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Tamgaly Petroglyphs

KAZAKHSTAN | Saturday, 7 March 2015 | Views [1224]

Tamgaly Petroglyphs

Tamgaly Petroglyphs

WE DIDN’T REALIZE THAT THERE ARE TWO SITES called “Tamgaly.”  Neither, as it happens, did Vladimir when he hooked us up with Tour 4X4 for a day trip.  “Tamgaly” means “stone writing” and both places are known for their petroglyphs, images carved, chipped and scratched into the rock faces.  Tamgaly Tas, 100 kilometers north of Almaty, was made by Buddhist travelers along the Silk Road in the 13th Century.  Even if we hadn’t recognized the art as Buddhist, the faded prayer flags were a sure giveaway.  

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   Prayer flags and rock art, Tamgaly Tas

The “real” Tamgaly, the one we wanted to see, is 170 km to the northwest of Almaty.  This UNESCO World Heritage site dates from the Bronze Age around 3000 BC.  There are thousands of animals, people and symbols carved into the rock faces.  Some are nearly life-sized while others are barely visible.

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   Sergei, patient and willing to make ammends

Sergei met us on schedule in his beefy Land Cruiser and headed off to Tamgaly Tas.  It wasn’t until we arrived that we realized it wasn’t the place we really wanted.  We could tell that Sergei was embarrassed and he offered to take us to the World Heritage site, four hours away, and charge us only $200 for the day.  Instead of “wasting” $125 on the wrong site, we got to see both at a discounted price and a taste of the steppe as a bonus.

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    World Heritage sign at one of the rock sites

It was nearly five o’clock when we reached Tamgaly (the second one) and wouldn’t you know it, the gate was locked.  After coming all this way we felt no guilt in hopping the fence and walking the half-mile to the petroglyphs.  We have seen ancient rock art in many places around the world.  It’s fascinating, not because of its esthetic quality — except for some of the cave paintings in France and Spain, much of it looks like it was done by slow first-grade students — but because of its age and the stories that it tells.  It is also interesting how different cultures on different continents were inspired to chip similar images into the rock.

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  The "real" Tamgali                            Keeping things in perspective

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   People and . . .                                    Animals

The sun was setting as we headed for home, three hours distant.  It was a long day, one that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  A good way to end our time in Kazakhstan.

 

 

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