Sarmishsay – Stone Age art
A unique art gallery with 5000 rock carvings of Stone Ages
telling about our remote ancestors’ life and customs lived in the basin of the
Zarafshan River is to be a property of the whole Mankind soon. Uzbek scientists
have already gathered all the necessary documents for UNESCO to include it to
the list of world heritage.
Only 13 of such petroglyph (rock painting) collections around the world are
given this honor. The Uzbek rock gallery is located in the Sarmishsay Gorge on
the edge of Kizilkum desert, 30-40 km from young industrial city of Navoi. This
rare collection of petroglyphs is studied by scientists from Uzbekistan, France,
Norway, Poland and Kazakhstan. The results of their researches are to be
presented in April at the International Sarmishsay Conference convened by
Uzbekistan and UNESCO in Navoi.
The petroglyph collection on black rocks of Sarmishsay is the largest and most
studied one in Central Asia. The paintings are mainly carved in the middle part
of the gorge located at the beginning of a narrow stone canyon. The unique art
gallery stretches 2-2.5 km. They are made on plain vertical and sometimes
horizontal rock outcroppings with reddish pellicle covered like sunburn. The
petrglyphs are incised 0.5-3 mm with stone or metal tools. Combinations of
various techniques: cutout, scratching, rubbing are met there.
“The collection of petroglyph in Sarmishsay covers the period between 5000 BC
and Middle Ages.” tells Muhitdin Hudjanazarov, member of Archeology Institute of
Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, who devoted years to this collection and
published four scientific works: “Most of these petroglyphs date from the end of
Stone Age to Bronze Age that are still little studied periods of human
The petroglyphs – true little masterpieces – carved on every convenient “stone
mirror.” Some of them contain a number of rock pictures. The visitors of the
“gallery” can see the whole history of ancient history of the Zaravshan Valley.
There the first ingenious tries: figures, carved with stone tools. They look
just like our children’s – the same circles, lines. These pictures are simple,
look more like symbolic representation of objects. Further on we notice that
ancient artists develop their skills and depict neat silhouettes of animals;
humans got signs of gender, social position, activity. Pictures become more
realistic: artists try to depict silhouettes – shading, spots within a figure,
hatching. The petroglyphs are gradually filled with motion, artists’ ideas, and
even episodes of life: collective chasing for bovine animals, their
domestication, camel caravans, predators’ attack on ibexes, scenes with dances…
The pictures lead us through handicraft development – making bows, axes, swards,
through arise of wealth and spiritual values, ideology.
The Sarmishsay gallery gives quite a comprehensive picture of local fauna
thousands of years ago. Here we can meet pictures of ancient bulls, deers,
leopards, wolves, cheetahs, tigers… Today most of them have disappeared from
The ancestors in this region were very courageous. The rock paintings testify to
it. In one of it, not in Sarmishsay, but in southern Ferghana Valley there is an
episode of shepherd with a stick in hands fighting against a tiger. The
archeologists date this picture to 1000 BC. The scientists believe, at those
times it was usual for herdsman to defend their cattle with such primitive
“armor” as staves, sticks.
There are over 150 places with rock carvings discovered in Uzbekistan. In
Ferghana Valley in Rishtan, famous for its blue ceramics, in Suratysay area
there is a collection of petroglyphs with accurate pictures of oxen. The
specialists date them to 4000-3500 BC. The rock carvings, found in Khodjakent,
in Chirchik river valley 70 km from Tashkent are dated to the same period. Over
90 petroglyphs found there depict scenes with goats, ibexes, argali, horses,
dogs and several pictures of human. But the pictures of females with bright
sexual characters and round shapes are of greater interest for archeologists.
The pictures of women in rocks are very rare for the late Stone Ages. The
similar pictures were found among Gobustan pettroglyphs, Azerbaijan. These
pictures can be also compared with anthropomorphous statuettes of late Stone
Ages from South Turkmenistan, Middle East and Transcaucasia.
“The main objective of the scientists is to preserve as much as possible the
unique petroglyphs in the ancient land of Uzbekistan for future generation, and
open these historical cites for those who are sure to understand them better
than we do”, says Muhitdin Hudjanazarov.
The Sarmishsay Petroglyphs are the worthy acquisition to the world heritage of
UNESCO. Our ancient cities of
Bukhara, Shahrisyabz and
already made its treasure.