Tamgaly Tas & Tamgaly petroglyphs

Tamgaly Tas and Tamgaly petroglyphs are two different archeological rock art sites located close to each other in the Almaty region of Kazakhstan. Each of them displays differing historical, cultural and stylistic periods in the rock carving art. Both of the sites are protected by the Kazakhstan authorities. Tamgaly Tas is a smaller one and more recent petroglyph site by the Ili River which mainly contains Buddhist gods in contrast Tamgaly petroglyphs holding the tracks of the evolution of human culture depicting mostly animals and people from the lot earlier historical time. 

Tamgaly Petroglyphs

The World Heritage-listed Tamgaly Petroglyphs are the most notable of many petroglyph collections in Southeastern Kazakhstan. The Tamgaly is also known as Tanbaly. It is an “open-air” gallery named after the Tamgaly river in the Southeast part of Chu-Ili Mountains and is located 170 km from AlmatyThe complex contains more than 5000 petroglyphs and rock carvings dating from the second half of the second millennium BC to the beginning of the 20th century. The closest settlement to the site is Karabastau village in Almaty oblast, Zhambyl region. 

Tamgaly petroglyphs were discovered in 1957 by Anna Maksimova. Next few years she studied the rock carvings with Alexei Maryashev and Antonina Ermolayeva, while archaeological cavities were later led by Alexei Rogozhinsky. The various pictures display the sun-headed idols, women in childbirth, hunting scenes and a big variety of animals. The pictures are best seen in the afternoon when the strongest sunlight reaches them. About 3000 years back this canyon was a ritual site for nomadic people. 


How to get to Tamgaly Petroglyphs

The best way to get to the site is by car or taxi. From Almaty to Tamgaly Petroglyphs it takes about 4h by car and the distance is about 170 km. Leave Almaty West following the Bishkek highway. Turn right towards North after the village Targar after about 88 from Almaty when there is a sign to Tanbaly. In the last 15–20 km, the road is pretty shaky so you need to drive slowly and carefully. On the road, you can enjoy the steppe scenery,  flora and sheep grazing areas with some horses now and then. 

Tamgaly Tas Buddhist Petroglyphs

Tamgaly Tas is located North-Northwest from Kapshygai reservoir at the Eastern bank of the Ili River, 120 km North from Almaty. It is unusual for its rock paintings that contain at least 5 images of Buddhist gods that were carved on the rocks in the 12th century. Tamgaly-Tas offers three Buddha images, the Buddha Shakyamuni, the Buddha of the Infinite Light of Amitabha, and the Bodhisattva of Infinite Sympathy Avalokiteshvara.  Moreover, there are “tamgas” images of all Kazakh clans. Tamgaly Tas translates from Kazakh as “ Written rocks or Stones with signs”. 

Tamgaly Tas petroglyph site is quite diverse compared to the similarly named site of Tamgaly petroglyphs focused not on carvings of the Bronze Age and Iron Age, but on images of Buddha dating from the Dzhungar period. It is believed that the huge Buddha figures and the Sanskrit inscriptions carved in the polished rock date from the 16th Century. There are also evidences that there have been Buddhist monasteries in the East part of Kazakhstan, which were later destroyed by the Zhungars. The pagan residents of the steppe would surely have added the Buddhas to their animist pantheon.

Buddhist rock drawings from 15th century at Tamgaly-Tas on Ili River in Kazakhstan

How to Get to Tamgaly Tas

From Almaty take Taldykorgan highway (A3), past the Kapchagai reservoir and about 35 km further North from Kapchagay at the right bank of Ili river. Take a left after passing the Ili river at the North side of Kapchagay village towards Bakanas turning away from the main road and the sign to the petroglyphs will be on to the left after about 20 more kilometers


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top