This is “Tanbaly” (Tamgaly), a reserve-museum located 170 km from Almaty. Thousands of rock carvings from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. These are artistic messages from time immemorial that we have yet to unravel.
In 2004, Tanbaly was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The support of the Norwegian Government and experts was essential in this process. In 2000-2006 Kazakhstan, UNESCO, and Norway implemented a joint project for the management, conservation, and presentation of Tamgaly
In total, there are about 200 petroglyph clusters in Kazakhstan, and Tamgaly is the best researched and documented site of rock art in Central Asia.
It provides insight into the culture of the traditional steppes civilisations of Central Asia. The site also includes ancient settlements, bural sites and sacred sites.
Altogether over 5,000 images have been recorded in 48 different complexes. Overall the petroglyphs (rock carvings) appear to cover a period from the second half of the second millennium BC right through to the beginning of the 20th century.
Tamgaly is the most striking site of rock arts in Central Asia; it is located about 125 km northwest of Almaty, and can be reached only by private transportation. There is no public bus going there, or even going to the villages nearby.
The total number of rock drawings is about 5,000, mainly scenes of goats, horses, warriors, animal sacrifices, and images representing the worshipped sun and their gods; there is even an erotic scene, most probably the first pornographic rock art worldwide, as most of the petroglyphs were made in the Bronze age about 3000 years ago. There is also a scene of dancing men with a woman giving birth. Some stones do have graffitis, unfortunately, or rocks were destroyed by human beings, and carried away. Others show signs of cracks, caused maybe by extreme differences in temperature, frost weathering, or by earthquakes that often occur in this region. The rock engravings are signposted in 5 groups, and can be easily visited in 2 hours.
A few steps away, there is also a burial ground of the Turkic period which shows both mass burial, probably of a family with children, and single chamber. Tamgaly was discovered by Anna Maksimova in 1957, and together with some other great archeologists, they researched the rock engravings in the years to come. The site is now guarded, some signboards have been put up with explanations, and it is possible to be accompanied by one of the guards for a few Euros tip.