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Monuments of Kazakhstan in the Bronze Age

Monuments of Kazakhstan in the Bronze Age - e-history.kz
In the middle of the II millennium B.C. tribes of Kazakhstan were mastered in the production of bronze goods.

 The Andronovo culture: issues of provenance and periodization. Household changes outlined in the Neolithic period led to the composing of cattle-breeding and agricultural economy and mature metallurgical sector in the II millennium B.C. Transition to production economics had changed the situation in the territory of Kazakhstan drastically.

Progress of a society of the Bronze Age was caused by two factors. Production mastering of paleo metals was one of them that defined a new epoch.  

In the middle of the II millennium B.C.tribes of Kazakhstan were mastered in the production of bronze goods. The bronze became to be the main raw material for manufacturing of implement tools and weapons. Mineral wealth of complex ores and, first of all, tin-based copper ores, was one of the occurrence reasons of the powerful metallurgy center in the territory of Kazakhstan.

 First and foremost, natural climate changes led to the economic reconstruction. So, more than the thousand-year period of gradual climate change towards warming and ariditycame to the Late Bronze Age to replace the stage of the cool wet weather. The droughty period was concurrent with the abatement of river fowling, slow desiccation of above the flood plain  terraces, abatement of the lake level, and, finally, reducing of the general moisture of northern hemisphere continents1. During the Bronze Age, vast steppe spaces of Siberia, Prioeralje, Kazakhstan and Central Asia were occupied by the tribes related by birth and community of historical destinies. The tribes had reserved striking original culture for themselves. In a science it was named "Andronovo" according to the finding of the first monument at Andronovo village near Achinsk in the Western Siberia.

Over a long period of time, one culture called Andronovo had been marking out in Kazakhstan steppes. At this time, a number of cultures are allocated instead of the only one and they are united into the Andronovo cultural-historical community. One of the basic centers of the Andronovo cultural-historical community was in the territory of Kazakhstan. Archaeological data testifies that Andronovo population in overwhelming majority conducted a settled way of life. Settlements were situated along the river coasts with wide bottomland meadow. For the population of these settlements comprehensive character of a cattle-breeding and agricultural economy with appreciable prevalence of pastoralcattle breeding was featured.

The funeral ceremonies, an original set of pottery with a geometrical ornament, forms of metal products were the main culture features distinguishing the Andronovo population from other tribes.

The origin of the Andronovo culture is a debatable question.

 In a historical science there are a number of hypotheses.

The majority of researchers considers that Andronovo culture was formed on the basis of natural development related by culture and, obviously, by origin of the northern strip tribes of  Kazakhstan steppes and adjoining areas of Zauralie and Western Siberia of the Neolith and Aeneolithic period. The cattle breeding, primitive agriculture and mining rudiments were at that time already known.

The further development of the cattle breeding and hoe-mattock inundated agriculture led to the settled way of life, occurrence of house crafts, metallurgy development. Roughly identical level of progress of these basic manufactures of material benefits in an extensive zone led to the addition of prominent features of the Andronovo cultures and interconnected forms of social way of a society.

 One of the complicated questions in the history of the Andronovo community is a definition of an ethnic belonging of the population. There are a number of opinions. According to one of them, Andronovo people belonged to the Finno-Ugric ethnic group.

The hypothesis about Indo-Iranian or an Aryan belonging of the Andronovo tribes has affirmed in a historical and philological science. 

Last years linguists and specialists in Turkic philology, ethnographers, and historians had investigations where the hypothesis about turkic-language of the Andronovo tribes was put forward.

A considerable quantity of the names connected with wheel transport testifies in favour of the Indo-Iranian origins of the Andronovo people.

 Names of governors, the terms connected with horse-breeding practice, names of gods embodied in documents of the people of Western Asia of the II millenium B.C. having scripts, names of deities in "Aveste", the sacred  Zoroastrism book, are Aryan. In "Aveste" there are such names of gods, as Mitra and Varuna whose cults were widely adopted. Several homonyms on the Central Asian territory have Aryan origins.

Basic corrective amendments about antiquities of the Euroasian steppes in formation of the Andronovo tribes have brought opening and studying of the strengthened settlements of city type of Sintashta and Arkaim in scientific representations, concerning the early period of the  Bronze age (18 - 16 centuries, B.C.).

Formation and composing of the Andronovo cultural-historical community had been occuring within several centuries, since a boundary of the 3-2 millenniums B.C. on the Northern Kazakhstan territory and Western Siberia. The Andronovo culture as a uniform generality was issued in the territory of Kazakhstan to 16-15 centuries B.C.

 Methods of tracing, dimple, comb-shaped stamp were used for ceramics ornamentation. The ornamental system of the ceramics of Ustyurt settlements is characterized by a big variety of elements, motives and compositions. The basic, most widespread plots of an ornament are various combinations of direct horizontal lines, numbers of inclined pieces, a zigzag, a fur-tree, and rhombuses. Less widespread plots are the shaded triangles, the shaded rhombuses, a meander.

 The population of Ustyurt and adjacent territories with it, had been involved in the ethnocultural process occurring during the considered historical time in Ural Mountains, in Siberia, in steppe open spaces of Kazakhstan, the Central Asian interfluvialplace and the Iranian plateau.

There are cultural-chronological attribution of materials of some monuments in the Volgo-Ural region having the set materials, close to "toksanbai" ones, in the light of the latest discoveries on Ustyurt.

It is difficult to overestimate a significance of the Ustyurt culture center (of the Bronze Age) in a reconstruction of a picture of the historical past and in definition of directions of ancient migratory processes.

 Remoteness of Ustyurt from the culture centers of the Bronze Age had predetermined an originality of the toksanbai cultural phenomenon. Revealing of adaptation mechanisms of ancient populations to nature-climatic features of Ustyurt, their level of household-cultural development, identification of degree of contacts to ethnocultural files of Eurasia, and also working out of outlook issues, are important tasks of Kazakhstan archeology.

Household, culture, society.

Cattle breeding and agriculture development.

The bone material collected on settlements of an early stage of the Bronze Age allows to say that the basic employment of the person in the territory of Kazakhstan at this time was pastoral cattle breeding (around their houses). A horned cattle was prevalent in herd.

The pastoral cattle breeding gradually outgrew into the seminomadic one. Shepherds with cattle did move on for a short distance from one pasture to the another one. The number of light beasts (sheep, goats) and horses were increasing in the herd.

In the developed Bronze Age a horse was used as draught force and for riding. Use of the horse as means of transportation had increased possibilities of development of steppe and high-mountainous pastures.

The ancient cattle breeding was extensive. Development and expansion of pastures area, deducing and cultivation of animals like a horse, a sheep, hardy and capable to "tebenevka", (procuring a forage from under snow and transitions to the far distances), led to the herd increment. At the Late Bronze stage in steppe areas of Kazakhstan the cattle breeding became to be the basic branch of an economy and accepted the forms close to nomadic cattle breeding.

Agriculture began to develop at the same time with cattle breeding, since the neolith epoch in the territory of Kazakhstan. The cattle breeding and agriculture supplemented each other and were interconnected in an economy of tribes of the Bronze Age.

On settlements of the Early Bronze Age mattocks stone and a horn of a deer were found. Tools for grain grinding - grain floats, graters, pestle, mortars were made of stones too. Probably, on harvesting, initially, bronze knifes, and during the late bronze period - bronze and copper sickles of different types were used. The bronze plait was found on the settlement Chaglinka.

The growth of crops was connected also with the advent of more perfect tools. Basically, wheat, rye and millet were raised.

Mining, metallurgy.

Along with cattle breeding and agriculture the major role was played by extraction of various ores, stone and bone working. Copper, tin and gold bearing fields were known from ancient times in the territory of Kazakhstan. Numerous ancient workings out of copper (Zhezkazgan, Zyrjanovsk, Karchiga, Dzhaltyr, Ashchily, Kushikbaj), tin (mountain Atasu, Kalbinsky and Narymsky ridges) and gold (Stepnjak, Kazanchunkur, Baladzhal, Akdzhal, Dajbaj, Majkopchegaj, Akabek) showed that this territory was one of the ancient metallurgy centers. Geological researches showed that extraction and fusion of the copper oxidised ores had been done on great scalesin the ancient time.

 Only the oxidised ore (malachite, azurite, and cassiterite) with the high content of copper and tin was worked out. The form and development method depended on conditions of an ore body occurrence. Mine workings went only on ore-bearing lodes leaving untouched dead rock.

Friable ores were extracted in a «hacking» way. Miners used a method of «drifting of fire» in working out of dense rocks.

 On an earth surface, away from the working out place, ore was usually split up by stone hammers and then it was washed out. Water was necessary for "wet" enrichment - primary fission of ore from breed.

Fine-crushed ore was raked up by wooden shovels or a shovel of a big animal. They were pulled out in leather sacks to the settlements, places for fusion. Melting furnaces, (as chimneys) which remains were found in Milykuduke, Atasu, were used for fusions. 

Workers melted copper and tin ore separately. And later, for the casting of those things, they added necessary quantity of the tin to the copper.

 The great scales of ore workings out during the Bronze Age in the territory of Kazakhstan enabled to not only to satisfy own requirements for raw materials, but also to use a part of metal in the form of preparations and products for an exchange.

Kazakhstan mining and smelting areas were allocated by the archeologist E.N. Chernyh. He figured out that before the beginning of industrial working out in the middle of XIX century on deposits of Kazakhstan it had been extracted not less than 450 thousand tonnes of the copper. Suppose it to be that the ore with the average content of the copper, approximately 5 %, was melted, so the total amount of the extracted ore (taking into account losses during the fusion), will make about 10 million tonnes. Owing to the  poly metallic deposits of Ore Altai, copper pyrites deposits of Mugodzhar and quite large-scaled fields of Zhetysu, it must be admitted that on a share of deposits of the Central and Northern Kazakhstan, was due not less than 80 % from total amount of the extracted ore, that was more than 8 million tonnes. In general this figure was conformed to the data resulted above on separate mines of Kazakhstan mining and smelting areas.

 Such great volume of metal exceededmuch requirement for its of local population. Mining and smelting production of ancient tribes of the Central and Northern Kazakhstan was obviously focused on export. It is possible to consider Western Siberia, Central Asia, the Eastern Europe, Zhetysu and territory of modern Xinjiang as probable export directions of Kazakhstan metal. These regions either were deprived own stocks of raw materials, or had it in insufficient quantity.

House crafts.

The cattle breeding gave not only foodstuff, but also raw materials for clothes and footwear manufacturing.

Findings of primitive looms, bone, stone and clay of divided parts of a wall testify about the existence of weaving existence during the Bronze Age. Woollens were made of wool of fine-wooled sheep or the goat fluff with the means of weaving, knitting and weaving.

 Tribes of the Bronze Age used also vegetative threads from wild hemp, wild flax and a nettle. Spun ropes for household needs, clothes, and networks for fishing were sewed of them.

According to the shoes relict found in the place of burial, it was made of leather, without heels, sewed with tendon strings, and it was tied up at the ankle. Men and women wore wool and leather caps with laces.

Overclothes were made of wool fabric. More likely that the overclothes were double-breasted or had a vent on the top and fastened with one button on the left.

Women clothes consist of a dress, a cap, and leather shoes. Dress, on average made of wool, was in a fashion of midi lengths with long sleeves. Cuffs of the dress sewed with a line of bronze beads. Skirt was sewed with white paste beads as well starting from the belt line.  Fabric was colored into shades of red color: bright red, violet red.

According to the large amount of jewelry found in places of burial, it is arguable that women wore big earrings and gold plated spirally rings, torc or necklaces with bronze beads on the neck, bracelets and rings. A vent on the clothes was sewed with glass beads; round plate was sewed on the chest. Webby, round, and rhombic appendices, sometimes ornamental and belt clips were popular. Men and women wore shell, fangs of predators’ and domestic animals as amulets

Ceramic production took vast place of inhabitants of a particular settlement.  All the crockery was produced for use in household. Pot makers of the Bronze Age were women.

 Vessels were made with hand moulding technique. Most of vessels (jars with vertical or slight convex walls) made with a use of ribbon technique. There was a special way of pot forming on the billet, and the woolsack full of wet sand served as a billet. After polishing the vessel had a flat, solid surface, and after an ignition it has a good peculiarity to keep water. Ordinarily vessels were ornamented. Tracery was patterned before the ignition or just on a dried loam, by sight, without preparatory draft. The ignition was performed, by all odds on the open fire. In order to do not crack the vessels while drying them up, a loam was deoiled adding a dash of pounded quartz, shell, sand, and rarely chamotte.

We may have an idea about art tastes and cuture of ancient tribes of the Bronze Age according to the jewelry and items of vertu. Seldom things may be found made with zoomorphic ornament. There are some bone images of animals’ heads. Stone pounder that was found on the shorefront of Nura Lake with the sculptural picture of a masculine head is of a big interest.

Tribes of the Bronze Age could produce a weapon that had been developing constantly. Weapon included arrows with bronze heads in a leaf form and plug for a fixing on the wood. They used bronze-headed spears, maces, and axe-mattocks in the close range fights. Some of warriors had bronze daggers with a scape for fixing on the wood or bone handle. In the late period of the bronze appeared full bronze daggers with an umbrella shaped head and crosswire.


Family community was a family-production collective, meanwhile during the collective labor properties belonged to all members of the community. By the time passed, especially by the late Bronze Age strong communities started to secede that lead to the appearance of family belongings.

Invention of the self-defense structures like shafts and graffs is aged to the period of tribalism reinforcement, to the early and middle periods of the Bronze Age. Findings of  bronze and bone arrowheads on the places of settlements and burial ground bear evidence of tribal warfare.

 In the late era of the Bronze Age because of clan separating and secede of particular families dwellings change. It was separated by a solid partition for sections designed for independent families.

Materials of  burial ground bear evidence of inequalities in wealth. Everywhere in the burial ground of Kazakhstan regions were found burials of poor and rich members of community of the period of the Bronze Age.

Kent settlement, mausoleums of the Begazy-Dandybayev culture, appearance of important items represent about elite individualization that started politicization process of the society, which took form in proto-state unions making process.

Religion, cults and Art.

 Life and wealth of tribes in the Bronze Age completely depended on the nature, so a human being spiritualized its power. First, it was the Sun, the fire, flora and fauna. Symbols of helical deity was on the jewelry – round plates on the clothes in the form of beams which go from the center to all around, on meanders and loam vessels as well.

 Tribes of the Bronze Age had a cult of fire, as evidenced by the popularity of cremation custom in this period. Relicts of burned bones were found in the burial grounds of all periods of the Bronze Age. Fire in the idea of ancient people purified the body of filth and protected a late from evil. Belief in ancestors and afterlife was popular in the tribes of the Bronze Age.

Sacrification appeared in the Bronze Age. Special places of oblation located near the settlements.

Sacrifications were offered up to the Sun, fire, moon, stars, and guardian spirits. Development of the human intellection turned into the complication of the apprehension of individuals and the nature, lead to creation of a religion idea. Especially petroglyphs hold and important information about religion ideas and Bronze Age cults, and art of cave drawings. It has been established that its cumulation served as sanctuaries of different levels – from clan to tribal.

 Many plots are connected with myths, due to this fact it is hard to perceive for modern people. Cave art of the Bronze Age had no storylines of ordinary household: no images of sheep, dwellings and settlement; subject of storylines is restricted. Despite it, there are many images of people with fixed tails, dressed up in animal leather, sun head deities and various types of animal. Most of all the storyline about two man standing with hands hold up to the heaven or in poses of confrontation. Cave art of Andropov culture was connected with heathen sort of idea about World.

 Mythological character of these drawings defined above all, by the painted exaggerated details. Enormous clubs with cave circles at the end, meanwhile in the real life weapon included bronze axe, spear, and bow with arrows that we know from excavation materials and petroglyphs. Unreal or archaic sort of ammunition of the character is always emphasized in mythological storylines. Hero is drawn with the fixed tail – a sign of being in the top social groups of charioteer warriors, hair of characters are tressed.

Storyline about two heroes fighting with the evil standing back to back or attacking some creature together is quite common. Many researchers connect these scenes of fight with a cult of brother twins. Another storyline pattern of the Bronze Age is chariot.

Chariots were used not only by warriors, but also by deities moved with a help of the chariot, especially the sun itself. Sometimes chariots were conventionalized, but there are some drawings where every detail was painted carefully: pole, wheels, axes, and ribbons.

Scenes of ritual actions and customs: sacrifications, dances, ritual fights in animal pelage are of great interest. These storylines located in the center of the sanctuaries in the front of flat surface where more likely were performed these ritual actions. Ones may see drawings of fight in the sanctuaries of Central Asia. Fights with axes drew in the most of large sanctuaries – in Tamghaly, Kuldjabasy, and in Qaraqyr. Not only the scene of fights shown in the paintings of Qaraqyr but the main prize for the winners as well. In this way a man is standing nearby the fighters with reins of two horses.

That composition was discovered several times. Perhaps, winners of these trials and survived warriors mustered to the privileged group of warriors – charioteers. Horses painted in the drawings in this case were intended for the war chariot. The materials from places of burials approve the existence of that kind of initiation for the Andronov culture. The distinct social group of charioteers is on the cave drawings, but according to the burial materials, there was no big difference in property and community, household gear of burial is more or less the same. Apparently it may be explained by the fact that differentiation of people was no about the origin, but about ritual fight results.

Some other dangerous ritual actions were painted on the other cave drawings. Dances with axes in Tamghaly and Kuldjabasy are well known. During these dances competitors performed sudden lunge on the sight of a neighbor and if he couldn’t manage to dodge – could be hit by the ax. Later ancient authors described similar rituals like aforementioned.

Some other pictures of dancing in peace, drawings of people without weapon or dressed up people were found later.

 These dances were dedicated to the cult of fertility. People dressed up in animal skin, masks and costumes according to the idea of ancient people identified with underground power and spirits. Dance of dressed ups showed the fight of the light and darkness power, fight with the spirit of animals, underground power. Confrontation of the harmony and chaos is represented in cave printings of the Bronze Age in the form of the fight between human being and giant. The giant, titan or demon is always natural chthonian power that must be won by human or bent to his will.

Different signs were printed around many scenes reflecting the most important events in mythology and real life. ‘Eye sign’ is one of the frequent occurrence. Perhaps these signs take origin from conventionalized image of wagon and chariot. Eye sign means movement. Moving in the space or time between alive people world, heaven of deities, and underground spirits. Like in Tamghaly, maybe in order to show the antiquity of that mythological occasion eye sign was embossed near the scene of bull and sun headed creature.

There are number of signs among petroglyphs unknown to researchers – nets, dwelling plans, zigzags. The meaning of the wheel is clear, traditionally symbolizes the world, the universe, the march of time.

Prominent layer of sanctuaries’ ancient paintings include paintings of animals: oxen, horses, goats, predators. Scenes of hunting for herbivores are common. Researchers noticed that storylines of petroglyphs are not always connected to the household long ago. In practice there is no paintings of animals about Zhetysu cave art (except horses put in harness or chariots). There is no storylines, which show people farming with mattock or cattle ranching. Almost all painted animals are wild. The sacral character of sanctuaries may explain absence of household scenes in storylines. Household scenes did not take place in later periods in the sanctuaries as well as in churches. Open sanctuaries, church were for sacral rituals use, celebration of religious rites, and all storylines show the religious-mythological ideas for this reason.

Large amount of snakes and goats image are in the sanctuaries because they were symbols of fertility. Nevertheless, meaning of these animals’ identity is broader. It is up to the place in the composition they were drawn. The snake was not only the symbol of fertility, but also symbol of wisdom, eternal life, sacral, and the symbol of death at last. Snake is able to live in both worlds: of nether world and the living. It was a result of people’s apprehension about snake as a power connecting dead and alive, the living and the nether world. Its ability to slough off lead to the myth about eternal life and wisdom of the snake. Finally, a bite from a snake brought a death, transferring a human from earth to the underground world. Compound picture of the goat and snake was the image of goat with snake-like horns. Similar pictures are widespread in the ancient sanctuaries of Central Asia, like Saymaly-Tash, but goats with snake-like horns of the Bronze Age were found in Kuldjabasy Mountains and Qaraqyra.

Images known as ‘Sun headed deities’ are rare and the most important. They can be found in the largest sanctuaries, and preferably in the central parts. Antropomorphic images indicates changes in religious apprehension of the Bronze Age people. Household development and properties lead to social groups’ appearance, to the kind of hierarchy, system of obedience in the community. Analogic hierarchy appears in the supreme forces well consequently. Mythological heroes, spirits, giants refer to the lowest group, to the middle group refer, perhaps sacral animals, and anthropomorphic creatures refer to the highest power group. Scene of these ‘floors’ of the World in Tamghaly is located in the center, above the large credence table.

In the midst of sacral animals’ images, first and utmost, oxen bears mentioning. Sacralization of the ox image is connected to its importance in the household, along with the preservation of the totemic perceptions where ox was represented as primogenitor and protector of the generation. Many images of oxen were found in Tamghaly and Kuljabasy in a manner of ornamented net on it that in the archaic period meant the oblational animal.

Another sacral animal of the Bronze Age era was a goat. That animal was a symbol of the fertility. Spirits of fertility were imaged in the skin of the goat. Scenes where a man in a mask of the goat is firing a bow at the wild goat was found in the Kuldjabasy Mountains. Images of people dressed up in goatskins are known in Tamghaly. Scenes of hunting for wild goats are widespread in sanctuaries of Semirechie.

The image of the Bactrian camel has a special importance among petroglyphs of Zhetysu.

That animal played a key role in life of tribes in the steppe as gave a possibility to migrate in large territory through steppes and deserts. A cult of the camel was launched in the era of Bronze Age. Most paintings of the camel of the Bronze Age era are in the Karatau mountains.  Images of camels 1.5-2 m height were intagliated on the wall of the sanctuary of Arpa-Uzen surrounding by small images of other animals. Drawings of Bactrian camels are famous in the largest sanctuaries of Zhetysu.

It’s quite possible to find scenes that are showing real occasions, hunting, battleships, predators’ attack. Hunting, predators’ attack or war, - these are demonstrations of the supreme power: chaos and order, harmony, good and evil, light and darkness.

Cave paintings allow to distinct cults, which played a key role in the religious-mythological apprehension of the Bronze Age people.  The cult of chaos and harmony battle took an important place. Regardless of the form or demonstration, that cult reflected the human fight with the nature, the battle of regulated human world with wild rampant nature.

In the result of farming development cult of the Sun is starting to have important meaning. Not accidentally due to this fact, the image of the supreme forces in the form of anthropomorphic figures presented sun disk headed with beams around. Large number of warriors’ paintings drawn with different weapon and charioteers evidence the start of the warrior charioteers cult forming that were separated during the era of developed Bronze into a special social group. Warrior who is riding a chariot and fighting alone that can be seen from petroglyphs had to learn trade of war most of his life, therefore charioteers were partly or completely free of household business, becoming almost professional warriors. Beside their deliverance from household activity, they had another privileges – part of war booty, right to participate war councils, presumably. Individualization of charioteers lead to the fight cult forming where warrior is – a hero plays a role of harmony power, light and good, and enemies – in the image of chaos, darkness and evil.

 Cult of oblation, mainly of the ox, maybe was aimed to grant the fertility and peace with order. The idea of an ox scarification is demonstrated clearly in the sanctuary of Tamghaly. In one of the scenes, we can see a man who is axing the bull standing on the same place. Solar symbol is printed behind the back of a man that is evidence of the cult meaning of the ritual. Nearby, a cow with a calf is knocked out on the next rock; next, you can notice the supreme deity of the fertility standing on the bull. Below, further from mentioned scenes there are many other killed animal around. In such a manner, the scarification of the ox was a warrantee the good reproduction of wild and domesticated animal.

It is reasonable to underline that the fertility was apprehended in a wide manner – it is a reproduction of the cattle, harvest, birth of children, and more importantly – the reproduction of the world – change of days, seasons. Idea of reproduction was a main link of all these elements of religious-mythological apprehension of ancient people.

Probably sanctuaries’ functioning for many years may be explained with the fact that main cults formed in the Bronze Age did not lose their idea in the next era up to the modern Middle Ages.