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Scientists of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences have carried out new archeological explorations in the Gorny Altai Region (Republic of Altai). Working together with their Japanese and American colleagues, they investigated rock paintings in the Kalguta River valley, at the Zhalgyz-Tobe mountain and also studied images on the rocks fragments at Mesheldyk opposite the village of Tebeler. The experts paid the greatest attention to objects which had been exposed to natural and anthropogenic impacts. They discovered hitherto unknown site of petroglyphs in the areas of Kurgak, Irbistu, Tarkhzata and Kurman-Tau (Kosh-Agachsky Region).
Of doubtless interest to scientists have been two stone sculptures of the ancient Turks which were found by a local resident on the left bank of the Katun River in the Kyiu area. One of the statues is carved in the traditional manner with the right hand holding a vessel resting on the breast and the left hand-on the waist. One's attention is attracted by a necklace-a feature not very common on such sculptures and found only twice in the Altai Region. Another rare feature on the second sculpture are shoulder belts and certain other details of the costume.
"One can also call rare luck the discovery of two unique runic monuments* on the territory of Altai." This view is expressed in an article in the NAUKA V SIBIRI ( (Science in Siberia) newspaper by two experts in the field - Dr. V. Kubarev and his co-worker G. Kubarev, Cand. Sc. (Hist.). They say both of these finds were made in the Chuyskaya Steppe, in an area on the border with Mongolia and Tuva. In their article the archeologists published for the first time complete translations of these inscriptions which had been made by a prominent expert in Turkic studies from St. Petersburg, Prof. S. Klyashtorny.
One of the longest runic inscriptions was found in the Kurgak area of the Kosh- Agachsky Region. It is located on the northern end of a mountain range near some winter quarters. The inscription borders on a hunting scene located on a vertical side of a rock facing north. It consists of more than 80 characters. Some of them have been lost, others are not clearly visible as a result of rock erosion, but the main part of the inscription can be read with confidence.
Researchers are tracing what they call compositional unity of the inscription with the engraved images executed in the graffiti technique and representing a realistic and dynamic hunting scene. A horseman with a dog is chasing a deer making it run towards a hidden archer. Located somewhat above is an image of a bear.
The image draws one's attention by its details, such as stroke-drawings of animals' fur, horns in projection and also arrows carried by the hunters under their belts and their wide-brimmed hats. Hats of similar shapes are also found in other
* Runes - consonant writing of the Asian Turks of 5th - 11th centuries. - Ed .
ancient Turkic graffiti drawings in Altai. The authors point out that hunting scenes were the favorite subject for the ancients who carved them on rock.
Another, and no less impressive find of the joint expedition, are several runic inscriptions found on rock fragments in the lower reaches of the Barburgaza River, at the foot of the Kyzyl-Kabak cliff. It was established that the fragments belonged to one column. The inscriptions stretched upwards in three lines and contained about 50 characters. Experts identified the inscription as a funeral epitaph.
The discoveries of these unique runic monuments provide a substantial addition to the existing stock of such inscriptions in Altai. They belong to the genre of epitaphs and are no different typologically from such carved inscriptions on the Yenisei in the neighboring Tuva and Khakassya. But the inscriptions from the Barburgaza include some "order violations"-mixtures of the palatal and velar rows. This feature attests to a lower level of literacy of the ancient scribes, their more "provincial" level. Or this could betray the ongoing loss of the art, or skill, of writing, as compared with the Orkhon and the first Yenisei monuments of this kind (first half-middle of the 8th century).
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Experts of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the RAS Siberian Branch have dug out burial mounds of the Scythian period (second half of the 1st century B. C.) at the Nizhnyaya Katun. And these finds have proved once again that the "fashion" had existed since the creation of the world. And the archeologists' finds also touch upon the subject of ancient female hair styles-an indispensable attribute of beauty of all nations and at all times.
At that period women in the south of Western Siberia pinned up their intricate coiffures with 10 - 15 cm made of iron or bronze and topped with a massive triquester. These were decorated as a rule with different ornaments-from crosswise solar symbols to intricate compositions depicting animals and birds. And Prof. A. Borodovsky writes in his article that during his archeological explorations he found in female burial mounds several massive bronze triquesters wrapped in golden foil. The images were of wolves, mountain gots and eagles. Of special interest was a pin with images of three eagles (symbol of the Pazyryk culture* of Gorny Altai). This offers a visible illustration of the ancient myth of the three gryphons guarding the gold.
As the author points out, the mythical character and the artistic image existed in many nations (Assyrians, Egyptians, Hettes, Persians, etc.) and had their specifics in every region. But it is only in monuments of the Pazyryk culture in Altai that images of gryphons of nearly all types have been found (Bashadarsky and Tuektinsky burial mounds - 6th century B. C.). The perception and use of images of gryphons of different "types" (Persian and Greek) in Altai became possible because the locals already had an image of a mythical bird of their own.
According to ethnographic evidence, the cult of the golden eagle rested on a legend about the bird saving one of their kin who was in trouble. This clansman found refuge in the eagle's nest, ate roe's meat which the bird brought to him and later on the eagle helped him down to the ground.
Prof. A. Borodovsky feels that the composition of three eagles on a triquester has complicated semantics. In Vedic hymns on the subject of death (Akhtarvaveda) there are mentions of "three noisy eagles, sitting on top of the vault of heaven, in the heavenly worlds, filled with amrita - the beverage of divine immortality." In our day and age the magic of these images has "brought back to life" one of the Scythian beauties from Nizhnyaya Katun.
The dating of the investigated monument has been facilitated by other finds, such as female polychromatic glass beads which were very much in the vogue during the Hellenistic period. The beads could have been brought from Siberia or from Rome or its European provinces along a network of secondary trade routes which extended along the Great Silk Route. The beginning of manufacture of these decorations could belong to the 4th - 3rd centuries B. C. Incidentally, some similar decorations have also been found in the Crimea.
Nauka v Sibiri (Science in Siberia), 2003
Prepared by Lyubov MANKOVA
* Pazyryk culture originated at Gomy Altai. After a period of 300 - 500 years Pazyryks left the region after the Hunnish invasion. - Ed .
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