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History of the Golden man: how the Issyk Museum appeared

12 October 2020

The Turgen branch of the Ile-Alatau state national nature Park is a doubly significant place from the point of view of tourism. After all, here is one of the most beautiful landscapes in all of Kazakhstan. Moreover, the beauty of the canyons and Issyk Turgen appreciated in his time and the ancient people who made them his dwelling place and leave their Golden footprints.

Not far from Almaty, a grandiose complex “Saki mounds” was once found – 45 earthen pyramids, stretching for three kilometers and resembling the same great ones in the Egyptian Giza. Here in 1969, under one of the mounds, Issyk, Kazakh archaeologists discovered the remains of a Saka warrior in Golden robes, whose appearance is familiar to everyone – the Golden man, Altyn Adam.

Водопады в Казахстане

The Saka warrior, an eternally young ancient ruler, also did not escape hackneyed comparisons – he was often called “Kazakh Tutankhamun” because of his clothes and headdress, embroidered with gold plaques. His image is so popular in our country that it has become a kind of expression of the national idea, the winged horses-tulpars depicted on the crown of the Prince have become part of the national coat of arms of the Republic, and the slender silhouette is forever associated with Kazakhstan and its history.

Золотой человек

Today, the site of the same excavations is an open-air archaeological Museum “Saki mounds” – you will definitely not pass by it, because at the entrance there is an impressive 8-meter statue of the Golden man. Despite the fact that the most valuable treasures of the Issyk mound can only be seen in the State Museum of gold and precious metals in Nur-Sultan, this place is really sacred, now we will find out why.

The history of the precious find and the Golden armor and the remains of the Saka warrior themselves is inextricably linked with a huge number of myths and conjectures, which is especially interesting, modern. For example, there are still legends among non-archaeologists that the Golden man was accidentally stumbled upon by local residents or dug up by bulldozer workers. The credit for the discovery of such a valuable treasure belongs entirely to Kazakh scientists, but the element of chance was really there.

That summer, the pearl of the Zaili Alatau, lake Issyk, was covered by a terrible mudslide. A huge stream of rocks and mud swept away everything in its path-people dying by the hundreds, buildings, the lake itself, which disappeared on July 7, 1963. This disaster is still considered one of the largest and most destructive on the territory of the USSR. A few years later, the restoration of the reservoir and the affected objects began, on the site of one of them, the future prosaic carpool, and a sensational discovery occurred. According to the law of the USSR “on the protection of historical, archaeological and cultural monuments”, after the allocation of land for construction, it was necessary to coordinate these places with the authorized body – what if they are of historical value? To do this, first archaeologist Beken Nurmukhanbetov went to the site with a laboratory assistant and photographer Oleg Medvedev. On the territory of the future carpool and was mentioned mound. An extensive study of it began – throughout 1969, the embankment was demolished, and in the spring of 1970, the Central burial was opened, which turned out to be robbed several times.

From order No. 54 of the Directorate of the Institute of history, archeology, and Ethnography of the Kazakh SSR, April 21, 1969: “To send an expedition to Issyk for a period of 10 days consisting of: Junior researcher of the Department of archeology B. Nurmukhanbetov, engineer-photographer O. Medvedev and artist P. Son. The front of the prescribed work is the demolition of two mounds of the Issyk burial ground.”

In General, on the left Bank of the Issyk river, there were about fifty Saka mounds, which were studied for two whole seasons under the guidance of the famous archaeologist Kemal Akishev. The excavations seemed useless, the mounds had been looted long ago by treasure hunters of various years. But when the work was already curtailed, Beken Nurmukhanbetov finally asked the bulldozer operator to demolish a layer of land slightly away from the last mound. A log suddenly appeared out of the ground, and later it turned out that it was part of a wooden tomb containing the remains of an ancient nomad, surrounded by a mountain of tarnished gold.

Курганы

The finds clearly indicate the status of the Saka buried in a log house made of Tian-Shan spruce: over four thousand gold plaques and plates that make up the ceremonial armor of the Saka king on a leather base-a stylized cataphract armor, as well as a purse with ochre remnants, a mirror, rings, an earring, a hryvnia, weapons, and various vessels were of great value at all times. Of particular interest is the silver bowl, which is inscribed with 26 characters that look like either the Orkhon-Yenisei script, or the letter of kharoshta. Did the Saks have a written language 2,500 years ago? Does this find put the steppe civilization on an extremely high level of development? Scientists from different countries have already proposed 25 variants of deciphering ancient runes, but have not come to a consensus. The answer to this question is still ahead of us.

Ornaments in the dancing animal style and a pointed headdress (which today has several versions of the “Assembly”) said that 2,500 years ago in Semirechye lived different Saka tribes. Kemal Akishev advanced a hypothesis that the nomad was the Saka tigrahauda. The warrior’s skull was badly damaged during extraction, it is impossible to say something about the appearance of its owner, but it is clear that this person was 18-25 years old at the time of death, he was about 165 centimeters tall and lived approximately in the III-V centuries BC. In addition, in the future, the bone remains, unfortunately, were lost, and with them the opportunity to reconstruct the appearance or make a chromosomal analysis. Therefore, it can be argued that the items in the tomb may belong to both a man and a woman, which, given everything else we know about Saks, is quite likely.

According to the website of the Issyk reserve-Museum, it was “created in 2010 on the initiative of the Head of state N. A. Nazarbayev as part of the strategic national project “Cultural heritage” on the territory of the Issyk necropolis, in one of the mounds of which the undisturbed burial of the Saka Prince was discovered in 1970. In 2013, the territory of the protected area of the reserve-Museum was approved – 422.7 hectares. It includes more than 80 Saka burial mounds in Issyk and the ancient Saxon settlements of Rahat and Ority”.

Золотой человек

The Museum of the Golden man, even without its treasure, remains one of the strategically important objects for the development of cultural tourism in the Republic, located along the ancient highway of the great silk road. Of course, you can get a clear idea of the Golden man after visiting the Museum. Its exposition is divided between four halls: “History and culture of the Saks”, “Golden man”, “Archeology of Kazakhstan”and” Secrets of the Golden man”.

It is also interesting to visit the Memorial office of one of the discoverers of the Golden man, archaeologist Bekmukhanbet Nurmukhanbetov. The Museum’s collections include about 3,000 items, mostly artefacts from archaeological collections. The Museum staff also leads fascinating excursions to the territory of the Issyk necropolis, the ancient Saka settlements of Rakhat and Orikty.

The Museum staff are working on a lot of very interesting cultural and scientific projects, including research and application project “Issyk Burial and culture of the Saka Zhetysu” in the framework of the national strategic program “Cultural heritage”, and socio-cultural projects “the Museum opens ESIK”, “History of discovery and will explore the “Golden man: myths and reality”, which is familiar as the modern descendants of the Altyn Adam, and to foreign tourists. An important part of the Museum’s work will be drawing up a map of the archaeological sites of the Zhetysu Saks, which will add consistency to the facts and, scientists are sure, will shed light on many historical phenomena that we know only in fragments.

Information taken from the site Tengritravel.kz

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