Every major civilization added their own distinct imprint to the collection of rock art at Dus-Dag mountain.

Mountainside Gallery Where All Civilizations Added Their Own Art from Bronze Age to Medieval Times

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By The Siberian Reporters -Sergey Zubchuk and Olga Gertcyk

On the border between Russia and Mongolia, we reveal awe-inspiring Kara-Turug petroglyphs, and they contain a BIG secret about ancient Siberia.

There are 500 or so exhibits and the artwork here spans some 4,000 years until the end of the first millennium AD. Every major civilization added their own distinct imprint to the collection of rock art at Dus-Dag mountain, in modern-day Tuva Republic - literally from the age of the spear until well into medieval times. 

Archaeologist, Dr Marina Kilunovskaya said: 'This way they were marking their presence, showing that they were now the owners here.'

To their credit, successive civilizations coming here did not destroy the jottings of those who went before them. 

There are about 500 exhibits on Kara-Turug. Image: Marina Kilunovskaya

There are about 500 exhibits on Kara-Turug. Image: Marina Kilunovskaya

Each new incoming group on this crossroads of ancient civilizations enriched the collection with their own artistic flourishes.

In truth, they probably came here for salt - there are copious local supplies - but they left their etchings depicting their life and beliefs, and they remain with us today.

'The petroglyphs were made by people who lived in this area in different times, starting from the Bronze Age in the third millennium BC,' said the academic, who is senior researcher at the Department of Archaeology of Central Asia and Caucasus, Institute of the History of Material Culture, in St. Petersburg.

Her insights are riveting after painstaking research this summer into these hitherto unstudied petroglyphs.

'The most popular image - a bull. This was an epoch of the bull.' Image: Marina Kilunovskaya

'The most popular image - a bull. This was an epoch of the bull.' Image: Marina Kilunovskaya

Not Totally Nomadic?

In a nutshell, she suggests that this rock art tells us that some of the oldest of the great nomadic cultures that, over several millennia populated Siberia, may not have been as nomadic as we thought. 

In the Bronze Age, petroglyphs at Kara-Tarag she has detected evidence of houses, with homely domestic scenes. 

Bronze Age rock art that seems to depict a domestic scene or floor plan.

Bronze Age rock art that seems to depict a domestic scene or floor plan.

Sketch of a ’floorplan’ petroglyph (Images: Marina Kilunovskaya)

Sketch of a ’floorplan’ petroglyph (Images: Marina Kilunovskaya)

'I am suggesting that ancient nomads knew how to build houses and they depict these houses,' she told The Siberian Times .

Archaeological discoveries tell us that ancient populations built log structures for burial chambers 'but it seems to me these (drawings) are real houses' in which Bronze Age families actually lived.

She explained: 'There are mainly domestic scenes but there also are images of houses in the Bronze Age. And what is surprising is that these are regular houses with roofs, although we are used to thinking that nomads lived in yurts.' 

The images of houses, sometimes even included floor plans.

They indicated that, for example, these ancients, predating the Scythians, led not only nomadic life but were also familiar with long term domestic life.  

They put down roots. 

Did the Nomads Build Houses?

The rock images evidently do not show similar houses in Scythian times, yet archaeologists know they had the skills to build them from the impressive burial chambers which have been preserved right the way through to our times. For example in the Ukok plateau in the high Altai Mountains, and the Arzhan I and II sites in Tuva. 

Petroglyph includes what could be another house scene (Image:Marina Kilunovskaya)

Petroglyph includes what could be another house scene (Image:Marina Kilunovskaya)

They built them for their dead, so it is not unreasonable to suppose they also used them for the living. 

'The images of houses are unique,' explained Dr Kilunovskaya. 

'According to our understanding, nomads had no houses - but they were burying their dead in log cabins. Funeral chambers were made of wood which means they had understanding about 'wood architecture'. 

Wooden burial chambers in Arzhan-2, Pazyryk and Ak-Alakha burial mounds. Pictures: Konstantin Chugunov, Anatoli Nagler and Hermann Parzinger; mazimus101, Vladimir Mylnikov/Science First Hands

'We might be seeing houses of the dead (in this rock art) although, I think, we are seeing domestic scenes. There are couples depicted around houses and animals: goats, bulls, and dogs.'

She is currently engaged on a thesis to untangle these issues but talked us through the sweep of history depicted here in petroglyphs.

Wooden burial chambers in Arzhan-2, Pazyryk and Ak-Alakha burial mounds. Pictures: Konstantin Chugunov, Anatoli Nagler and Hermann Parzinger; mazimus101, Vladimir Mylnikov/Science First Hands

Wooden burial chambers in Arzhan-2, Pazyryk and Ak-Alakha burial mounds. Pictures: Konstantin Chugunov, Anatoli Nagler and Hermann Parzinger; mazimus101, Vladimir Mylnikov/Science First Hands

Beginning With Bronze Age Migrants

'We discovered a unique monument of rock art at Kara-Turug, which has 20 groups of petroglyphs,' she said.

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