Moraine at Saimaluu Tash
|Elevation||3,200 m (10,500 ft)|
|Parent range||Ferghana range of Tien Shan|
Saimaluu Tash (meaning 'embroidered' or 'patterned stones' in Kyrgyz) is a petroglyph site in Jalal-Abad Province, Kyrgyzstan, south of Kazarman. Over 10,000 carved pictures—and perhaps as many as 11,000—which are black-and-white rock paintings, have so far been identified, making the site a globally important collection of rock art. They are a sacred display of offerings of the ancient people of the lower valley.
The site was proposed for listing under the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites by the Kyrgyz National Commission for UNESCO on 29 January 2001. It is listed under the UNESCO's Tentative List as "Saimaly-Tash Petroglyphs" for inscription under Cultural Category under Criteria: (iii), (iv) and (vi).
The petroglyph site is located on the Ferghana Range at about 3,200 metres (10,500 ft) in two high valleys, separated by a low mountain ridge. The site is 30 kilometres (19 mi) away to the south of Kazarman. From Kazarman village for a short distance there is a road on which only jeeps can ply but the rest of the way to the site can be reached in about a day on foot or horseback, but only around the month of August. It is a strenuous climb. At other times, snow conditions make it impractical to reach. The trek involves three days by jeep and seven days by horse.
The petroglyphs created in large galleries are thought to date from the early 2000 BC to 3000 BC of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, and up into the Middle Ages (8th century AD). Bronze Age settlers had a sacred tradition of inscribing petroglyph. This continued during the Iron Age from 800 BC, and variants persevered for several hundred years to the medieval period, when Scythian and Turkic people did it.
It is also said that from 8th century BC to first century AD, Saka-Usun period prior to the Kyrgyz, people settled here. The Saka priests used this site for sacrificial rites to the sun god and their settlements are said to be submerged in the Cholpon-Ata bay. The site was sacred to the people of Tien Shan and Pre Ferghana, and is even now sacred to the modern generation of Kyrgizians for spiritual and healing qualities. It is part of the spiritual ethos of the peoples' "religious beliefs and their worship of mountains, nature, totems and solar cosmic images." The site was first recognized by Russian cartographers in 1902 when they were carrying out surveys in the area for a road project to link a military camp between Jalal-Abad and Naryn; this road is now in use via Kazaeman. One of the cartographers, Nikolai Khludov, who had heard tales from a shepherd of "painted stones" in close vicinity to their camp, decided to examine the site with a team of surveyors. He reported his findings of the petroglyphs to the Archaeological Society of Tashkent. This society then mounted an expedition to further examine the site. However, the site was forgotten until 1950. After an excavation was conducted, the petroglyphs were specifically identified, numbered and their age determined. It is now under sporadic investigation by the Institute of Archaeology in Bishkek. Neolithic age petroglyphs are on display in the Kyrgyz State Historical Museum.
Archaeologists have bifurcated the site, calling the parts "Saimaluu-Tash 1" and "Saimaluu-Tash 2."
Saimaluu-Tash 1, which extends over a length of 3 kilometres (1.9 mi), contains petroglyphs etched on shining basaltic stones. It is believed that they were "votive offerings" brought from the lower valleys. There is a small lake here where shamans used to perform sacred rites. Petroglyphs of several designs at this site have been identified on stones. The most common designs are animals like ibex (the long-horned ibex of the Turkish era was more frequent), horses, lions, and wolves. Another common drawing is of hunting scenes of deer, large antlers in particular; in this scene the hunters are shown using bows, arrows, and spears to hunt the animals. Agricultural operations such as tilling the land were a common theme. Other scenes are of ritual dances, the sun, wavy designs representing the flow of rivers, and sexual scenes. The artists perhaps portrayed their feelings of gratitude to the spirits of the mountain after a good crop or a successful hunting expedition.
- "Saimaluu-Tash". Kyrgyzstan Community Based Tourist Association. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- Mitchell 2015, pp. 249–50.
- "Saimaly-Tash Petroglyphs". UNESCO Organization. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- Mitchell 2015, p. 257.
- "Petroglyphs of Saimaluu-Tash". Oriental Express Central Asia. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- Mayhew & Elliott 2014, p. 568.
- Mitchell 2015, p. 119.
- "Saimaluu-Tash Petroglyphs – A view from our expert author". bradtguides.com. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- Mayhew, Bradley; Elliott, Mark; Masters, Tom; Noble, John (1 April 2014). Lonely Planet Central Asia. Lonely Planet Publications. ISBN 978-1-74300-078-6.
- Mitchell, Laurence (5 February 2015). Kyrgyzstan. Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 978-1-84162-856-1.