Tamgaly Petroglyphs

About Tamgaly Petroglyphs

Tamgaly is a petroglyph site in the Zhetysu of Kazakhstan. Tamgaly became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Tamgaly is located 170 km (by road) northwest of Almaty.

The earliest of the petroglyphs of Tamgaly date from the Bronze Age (about 3,000 years ago), when the area was populated by the precursors to the Iranian Saka/Scythian people, and the most recent from the 18th or 19th century.


There are approximately 5,000 petroglyphs at Tamgaly distributed among 48 sites. Five of the most important sites, designated I, II, III, IV, and V, contain approximately 3,000 of the glyphs. These five sites are concentrated in the small Tamgaly canyon. Another 22 sites of secondary importance contain from 50 to 100 representations each. The remaining sites contain from 1 to 50 figures each and are widely distributed in area. The Tamgaly petroglyphs represent work of four different epochs.

Middle Bronze Age

Glyphs have the greatest aesthetic and cultural value. Image sizes average around 25 to 30 cm with exceptional images reaching 0.7 to 1.0 meters in size. They were developed primarily by picking with an engraving depth of 3 to 5 mm. They tend to have a naturalistic allure with the range of images including anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and syncretic subjects. Examples include solar deities (sun-heads), disguised personages, men with clubs, archers with wolf masks, worshippers, armed warriors, animal and human sacrifices, erotic scenes, birthing women, chariots, bulls, asses, horses, camels, boars, wolves, deer, etc. Some of the animalistic images represent species that are extinct today.

Late Bronze Age and transitional period

Glyphs have less variety and are less technically rendered. They are picked to a depth of one to two millimeters. Average size is less than 15 cm. Complex subjects are rare. Horses, bulls, and wild animals remain but with more scenes of pastoral life added.

Middle Ages and modern time

petroglyphs are fewer in number with only about 300 images. Scenes include dueling warriors. Hunting scenes tend to have more emphasis on the hunter rather than the prey. More emphasis is placed on banners, weapons, and horse equipment. Figures are more superficially engraved and many are made as additions to earlier glyphs. Locations of the engravings are less prominent.

location on map


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