Thursday, April 21, 2016

Karagem Valley: A Rock Art Site in the Russian Altai

      Old style deer image of Karagem Valley, Altai.

Karagem Valley:  A Rock Art Site in the Russian Altai
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"In this paper I would like to present a piece of Altaic prehistory which has left its traces in the rocks of the wild landscape of the southern Siberian Mountains.

"The starting point will be a rock art location in the Karagem valley. Its carvings and possible meaning will be studied in detail. Next I am trying to discuss the place from a landscape perspective. This study is a result from the expedition “Altai 2003”, organized by the University of Tomáš Baťa in Zlín (Department of Palaeoecology), which took place in June and July 2003. The rock art investigation was just one of several tasks of the expedition, since the main focus was rather ecological, botanical and geological investigation of the south Altai region.

1. Geographical context

"Altai, the highest mountain range in Siberia, extends over the territory of four states: Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. Its elevation reaches up to 4000 m (the highest point being Belukha at 4506 m). The mountain area can be divided into vast steppes, alpine meadows, tundra and areas with glaciers. The south-eastern regions are appropriate for year-round cattle pasturing, because of a thin snow cover (BOKOVENKO 1995). Climatic conditions are sharply continental and demanding for human survival, even today.

2. A brief outline of Altaic prehistory and history

"The Altai seems to be a unique chronicle of the past. Several cultures and ethnic groups have engraved their specific “signature” here during the past in the form of graveyards, rock carvings, but also in the present day traditional craft and magical perception of the world. This extraordinary landscape, cruel and amazing, has also formed the people, leaving traces in their mentality, and, in my opinion, an extremely high “energetic potential” of it. Scythic culture has influenced the distant peoples in Europe (TALBOT RICE 1957, 178–196).

"The very first evidence of human presence in the Altai area coincides with the Stone Age. Several rock carvings of Palaeolithic age were found for instance on the Ukok Plateau – at a location called Kalgutinskij rudnik (MOLODOV 1997, 39). During the Neolithic period, certain relations to the area surrounding Lake Baikal and the Angara River seem to have emerged, which is suggested by carvings of female elks in Altai. It became the most characteristic animal in the rock art of the region (OKLADNIKOV 1966; KŠICA 1973, 145; JACOBSON 1993, 91).

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