Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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Saimaluu Tash

Tucked away and hidden at an altitude above 3000 meters, deep in the Ferghana range, about 100 km northwest of Djalalabad, near the Kurgat Pass lies the remote high altitude plateau of Saimalu-Tash. Literally translated as "Patterned stones", the name makes reference to the gallery of thousands of stone paintings - petroglyphs which are scattered over two moraine slopes with the first slope holding the majority of the stones.
There are estimated to be around 11000 drawings around a small pond, which is considered holy - and is known to have been used as a site for meditations by local shamans.
Some of the drawings date from about 2000 B.C. though some sources suggest 3000 B.C. It is presumed that they represent votive offerings brought by locals from the valleys so as to be closer to the heavens. Depicted are stylized images of animals, carts, agricultural activities such as ploughing, traditional ritual dances, all without any background. The number of solar images suggests that sun-worship was the common religion in the region.
The stones were revealed to the outside world when, in 1902, the Russians decided to build a road from the town of Djalalabad in the Ferghana Valley to their outpost at Naryn. The resulting Kazarman road makes for a spectacularly scenic drive but is not open year round. One of the cartographers at the time, Nikolai Hludov, was much intrigued by stories he heard from the local shepherds about "painted stones" in the mountains, and organized a small expedition to investigate. Highly fascinated, he reported the findings to the Archaeological Society in Tashkent from where subsequently an expedition to assess Saimaluu-Tash was dispatched. Similar discoveries in France and political issues meant, however, that the site remained relatively unexplored until the 1950's.
Saimaluu-Tash is occasionally called the Stonehenge of Central Asia - and that should help to encapsulate the importance and capture the spirit of the historical artefacts that can be found here. Unlike Stonehenge, however, (which has a main road passing only a couple of hundred meters from the standing stones), there is no easy access to the site. The main route is from the village of Kalmak Kirchin - some 60 km from Djalalabad, along a rough track (sturdy 4WD only) up to a small "honey farm" high in the mountains. From here it is another 10km by foot or on horseback but beyond a doubt, to find yourself among the sea of patterned stones at Saimaluu Tash will be ample reward for your efforts.
These timelessly beautiful etchings and drawings serve as an inspiration for many a Kyrgyz artist and master craftsmen of felt and other materials, who draw upon these "stone embroideries" for their creations such as home and fashion accessories, soft children's toys, paintings.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Travel guide#10/2008

Discovery Kyrgyzstan Travel guide #10/2008

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