Kemal Akishev was born in a large family on May 24, 1924 in a small settlement called Bayanaul, located in Pavlodar region. There were seven children in his family. His mother was the elder sister of a bright Qazaq public figure, an academician, geologist Kanysh Satpayev. During the years of collectivization and a massive starvation Kemal Akishev’s parents died. At that time, he was seven years old. As far as Kanysh Satpayev knew about it, he took him and his brothers and sisters under his care.
Thanks to him, he graduated from a secondary school and immediately was recruited to the Soviet army. In the spring of 1943, he, being as a part of the 230th Stalin rifle division, was sent to the front in Voronezh. He participated in the liberation of Voronezh, Donbass, Odessa, Tiraspol.
In Moldova, in the battles of Bender in July 1944, Kemal Akishev was seriously wounded in his right hand by a sniper bullet. At the end of 1944 he was demobilized, he returned to Almaty. At that time, he was only 20 years old. His arm was saved from amputation, but it remained motionless for the rest of his life.
Kemal Akishev dreamt to be a geologist from his childhood, like his uncle Kanysh Satpayev. But he had to part with that dream. The right hand was the main tool of the field geologist. As a result, Kemal Akishev entered the History Department of the Qazaq State University named after S.Kirov (now it is Al-Farabi Qazaq National University). The University is located in Almaty. He graduated from the University in 1950.
He participated in his first expedition in 1947, at that time he was a student. It was the Central Qazaqstan archaeological expedition under the leadership of A.Margulan. The main task of the expedition was to carry out long-term exploration and stationary excavation works on the study of monuments of different eras.
Kemal Akishev, being a member of the expedition, during the period 1947-1952 traveled most of the territory of Saryarka, several times crossed the territory of Qazaqstan, called Betpak-Dala, visited Western Qazaqstan. He took part in the excavations of the famous Begaza mausoleums.
As a result of the studies of the Central Qazaqstan archaeological expedition, a general periodization of the antiquities of Central Qazaqstan was created, very interesting monuments of different stages of the Andronovo and Begaz-Dandybay cultures were opened, key moments of social and economic history, the material spiritual culture of the tribes of the II-beginning of I millennium BC were found out, controversial issues related to the origin and dissemination of the Andronovo culture and mutual influence of tribes were raised. The materials collected by the expedition were later published in the form of a monograph and became the most valuable source of information in the field of archeology of Central Qazaqstan. The book was released in 1966.
In 1950 he entered the postgraduate school of the Leningrad branch of the Institute of Archeology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. On December 4, 1953, he defended his thesis for the candidate’s degree on the topic “The Bronze Age of Central Qazaqstan”.
In his work, he presented a chronological classification and a comprehensive systematization of monuments of the Bronze Age of Central Qazaqstan. His work was the first experience of generalization and systematization of materials accumulated by that time about the Bronze Age and ended with a description of the social and economic history of the Bronze Age tribes. Soon he was hired by the Department of Archeology of the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of the Qazaq SSR. His professional carrier began at that historical moment, when a campaign designed at developing of virgin and fallow lands in Qazaqstan took place.
To that end special archaeological research teams were organized in the country in the period between 1954 – 1956. The North Qazaqstan and Akmola expeditions of the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography were formed. Those expeditions were carried out in order to register and record archaeological monuments. So as in the spring of 1955 all the fields were to be ploughed up, disappearing completely for science. Totally there were formed 10 landscape survey teams. Kemal Akishev headed the North Qazaqstan and Ile archaeological expedition.
In the first season, the expedition discovered vast concentration of burial mounds, mainly of the Usun time (II century BC - I century AD). Kemal Akishev’s team registered 62 burial mounds, 4 sites of the Neolithic era, that is the early Iron Age. All in all, 49 burial mounds were excavated.
The materials of the Ile expedition led by Kemal Akishev revealed unknown pages of history, namely the period of formation of tribal unions, the establishment of nomadic herding, the emergence of class relations and the emergence of the first hallmarks of a statehood.
The main goal of the expeditions was to preserve and reveal the aesthetic and historic value of the monuments, to conserve them for science, which, in the absence of written information, are the only source of knowledge about the ancient history of the region.
In the late 50s, Kemal Akishev discovered a unique burial mound of the Sakian era - the Besshatyr necropolis. The burial mound “Besshatyr” is a tomb of the kings of the Saks - Tigrahaud. During four years (in 1957, 1959 - 1961) 18 tumuli were excavated at that place. Three of those tumuli were big and the rest were medium and small. Unfortunately, almost all the mounds were looted. Notwithstanding that, the mounds of Besshatyr gave the most valuable dating material (daggers, arrowheads).
The study of monuments radically changed the way we knew about the culture of the Saka tribes of Semirechie, about the level of their building skills, and the experience of usage of wood, stone and reed in the construction of houses and places of worship.
The results of the expedition were published in 1963 in the monograph “Ancient Culture of Sakas and Usuns of the Ile River Valley”. From this monument and exploration work, conducted in Semirechie, Kemal Akishev began to study deeply the Saka archeology and nomadism in general. He devoted all his life and energy to know more about those pages of Qazaqstani history.
Kemal Akishev is known throughout the Eurasian continent as an archaeologist who discovered the Issyk burial. The world-famous “The Golden Man”, which became one of the symbols of independent Qazaqstan, was found by him there.
Kemal Akishev lived in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Qazaqstan since 2000. He came to the main city of Qazaqstan at the invitation of the First President of the country, Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev and organized the Ishim archaeological expedition.
Thanks to that expedition, the excavations of the ancient settlement Bozok, situated within the boundaries of Nur-Sultan city, began. He found and proved that there was an ancient city approximately in VII-VIII centuries AD in the place of Nur-Sultan. The city existed until the XVI century AD and in different years was an administrative and commercial center of the region, the military base of the Qazaq rulers along the Great Silk Road, and the Islamic spiritual center of the people of the Great Steppe.
He is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and 15 books.
The brilliant archaeologist and scientist died on August 10, 2003 in Almaty.
Kemal Akishev is a veteran of the Second World War, was awarded the Order “The Badge of Honor”, was granted Military Merit medal, a medal “For the Victory Over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945”, the Order of Victory, the Order of “The Parasat”, his name is included into the Golden Book of Honor of Qazaqstan.