Begazy-Dandybai culture

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Holocene Epoch
Preboreal (10.3–9 ka)
Boreal (9–7.5 ka)
Atlantic (7.55 ka)
Subboreal (52.5 ka)
Subatlantic (2.5 ka–present)

Begazy-Dandybai culture is Bronze Age culture of mixed economy in the territory of ancient central Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, dated from the 2nd millennium BCE to 8th century BCE, centered at (Sary-Arka) desert river. The culture, with its majestic megalithic mausolea, flourished between the 12th and 8th centuries BCE.[1] The culture was discovered, first excavated, and published in the 1930s-1940s by M.P. Gryaznov, who took it for a local version of Karasuk culture. In 1979 the Begazy-Dandybai culture was described and analyzed in detail in a monograph by A.Kh. Margulan, who systematically reviewed accumulated material and produced description of the archeological culture.[2] The most famous monuments of Begazy-Dandybai culture are Begazy, Dandybai, Aksu Ayuly 2, Akkoytas, and Sangria 1.3, it was named after the first two archeological sites.

Begazy-Dandybai culture is known the from 2nd millennium BCE with mining copper, tin, and gold ore deposits. At that time in steppe oases along small rivers lived fairly numerous Andronovo culture population with farming, pastoral animal husbandry, mining, metallurgy and metal processing economy. Prosperity of Central Kazakhstan Andronov culture was provided by livestock and bronze casting production. A rise of Bronze Age culture falls at the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE, 10th-8th centuries BCE, the highlight of the Begazy-Dandybai archaeological culture.[3] It grew in vast hilly steppe, spread over approximately 2 million square kilometers, with immense pastures and numerous ore deposits.[4]

Archeological research of the post-1980s expanded the known locations of Begazy-Dandybai culture to 60+ settlements and 200+ cemeteries. Archeological attention shifted from fairly well studied megalithic mausolea as main attraction to the settlements and kurgan cemeteries of the commoners. Excavated settlement area amounts to several tens of thousands square meters, burial kurgans of ordinary tribal people have been partially uncovered.[5]

Kurgan burials[edit]

Most of the Begazy-Dandybai burials are in kurgans. At present, the kurgan brials of the commoners are known from accompanying inventory. During Begazy-Dandybai era burial began appearing kurgans with single burial. The rich burials testify to income inequality and social stratification.[6] By the same time are dated numerous mengirs.[7]

Megalithic mausolea[edit]

Main article Begazy Dandybai Mausolea

Most visible monuments are about 20 constructively and architecturally unusual megalithic mausolea. As a rule, mausolea are fenced with square or oval layout of two or three stone masonry walls or stone slabs up to 3 tons each encircling a central room and covered by slabs as a perimeter gallery with diameter up to 30 m, and with occasional entrance chamber. The central roof-covered chamber is built with stones and multiple square pillars that support the roof, enclosing a massive sarcophagus. Mausolea are surrounded by ordinary kurgan burials. The cemeteries are close to large settlements extending to 10 ha., with housesbuilt of granite slabs, with pillars and thick walls, connected by corridors.[8]


Begazy-Dandybai culture preserved artifacts of the Bronze Age, and at the same time forms archaeological features of the Early Iron Age. The accompanying burial inventory has richly decorated vessels notable for thin-wall pottery, polished surface, geometric ornamentation, and tamga-type characters on the surface, along with rough ceramics of proto-Tasmola type. The Begazy mausoleum produced tanged bronze arrowheads, which typologically indicated the upper date of the culture, its architecture and housing are notable for their innovations.[9] Pottery, and bronze and golden ware deposited in mausolea found its influence in the succeeding nomadic Tasmola culture.[10] Begazy-Dandybai people produced jewelry: silver and gold bracelets, rings, charms, pendants, earrings, buckles, and diadems (of approximately 86% gold, 13% silver and 1% copper).[11]


Begazy-Dandybai villages were located at the feet of rocky hills, close to plentiful sources of water and fuel. In the Tokraun, Nura, Sary Su, Atasu, Ishim, Selety, and other valleys were densely located villages of ancient miners and metallurgists. Begazy-Dandybai people produced pots, pitchers, bowls, cups, vessels with spouts, etc. Ceramic pots were fired globular jugs with high neck and collar rim. Ceramic was made of clay mixed with granitic sand. Grave inventory and dwellings contain many metal and bone tools: bronze pins, needles, buttons, linings, bone needle boxes, and buttons. Large number of tools was used in mining: hammers, picks, hoes, graters, mortars, pestles, and stone molds.[12]


Evidence shows developed economy with hoe agriculture, irrigation, animal husbandry, and non ferrous metals production.[13] It is thought that in the Late Bronze Age (20th — 8th centuries BCE) arose nomadic pastoralism of yaylaj type (distant summer pastures), which led to increase in livestock productivity, with grows of livestock herds. The population continued irrigation farming.[14]

Related cultures[edit]

Begazy-Dandybai culture, located in favorable mountainous area protected by dry steppes, formed in the same territory succeeding pastoralist nomadic Tasmola culture, dispersed throughout central Kazakhstan in the Karaganda, Akmola, and Pavlodar provinces, and Saka culture, but the megalithic architecture is not shared. Begazy-Dandybai material culture is similar to the contemporaneous Karasuk culture and the following Tasmola culture. The Andronovo culture is held as preceding culture.[15] There is no consensus on genetical and cultural connections of the Begazy-Dandybai culture. Opinions divide between predominantly indigenous and predominantly migrant origin.[16] The ancient tribes of the Kazakhstan Bronze Age were descendants of the Kazakhstan Neolithic population, and became ancestors of the Sakas, Usuns, and Kangly tribes.



  • Margulan A.H., Begazy-Dandybaevskaya Kultura Tsentralnogo Kazakhstana, Alma-Ata: Akademiya nauk Kazahskoj SSR, 1979.