Friday, Dec 09 2016
All Cities
Choose Your City
'Lake Baikal: the very name fills Russian hearts with awe'
Mike Carter, The Observer

These petroglyphs believed to be drawn 8,000 to 10,000 years ago in remotest Siberia

By Anna Liesowska
03 August 2015

But who were the mysterious Paleolithic artists of these rock drawings?

Stylistically, the drawings match the Paleolithic era, some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Picture: Lidia Zotkina

A new expedition to the Ukok plateau, some 2,500 metres high in the Altai Mountains close to the modern-day Russian border with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan, has found evidence that a set of intriguing petroglyphs are far older than previously thought. 

Stylistically, the drawings match the Paleolithic tradition, some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. If this is true, they will be the oldest in Siberia by several millennia. 

The Ukok Plateau is known for its thriving ancient societies highlighted by the elaborate burials of important people - including that of the remarkable tattooed 'Ukok princess', pictured here. But she lived far more recently on the plateau, some 2,500 years ago. 

Elsewhere in the Altai Mountains, some areas have no petroglyphs at all, while certain places are like alfresco picture galleries left by our ancestors, dating from around 5,000 years ago, also less ancient than the oldest suspected Ukok images, which include pictures of horses and probably bison. 

Ukok petroglyphs


Ukok petroglyphs


Ukok petroglyphs

'If we had found them somewhere in France, we would not doubt they are Paleolithic, but here, in Siberia, we need to prove it.' Picture: Lidia Zotkina.  Drawings by  Vyacheslav Molodin and Dmitry Cheremisin

The site on the Ukok plateau, known as the Kalgutinsky Rudnik (Kalgutinsky Mine), where a tungsten-molybdenum deposit was found, also includes more recent petroglyphs. It was revealed for the first time by Dr Vyacheslav Molodin and Dr Dmitry Cheremisin in 1992. 

A number of problems prevent the straightforward dating of the drawings in this wild and stunning location on the Ukok plateau, yet despite these hurdles French academics who observed the petroglyphs this summer, like their Russian colleagues, believe them to be truly ancient. 

Siberian specialist Dr Lidia Zotkina said: 'We had already worked with this site, but this year was the first stage of an international joint project with our colleagues from France. 'Between 1 and 25 July, we worked  on the plateau and now can share some preliminary results.'

She stressed that dating is complex, and further work is needed, but said: 'We have converging data suggesting that the petroglyphs could be Paleolithic and thus the most ancient known in Siberia.

Ukok petroglyphs

The site on the Ukok plateau, known as the Kalgutinskoye Mine, located almost on the Russian-Mongolian border. Picture: The Siberian Times

'When the French archaeologists first arrived on the Ukok plateau and saw the petroglyphs they said: 'If we had found them somewhere in France, we would not doubt they are Paleolithic, but here, in Siberia, we need to ascertain their age.' 

The Ukok petroglyphs are drawn onto glacier-polished rhyolite, a volcanic rock, usually on horizontal planes. Normally archeologists could obtain dates from surrounding sediments forming in clear layers, but the exceptionally windy conditions on this exposed plateau mean excavations around the  petroglyphs will not 'give a relevat stratigraphy'.

The conditions on the plateau are such that 'we cannot use here the classic archaeological methods (for dating) - and need to find new and innovative ways,' explained Dr Zotkina, from the Mirror Lab of Novosibirsk State University.

Ukok petroglyphs


Ukok petroglyphs


Ukok petroglyphs

'It is interesting that using a 20 times microscope we found traces of scraping the surface by stone. Obviously, the ancient people made a kind of sketch with stone and only after this engraved the petroglyph.' Pictures: Lidia Zotkina

'This year we worked with geomorphologists from the laboratory EDYTEM (Savoi)- their main task was to determine when the glaciers left this site - and traceologists. According to the preliminary data, the glacier could have retreated as early as between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. So that is when ancient people could access this place and create the petroglyphs.'

By doing traceological analysis under the guidance of Dr Hugues Plisson 'we are trying to find out if the ancient masters used stone or metal implements to make the petroglyphs. Of course if we established that they used metal implements, all our hypothesis about Paleolithic dating would be disproved immediately.'

Yet the weight of evidence so far goes the other way. 

'At the moment we see the use of the stone implements. It is interesting that using a 20 times microscope we found traces of scraping the surface by stone. Obviously, the ancient people made a kind of sketch with stone and only after this engraved the petroglyph.'

Remarkably, the researchers 'found tiny traces of these sketches' or templates. To test their theory, the scientists tried using the technique they believe was deployed by ancient man. 

Ukok petroglyphs


Ukok petroglyphs


Ukok petroglyphs

'According to the preliminary data, the glacier retreated as early as between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. So that is when ancient people could access this place and create the petroglyphs.' Pictures: Lidia Zotkina

'The rock with the petroglyphs is exceptionally tough - it is rhyolite. Besides, the glacier polished them, forming a lacquer-like crust, and as a result it is very hard, almost impossible to engrave any image. One needs to prepare the surface, to break this crust first.

'We made an experiment and found that first we need to scratch or peck the stone to prepare the surface and only then to make the engravings. We checked the traces of our scratching with the microscope and they coincided with the ancient ones.'

But who made these ancient petroglyphs?

Dr Zotkina said: 'Some big Paleolithic sites where people must have lived were not found yet. The climate on Ukok does not help to preserve such sites, so we do not know who could make these Petroglyphs, if it is correct that they are Paleolithic. But I think that it is a matter of the time. Sooner of later Paleolithic sites will be found and we will get more information about the people who could engrave these images.'

Comments (7)

It's 300 or so miles from the denisova cave. And 30,000 years later if the dating is right. Trust the science not the woo.
Jamie, Uk
16/08/2016 04:19
1
0
In regard to statement by Janet Horwith: Denisova Cave is in the Altai, not the Ural mountains. The 2 areas are widely separated, sorry.
vanda burns, Florida, USA
12/03/2016 23:03
0
0
While the drawings depicted here are eerily similar to those of Lescaux, the rock etching shows a much more elementary form of etching. Radiometric Dating can be used to date stone if any radioactive isotopes are present to obtain decay rates. In agreement with Doug Gibson, this site is close to that of the Denisovan Cave in the Urals, the etching may have been a message to our migratory ancestors that this area was a rich hunting ground. All this aside, it is intriguing and well worth the time taken to investigate further. This site may well be much more ancient or Denisovan.
Janet Horwith, Phoenix,AZ USA
16/08/2015 21:00
1
0
Saludos amigos de Siberia y Rusia:
Para mí es un honor recibir noticias de un lugar tan distante y famoso como Altai y Kukov. He visto unos cuantos documentales chinos sobre la zona y otros del canal infinito, que lo eliminaron en mala hora, que creo eran rusos. Es maravilloso encontrar petroglifo tan lejanos y creo que hay un fenómeno de luces y sonidos en la zona. También Altai posee una gran riqueza en peidras preciosas y meteoritos. Gracias por el contacto y se lo agardezco al dr Hancoock.
Jose Carrillo, Los Guayos/Carabobo/Venezuela
07/08/2015 06:17
2
0
This site is extremely close to the site of the discovery of the Denisovan cave artifacts/bones. It is almost in the same location.
Doug Gibson, Moose Jaw, Canada
05/08/2015 11:52
5
1
I think the 2nd picture looks more moose, or reindeer like, not like a bison at all, just my opinion.
J Harper, Winnipeg Canada
05/08/2015 03:45
1
0
WOMEN WERE THE ARTISTS OF THESE STONES, wake up hobbits
Death, no time
04/08/2015 23:11
2
6
1

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy

Name

Town/Country

Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory


News

Business

The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies
EUR68.25USD63.39GBP80.08Other...