“15,000-year-old” Gobi Desert Petroglyphs Made By Ancient Turks?
A Turkish archaeologist who is an expert on petroglyphs claims his team has found extremely old Gobi Desert petroglyphs made by ancient Turkish-speaking peoples, reports Hurriyet Daily. Although not yet dated, the prehistoric Mongolian petroglyphs found by Semih Güneri, a professor from Dokuz Eylül University who has been working on petroglyphs for a decade, show clear evidence that they were carved by migrants from Anatolia or modern-day Turkey. And these particular Gobi Desert petroglyphs, there are many, could be more than 15,000 years old making them one of the oldest in the region.
The recent discovery of totally unknown prehistoric Gobi Desert petroglyphs apparently made by Turkish people nearly 15,000 years ago is astounding. This Gobi Desert rock-art hunting scene is from the Turkic period (6th century AD) when Turkish peoples went east again over the steppes to the Altai region. (Institute of Archaeology, Mongolian Academy of Science)
Gobi Desert Petroglyphs Undetected for 15,000 Years?
The Gobi Desert petroglyphs need to be geologically dated and the process “would take some time,” Güneri told Demirören News Agency, according to Hurriyet Daily. But he added, “We have samples from very early eras. The results may surprise all of us as we know that there were ethnic groups in the area speaking Turkish.”
While the Gobi Desert petroglyphs found by Güneri may take some time to be dated, the first settlement so far found in the Gobi Altai region is 13,000 to 15,000 years old. The petroglyphs therefore potentially belong to the same period.
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Petroglyphs are rock carvings that were made by picking directly on rock surface using a stone chisel and a hammerstone. When the surface patina was chipped off, the lighter rock underneath was exposed, creating the petroglyph.
Güneri, who had been working in remote areas in Mongolia for two years, said they had photographed many petroglyphs. Owing to the remoteness of the region, his team’s focus has been on gathering data and analyzing it later.
“The regions where we made archaeological excavations [in the last two years] are rural areas. So we cannot estimate the results of the research for now. We recorded what we have found out and will record [as we find more.] We digitalized the photos we have taken. Now we will make geological datings and find the exact dates of the petroglyphs.”
When Güneri and his team were asked why it had taken so long to find these Gobi Desert petroglyphs, they drew attention to the inhospitable climate and terrain and the remoteness of the region.
Petroglyphic art etched across a huge rock surface in the Tsagaan Gol River Valley, Altai, Mongolia. (AyanTravel / CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Gobi Desert Petroglyphs: A Profusion of Rock Art
Stretching over a vast region in southern Mongolia and northern and northeastern China, the Gobi Desert covers an area of 500,000 square miles (1,294,994 square kilometers). The Altai Mountains form its northern boundary. Gobi means “waterless place” in Mongolian and the Gobi is the world’s sixth largest desert in the world. It is a desert characterized more by barren rock and brush than sand. Archaeologists working in the region have to combat harsh desert conditions and often have to work isolated from human settlement.
However, despite this, many remarkable rock art sites have already been discovered in the Gobi. Of these, the Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai, consisting of three sites with a high concentration of well-preserved petroglyphs, made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011. Three others, the petroglyphic complex of Del Uul mountain, petroglyphic complex of Bichigtiin Am and petroglyphic complex of Javkhlant Khairkhan mountain, collectively the “Petroglyphic complexes of the Mongolian Gobi,” are on the Tentative List, according to the UNESCO site.
All these rock art concentrations are believed to have been created by a nomadic people of the Bronze Age and are therefore nowhere near as old as the ones found by Güneri and his team of researchers, if their tentative dating is to be credited. The results can be “astonishing,” Güneri said, according to Hurriyet Daily, as the petroglyphs may be from a time before 15,000 years ago. “Any such result would surprise us and make us happy.”
A rock painted on the rocky slopes of the Shiveet Khairkhan Mountains in the Tsengel soum of Bayan-Ulgii province, Mongolia. (Tour Mongolia)
A Turkish Connection?
Güneri stated that while European researchers have worked in Mongolia, there hasn’t been much archaeological excavation done in the Gobi Desert. However, he and his team undertook the challenge, “In the name of enlightening Turkish history, we have accepted the offer to work at the Gobi Desert,” he said to the Hurriyet Daily.
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He is also convinced that there are many more petroglyphs with a Turkish connection waiting to be found in the Gobi. “We will unearth them all, then we will pen the results at international scientific articles,” he stated.
Whether Güneri will be able to establish the Turkish connection of the Gobi petroglyphs he has found, whether they are actually as old as he believes them to be and whether he will find more such, are questions only future developments provide answers to. The two years he and his team have spent archaeologically exploring remote regions of the Mongolian Gobi have already yielded rock art that no one knew even existed!
Top image: Semih Güneri, a professor from Dokuz Eylül University who has been working on Mongolian petroglyphs for a decade, taking a rubbing of the possibly 15,000-year-old Gobi Desert petroglyphs he has identified with ancient Turkish speaking peoples. Source: Demirören News Agency
By Sahir Pandey
Hurriyet Daily. 2022. Expert finds petroglyphs of ancient Turks in Gobi Desert. Available at: https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/expert-finds-petroglyphs-of-ancient-turks-in-gobi-desert-172708
UNESCO. Petroglyphic Complexes in the Mongolian Gobi. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5954/