If a nation does not know its history, if the country loses its history, then its citizens have nowhere to go.
Mirzhakyp Dulatuly

Martial Katafraktaries of the Medieval period

The territory of modem Eastern Kazakhstan formed a part of Eastern Turkic kaganat. Relics of that period are studied poorly and presented by materials of only several mounds.

The monuments of the Hun-Sarmat time of the great migration of people epoch in Eastern Kazakhstan did not undergo systematization yet.

To the middle of the 1st millennium, at the vast areas of central-Asian steppes there were revealed possessions of early Turkic ethno-political unions, which resulted in the powerful Turkic kaganat and after its break-up-the Western Turkic kaganat. 

The territory of modem Eastern Kazakhstan formed a part of Eastern Turkic kaganat. Relics of that period are studied poorly and presented by materials of only several mounds.

In Altai a layer of monuments was distinguished, known as “Berel type”, and dated the 4th-5th centuries. The latest studies give the opportunity to enlarge the chronological limits for several centuries more.

Some mounds of necropolis Berel, studied during the last years, can be referred to the ancient Turkic time.

An interesting complex of an ancient Turkic epoch, which consisted of plenty of stone statues, placed at the eastern side of right- angled fences was found not far from Sarykol Lake in the Shyngystau Mountains in the Abai region. Here, at the bottom of one of the statues, it was found a buried treasure, which consisted of a gold jug, golden and silver stripes for ceremonial clothes, iron spearhead, armor-clad plates and articles of horse equipment — stirrups, bits and belly-band buckles.

Materials of the Middle Ages epoch certainly have important in terms of chronological and ethno-cultural relics attribution of early Turks, populated the territory of the Kazakh Altai, because the Kimaks antiquities of the 9th — 10th centuries were studied quite well, but proper ancient Turkic cultural complexes were studied extremely poorly.

According to the narrative sources, tribes with nomadic way of life inhabited the Upper Priirtyshye at the end the 1st century AD, known in the Arabic-Persian sources as the common collective name “Kimakis”, who formed the Kimaki tribal union.

There exists a genealogic legend about the origin of this people, according to which some ancestor of Kimaks by the name of Shad appeared on the Irtysh after his quarrel with senior brothers. Some explorers think that the legend reflects real events, which happened in the middle of the 7th century.
According to the conception which is available now, the Kimaks, having won the political supremacy in the upper reaches of the Irtysh, formed a big ethno-political union. The capital of the Kimakis state was somewhere on the Irtysh, where the caravan ways directed from the Middle East, were described in the works of ibn Bakhra, al-Idrisi and Gardizi. The places of the Kimakis’ settling were situated easterner of the Irtysh.

The Kimakis’ relics of the upper and middle Priityshye are displayed by mound burial grounds. All complexity of ethnic composition of Kimakis’ political union reflected in the variety of a burial ritual of the Middle Ages population from the upper Priirtyshye.

The so-called long mounds were widely spread with the Kimakis, when several located under one embankment, which stretched on the north-south line. 

The significant number of burials was accompanied by a horse burial.
Burials of cremated people remains stated at the necropolis near village Zevakino, they were accompanied by armory and life things. Burials with corpses’ burning are few, so in terms of ethno-cultural attribution they display a special interest. 

The burial stock of the Kimakis’ relics consisted mainly of armoury and horse equipment articles, in the least degree of labour instruments. Knives, whetstones and bushy axes-hatchets can be referred to the most widely-spread. An armoury was presented by iron straight broadswords and a bit curved swords, spears, numerous three- bladed and three-edged-bladed arrow-heads, more seldom of rhombic in section. In single cases bone arrow-heads could be met. Remarkable works of arts and crafts were evidence of the Kimakis’ high culture, ornamental compositions of vegetable and zoomorphic motives.

In this connection, silver sword sheath decorations from the Zevakino burial mound are of great interest, they were studied by F. KH. Arslanova in 1970 of the last century. On the sheath point there were pictured two men in long-flapped gowns with long sleeves, one of whom was playing some cord instrument and on the fastening of a sword-belt a remarkable scene was displayed — a man in the lotus pose from both sides of whom heraldic paintings of geese were placed.

The Kimaki’s light cavalry was very famous, it was armed with complicated by composition reflexible bow and a bit curved sword with feigned crossing as well as the tactics of a horse fight, invented by them. There is no detailed description of the kimaks’ public life and structure of state power in written sources. It is known that the tsar had the name of kagan, the caste of the military existed. In the genealogic legend about Kimaks, slaves and free common people were mentioned.

The Kimakis people worshipped the nature element. According to the data of Gardizi, the Kimakis rendered respect to the river Irtysh, respected it and told that the river was the Kimakis god. They considered dragon as a spirit of river, so in mythology — figurative and arts and crafts, the motive offish, dragon, snake and other species of water pantheon took a significant place. A Runic sign on the bronze mirror from the Zevakino burial place tells us about the population speaking the Turkic language of the upper Priirtyshye of the 9th-10th centuries, at least in that part which left so-called long mounds.

In the science there wasn’t made an attempt yet to retrace the culture of medieval Naimans in terms of archaeology, an ethnic kernel of which was in the Kazakh Altai, in the upper Irtysh basin. It is quite possible that some part of medieval relics undoubtedlessly referred at present to the Kimakis’ tribes, can be left by the Naimans of the 11th −13th centuries (even earlier) i. e. during the period of their ethno-political consolidation and complicated relationships with the neighboring tribes and state formations, but in confessional relation not yet connected with a deep process of Islamization.

Z. Samashev, A. Ermolayeva, G. Kush “The ancient treasures of the Kazakh Altai”, Publisher “Oner”, 2008.