of the signs of early habitation in the area are petroglyphs, (the word
“petroglyph” comes from the Greek: petra
meaning “stone” and glyphe
meaning “to draw”), and many such rock drawings
have been discovered in Kyrgyzstan dating back to several centuries
BC. These drawings, left for us on high rocks and in deep
caves can provide evidence of the way of life and the environment of
times gone by when there was no system of writing.
Rock drawings appear to have been made in two ancient
artistic styles. The first technique was silhouette or shadow, typical
of many ancient pictures. Blows were made with a metallic or stone
instrument to take out the entire surface of the rock nearly 2 mm deep
inside the silhouette. Some pictures were beaten by blunt tools which
removed only a thin sun burnt rock layer, and this is typical of later
periods. Another technique used tools with sharp edges and frequent
blows with these produced a deep line engraved in the rock.
the oldest paintings are animals such as the Argali (Marco Polo sheep),
horses, camels, reindeer, bulls, wolves, dogs, wild boars and birds -
whilst others depict hunting scenes. It is probably incorrect
to think that ancient people only depicted the animals that they
hunted, and many scholars suggest that the rock drawings depict
mythological images with symbols representing the sun and moon and
other entities. Most interesting are some etchings that
appear to depict scenes of fire worship and some unidentifiable signs
resembling modern day airplanes and rail way tracks.
are recognized as an important historical and cultural heritage.
Efforts are underway to protect and preserve them –
unfortunately, not all of them are particularly successful. There are
many sites where petroglyphs can be found throughout Kyrgyzstan, but
one of the more accessible major sites of petroglyphs is at Cholpon Ata
– where there are over 40 acres littered with fine examples.
Other examples can be seen at the Burana Tower complex where
petroglyphs and balbals, (stone grave markers) from the Chui region
have been gathered, the Ak-Chunkur ("white cave") paintings in Sary Jaz
("Golden Valley") deep in the Tien Shan Mountains; in Aravan; on
Sulaiman-Too in the city of Osh.
However, the finest collection of petroglyphs is to be found at