Petroglyphs of Saimaluu-Tash

In Kyrgyz language "Saimaluu-Tash" means "place of patterned or embroidered stone". This place is situated in a narrow canyon on a northeastern slope of the Fergansky range, in the region of Kugart pass. Crossing this pass from the agricultural Fergana Valley, you will find yourself in the valleys of the Inner Tien Shan. In the region, at an altitude of 3,000 - 3,200m, is the largest concentration of petroglyphs in Central Asia, which have been gouged out of basaltic rock.

The geological distinctiveness of Saimaluu-Tash is found in its rocky basalt outcroppings. The basalt is of a thick and strong type which breaks off in large blocks with smooth curved surfaces. The sun-baked crust on the surface of the stones creates a metallic, mirror-like shine.

Petroglyphs are painting on rock, which have survived on stones and rocks at many sites throughout the globe. Unique monuments of our ancestors which have come from the ages, they signal the beginning of the history of fine art. In spite of the fact that people have been studying petroglyphs for 200 years, some of them still remain a mystery to us. Saimaluu-Tash is the largest gallery of petroglyphs in Central Asia and consists of about 90 thousand individual specimens.

Even the greatest connoisseurs of ancient fine arts are delighted by this grand sanctuary of ancient nomadic tribes. There are both single petroglyphs and multi-image compositions in great numbers. Saimaluu-Tash, first of all, is unique in the richness of its style, and many different ages of paintings, the oldest of which are from the Bronze Age (1st century B.C. to 8th century A.D.) Within the multiplicity of Saimaluu-Tash, scholars have identified a number of essentially distinct styles, the most ancient of these being the subtle geometric representations of animals in linked triangles or rectangles - analogous to Middle Eastern ceramics from the third to first millennium B.C. It is an exhibition locked in time. These petroglyphs are geometric signposts in skeletal technique, with simple lines, static symbols and lonely figures.

Such a wide range of ages shows the best correlation with the richness of its subjects, characters and symbols. The animal world is widely represented at the site, there are elephants, lions, snow-leopards, wolves, ibex, red deer, birds and reptiles. Domestic animals are shown: horses, bulls and yaks. Multi-image compositions depict scenes of hunting, domestication of wild animals, migrating along mountain paths, ritual dances of masked people, sun and moon shaped men driving on harnessed chariots and carriages, dances of demons, resembling human creatures with canine heads and hypertrophied huge arms. Authors with high academic credentials regard Saimaluu-Tash as monument of culture of universal importance.

Modern fine art of Saimaluu-Tash
A young kyrgyz artist working with ceramics, Jumagul Tashiev, with the highest craftsmanship reflects the whole range of these petroglyphs in his work.

Jumagul Tashiev was born in 1956 in Kara-Kojun village in At-Bashi region. His father Tashi, who was a wood master, stoked his interest in fine art. The skills given by his father showed the young man the way to Bishkek art college, to his major in artistic ceramics, from where he graduated in 1981. Since 1984, he has successfully taken part in National, regional and international exhibitions.

A series of his works, "Saimaluu-Tash", brought success to the young artist. Many of them are housed in the Kyrgyz State Museum of Art. The creation of new work which reflects our time, without misrepresenting the original paintings on the rock, is the aim of young master.

There is also an art gallery called "Saimaluu-Tash". Anyone who is interested in the petroglyphs of Saimaluu-Tash and the works of J. Tashiev should make a visit to the gallery, which is on the northeastern side of Ala-Too Square, not far from the historical museum.