Home History of Kazakhstan Ancient Kazakhstan Tribal alliances and early states on the territory of Kazakhstan Household and Saka society

Household and Saka society

The era of development of steppe and mountain spaces, cattle breeding domination is connected with saka’s time, in its various forms, in combination with agriculture. Ancient authors  define life of Sakas, speaking about them: “they are no farmers, but nomads, or determine this life by a formula: Move from one place to another,  depending on an open space, water and grass". Actually, the farm pattern of Sakas’s in many respects was defined by the environment, proximity to the city centers and trade roads. Studying of cattle breeding among the people of the world demonstrated that it had different set of options – nomadic and pastoral. Nomadic cattle breeding is moving from summer lare to winter one, corresponded to the West and Central Kazakhstan. In the nomadic cattle breeding all members of tribe used to move in meridional and latitudinal directions with their bands and possessions. Men used to move on horses, women, children and old men on carts covered by felt. Nomads carried out winter frosts in the wintering, located in sand, where the wind blew off snow and bared the earth with the dried grass, or on coast of the rivers and lakes, in places which weren't blown by a wind and where the pasture for cattle remained. 

Winter parking weren't long-term. Main types of cattle nomads had horse, a sheep and a camel — the most adapted for distant moving. The semi-nomadic type of cattle breeding included existence of permanent winter and summer parking on which cattle-farmers spent summer and winter. On winter roads — dugouts and semi-dugouts were under construction. Often on winter roads, for the summer there was a part of the population which was engaged in arable farming, preparing for the winter vegetable food. Such cattle breeding was widespread in East Kazakhstan, in Semirechye, in regions of the Central and West Kazakhstan. The third type of cattle breeding — settled — provided permanent settled life of part of the population which was engaged in agriculture. Another part of population nomadise with cattle  on the summer and winter pastures located, as a rule, nearby.The situation was the same in the south of Kazakhstan, in valleys of Syr-Darya, Arysi, Keles. In herd there were a lot of cattle. Certainly, in life everything was more difficult also there was a set of deviations from these types of cattle breeding household and affected life of the population of different regions of Kazakhstan. Horse breeding was one of the most important methods of Sakas’ cattle breeding . According to bone materials from excavation of the Central Kazakhstan two species of horses were established. First is undersized, fat-legged with the big head and a trunk and second type is tall well-shaped which was used by the armed horseback riders. On materials of remains of 86 horses from excavation of Pazyryian barrows in Altai it was succeeded to allocate four species of horses. The largest, quick horses appeared as a result of selection. These horses were used by leaders and honoured soldiers.  The well-known thoroughbred horses of the neighboring territories - Fergana, Bactria, Parfiya, who were famous for the racers participated in removal of new breeds of horses. The best front horses were very highly appreciated by nomads, in case of death of the owner they accompanied him in "other world

Nomads used to find out sheep as one of the most important species of pets, which gives meat, wool, milk and felt. Excavation shows that large animals with strongly expressed hawk nose abilities were widespread. They were similar to modern breed of the Kazakh breed tail sheep. Along with sheep breeding Sakas dealt with camel husbandery, first of all, in steppe and semi desert areas of Western and South Kazakhstana was developed. The camel was used both riding, and a pack animal, he gave wool, meat and milk. At nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle camels all the year round remained open-air. Until recently there was a popular belief  that since an era of early nomads cattle didn't play a noticeable role in household.

It was explained by a lot of work is necessary for cows on preparation of forages for the winter as unlike horses and sheep they are not able to eat pasture all year long. However nomads managed to remove such breed of cattle which all the year round contained on a pasture. Such adapted for nomadic life breed was distinguished by rather low efficiency, small live weight, unpretentiousness in food and the dense wool cover rescuing from colds.

Agriculture and irrigation. Crops on winterings gave to sakas vegetable food. Grew up millet, barley, wheat. In the south, in a valley of Syr-Darya near the sakas’ settlements - Chirik-Rabat, Babish mullah, Balanda crops were irrigated by means of channels.

Handirafts and field. High development in sakas’s tribes reached handicrafts and the field connected with production of metal, its processing, in particular with bronze molding. As well as during a bronze era, already known fields of iron, copper, tin, lead, silver, gold continued to be developed. Approximate calculations of experts show huge scales of the mining development. So, in the Imantau field 3 million of copper ore, and from Dzhezkazgan and Uspensk — respectively 10000 and 20000 thousands were taken, and the most part of production falls on Sakas’ time. From bronze Sakas’ masters cast daggers, tips of arrows and copies, subjects of a horse harness, ornament, a mirror, and also coppers and altars, many of which are outstanding works of art. For casting of products they used the forms made of a stone and clay.

Findings of sakas’ coppers and altars in the territory Semirechya — in the Iliysky valley and Issykkul region are especially numerous. Coppers are in a spherical form, on the spherical pallet or on legs which were often made out in the form of feet of animals. Handles of coppers are looplike, and at some edge are decorated with pro-volumes of animals. So, one of the coppers, found near Almaty, was decorated with protomas of winged mountain goats. Altars represent square or round trays with a side on legs or a leg. The sizes are various — from big "tables" to compact products.

The unique altar on the composition was found in the territory of Almaty, on a place of the former sanctuary from which the round clay platform from the remains of the bonfire, a layer of the ashes mixed with bones of animals and ceramics are remained. On a cone-shaped support there was the round dish decorated on edge with 15 figures of bulls. On a dish the figure of the horse archer half-turned to bulls and shooting at them from bow, nearby a vertical tubule for a match is strengthened. Probably, the horseback rider represents the Mitre — "the lord of a cattle", "who is highjacking bulls". One more bronze sacrificial table was found near Almaty, widely known by experts as "Semirechensky Altar". It has a rectangular shape with a side and handles for carrying. The tray is put on four short legs in the form of feet of a hoofed animal. On the table edge there "are" figures of winged invader. Altars lamps were probably connected with fire cult, and also in a complex with coppers (as a rule, they are found together with coppers) were used during the festivals connected with spring and autumn holidays, during the occasion of the beginning of new moving on summer pastures or the terminations of a summer season, when the herds of horses and a flocks went down from the Alpine meadows to the foothills. Such festivals on which entertainments were prepared in coppers, sacrifices to gods were carried out  in the sanctuaries decorated with altars and lamps usually hosted in the foothills and in beautiful valleys.

Trade. Transit international trade which connected the West and East countries, the Mediterranean and China began in the period of sakas’ power in the steppes and mountain valleys of Eurasia. Steppe way began it’s function in the middle of 1 millennium BC. All exclusive goods were delivered to steppe zone by this road on 40th  parallels, beginning from Huang He it crossed east and northern spurs of Altai, the steppe of Kazakhstan and Black Sea Coast, reached lands of Greeks. According to Herodotus's descriptions, the steppe way went from Black Sea Coast to coast of Don, then to lands savromats to the Southern Cisural area, to Irtysh and further to Altai to the country of argippeyas, occupying the region of Upper Irtysh, and from there — to Mongolia and China. On a considerable extent this way passed through Kazakhstan. Saka people got the Chinese silk and the Iranian carpets on this steppe trade way, and the remains of this items were found at excavation of Pazyrian barrows and Altay.

Saka community.

The question of organization of saka society still causes disputes of different scholars. There aren't enough data in written sources on what groups of people on the property status, nature of occupations, the role were included into saka society. Only the Roman historian Kvint Kurtsy Ruf retells a legend that saka people has magic heavenly gifts: plow and yoke (collar) for farmers, a spear and an arrow — for soldiers, a bowl for priests. From this we can allocate three groups of population in saka nation : soldiers (the ancient Indo-Iranian name of the soldier ратайштар" — "standing on a chariot"); druid’s estate; communality saka, “vosminogye, that means people, who have eight legs”.

The exact traditional colors corresponded to each of the called estates. For soldiers selected red and golden-red, for priests — white, for communality saka — yellow and blue. Especially it is necessary to stop on figures of leaders and tsars. Most likely, leaders of saka tribes were representatives of military estate. Greeks called them as basilevs — tsars. Attributes of soldiers and tsars were bows with arrows. The tsar passed the bows to the son and the successor therefore bows and arrows used to be put in graves of soldiers and tsars. Ability of masterly owning the bows had to be a prerogative of the tsar. Not casually, firing from bows and ability of precisely hitting the target were checked on various festivals, and the marksman by ancient tradition acquired the right to rule over the people for the period of such festivals.

At the same time the tsar carried out the first furrow on a spring plowed land, he was by tradition the pupil of the shepherd that showed his communication with the people. The tsar belonged to estate of soldiers; he was also the elect of gods, the intermediary between heaven and earth, the world center, the carrier of terrestrial prosperity. Welfare of the people depended on its physical power and spiritual energy. It was an embodiment of all population. Archaeological materials confirm division of saka society into estates, or groups. It is noticeable, first of all, by a difference in sizes of funeral barrows. It can be easily demonstrated by the burial ground Besshatyr, where  huge barrows corresponds— to leaders, averages — to soldiers and small — to ordinary workers.

In the burial ground center Uygarak there were big barrows of leaders of notable soldiers with a rich set of arms — bows, arrows, axes, pickss. In east part burials of priestesses with stone altars, mirrors and pieces of ochre and in the western part — poor graves of ordinary workers settled down. Together with findings of saka writings in a Issyk barrow it testifies to existence at saka people of erly society and, probably, the state


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