THE FORGOTTEN ROCK ART OF ANCIENT UZBEKISTAN

CULTURAL IDENTITY

Page 2/3
 
 
Most rock images belong to periods about which one can say nothing about the language of prehistoric peoples nor their beliefs. On the other hand, sometimes it is possible to identify a cultural context without the reconstruction of the meanings of the separate images. The careful analysis of rock art can enable us to identify ways of life, like hunting and gathering or nomadism, and suggest which elements (for instance what animals) played an important role in the culture of these peoples. Furthermore, it is also possible to approach the question of ethnicity in the interpretations of Central Asian rock art. period.
 
When we look at the history of this part of Asia we notice that the area within present day Uzbekistan was in constant state of struggle between Turkish and Iranian speaking peoples since time immemorial. This is an important point and can be understood in relationship to the ethnic identity of the ancient peoples inhabiting the area between the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya. This ‘polarity’ is also reflected today amongst the Turkish speaking Uzbeks, who reside in the north, while the Iranian speaking Tajiks populate the southern part of Uzbekistan. The latter are the descendants of a very archaic Indo-Iranian heritage which extends back to III and II millennium BC. This was the time when the land of Uzbekistan and adjacent regions were within the migration routes of the Indo-European tribes, who by the end of II millennium BC expanded into India and Iran.
 
Uzbekistan Rock Art Petroglyphs
Click to Enlarge
The Indo-Iranians have been the earliest ethnic strata with witch the tradition of rock art could be supposed. From the Indo-Iranian linguistic unity two linguistic branches derived: Old Indian (known as Vedic and appeared in the Indian subcontinent in the second half of the II millennium BC) and Old Iranian. Of course, it is difficult to distinguish if these peoples, who populated the entire of Central Asia, represented a supposed ‘Indo-Iranian unity’ or were divided separately into Indians and Iranians. The analyses of petroglyphs in Sarmish-say Valley in Uzbekistan and Tamgaly in southern Kazakhstan, however, led us to conclude that some important correspondences between rock imagery and Indo- Iranian myths can be discerned. These parallels concern the importance of single motifs, among which the bull plays very significant role, as well as some structural correspondences dealing with symbolic associations between recurrent sets of images and mythical ideas (see additional reading).
 
Uzbekistan Rock Art Petroglyphs
Click to Enlarge
Another important feature of prehistoric art in Central Asia is the so-called ‘animal style’, which was connected with the early Iranian nomads described by the Greeks as Scythians and the Persians as Sakas. The distinct characteristics of the animal style were applied in various media, like wood or metal objects (especially gold), as well as in rock art. It testifies, moreover, that Uzbekistan was once within the sphere of their cultural activity; a view supported by historic sources. This was the time when first appeared the rock images of horses and horse riders accompanied by the first metal tools, like swords. Zoomorphic images dominate the animal style, but we also can encounter the representation of human figures as well. Artists represented the images of animals in dynamic poses as if they wanted to catch them in the action of movement. The bodies of animals are often filled with different ornamental designs, and the spiral, for example, appears to have been one of their favourites. Similar motifs can be found in Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan but also in more northern parts of Central Asia, southern Siberia (the Altai, Khakassia, Tuva), Mongolia and along the Karakom Highway. The art of the Sako-Scythian nomads take us closer to some aspects of their beliefs. By placing a great deal of emphasis on the wild fauna the art manifests their strong affinity with the natural world. The most important animal was the deer and its image was carved onto countless stones and rocks across Asia. Another specific feature of this art, but not very common, was the intentional superimposition of images which distinguishes it from the earlier art of the Stone or Bronze Ages.
 
Uzbekistan Rock Art Petroglyphs
Click to Enlarge
The historic period of Uzbekistan and Central Asia begins in the middle of the first millennium AD. During this time fundamental transformations began which created new conceptualisations of the land that were connected with the appearance of a newly crystallised Turkish culture. The Early Turkic peoples quickly dominated vast areas of Central Asia, and were subsequently incorporated into the tide of Islam. We are not sure how these movements influenced the tradition of image making on stones but it is clear that rock art had changed its character dramatically. Now we find the images of mounted warriors that seem to reflect a time of frequent conflict and the cult of the warrior-hero. From the quantitative point of view the images are less numerous than previous time periods. Islamic ideology of the cult of the one and only god must have influenced the ‘collapse’ of rock art tradition rooted in pre-Islamic beliefs (like the cult of nature, or shamanism). So, does this mean that rock art in Uzbekistan has been predominately produced in prehistoric and early historic periods? As we will see in the next section, newer research has cast new light upon this mystery.
 
 
Bradshaw Foundation
 
bradshaw foundation donate help
Mailing List

Email Sign-Up
website updates

Email

First Name

Last Name

Country

Sponsored Links
Podcast
bradshaw foundation podcast
DVD
bradshaw foundation ishop dvd
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Coso Range Nevada Oregon Territory Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Portable Art Research Paper Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Tanum Rock Art Museum Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes List of Research Papers Other Websites Contact the Foundation