we can see and which can personally convince of the reality of this information. Tattoo applied on the body of men and women, indicate a high level of its performance: the mummies found in the «royal» burial mounds were covered with drawings from head to toe.
Pazyryk tattoos, besides typical for this culture images of the mystical griffin-deer-ibex, feline predators with hook-like mouth, depict the real animals dwelled in Altai (tigers, mountain sheep, ibex) and koulans unknown here.
Among the tattoo images there is also a spotted predator, which can be as well as Altai snow leopard or the leopard which did not dwell here (the latter is quite possible, since articles from the fur of leopard were found in the first and second Pazyryk mounds). Thus, the tattoo shows that people buried in the «frozen» tombs of Altai were representatives of the highest cultural community.
Finds from Pazyryk barrows provide evidence that 2,500 years ago local nomadic peoples already had trade relations with distant countries.
Ancient burial mounds of the Russian Altai have preserved handicrafts from China, shells from the shores of the Indian Ocean, Anterior-Asian carpets and textiles of local production. Pazyryk people themselves rather exported fur and gold articles to China, India, Persia, Sogdiana, which caused myths about «the griffins guarding gold.»
Petroglyphic sites of the Pazyryk Culture are distinguished by the dotted stamping and graffiti techniques. The central role in Pazyryk art plays fight of beasts – a plot line specific for Scythian art in general. The petroglyphs mainly portray images of wild animals and hunting scenes. Basically when making multiple rock images the ancient artists were motivated by the desire to ensure maximum success in hunting and convey a sense of afterlife as a whole.