Report on the first workshop and field trips for certification of petroglyphs

Aigine CRC organized a workshop and field trips from 31 July to 3 August.

The purpose of the workshop and field trips:

  • To carry out certification of Ak-Bulun petroglyphs according to the established norms/standards and include the petroglyphs into the state registry for the further protection.

To achieve the goal, the following key activities were planned:

  • To conduct a workshop for students of the Issyk-Kul State University (ISU) named after K. Tynystanov and the Kyrgyz National University named after. Zh. Balasagyn (KNU) on the norms/standards of certification of petroglyphs, as well as the interpretation of traditional knowledge preserved on petroglyphs.
  • Field trips to create photo and video materials for the certification of Ak-Bulun petroglyphs and online map

Student selection

From July 22 to July 29, ISU and KNU students were selected to participate in the project. The selection at KNU was conducted by Oroz Soltobaev, archaeologist, candidate of historical sciences, teacher of KNU and project expert, at ISU by Zukhra Abdumanapova, candidate of philological sciences, associate professor of the Department of Russian Language and Literature of ISU.

The following people were selected to participate in the workshop:

  1. Meshcheryakova Arianna (ISU)
  2. Avaz uulu Bakbergen (ISU)
  3. Askarov Uran (ISU)
  4. Tologonova Kyyal (ISU)
  5. Beishenova Begimay (ISU)
  6. Alymbekova Nazmi (ISU)
  7. Savochkina Polina (ISU)
  8. Tursunbekova Tinatin (ISU)
  9. Shaimerdenova Altynai (KNU)
  10. Beishenkulov Nurzhigit (KNU)

Educational theoretical and practical workshop

The dates of the workshop were agreed upon with the main experts of the project, archaeologist Soltobaev Oroz and official of the Ministry of Culture of the Kyrgyz Republic Zholdoshov Chynarbek, as well as traditional knowledge specialists Zhumagazy Sadyr uulu and Chynara Seidakhmatova.

The workshop was held on July 31 at the Issyk-Kul State University in Karakol. The workshop was attended by 10 students (7 ISU students and 2 KNU students). The following subjects were covered at the workshop:

  • Norms and processes of certification of petroglyphs
  • Places of accumulation of petroglyphs, boulders and mounds, as a reflection of the traditional life of local nomads
  • Meaning of Petroglyphs in the Interpretation of Traditional Practitioners of Kyrgyzstan

Soltobaev Oroz, Zhumagazy uulu Sadyr, Seidakhmatova Chynar and Zholdoshov Chynarbek presented lectures based on a preliminary study of Ak-Bulun petroglyphs. The discussion was raised by questions of terminology accepted in classical archeology and used by Kyrgyz spiritual practices.

The documentary film “The Mystery of Petroglyphs”, created by the Aigine CRC was shown at the end of the workshop.

During the field trip to Ak-Bulun petroglyphs on August 1 and 2, the students learned the essentials steps of identifying, numbering and recording the petroglyphs as part of a certification process.

On the first day, the students were divided into pairs. Each pair was tasked to explore designated area of the site for careful investigation and identification of stone carvings. They were to  mark the stones with images for their further inclusion in the final archaeological list. As a result of a thorough study of the area, students found 7 new stones with images that had not previously been recorded during the preliminary study trip.

The second day of the trip was devoted to teaching the students estampage or stamping – the process of getting an exact copy of a stone carving, which is typically derived by applying wet and/or dry mica paper onto the rock face, over which any ink material is wiped. Upon learning the stamping technique, the students were divided into groups tasked to estampage the petroglyphs they chose and identified as special and.or unique. As a result, the students managed to stamp 20 images – images of mountain goats, a camel, anthropomorphic figures, deer, etc. were transferred onto the mica paper. Also, together with the whole group, a stone statue – balbal – was stamped under the guidance of Oroz Soltobaev. The experts positively assessed the practical work of the students. The stampings will be digitized and included in the multimedia product of the project.

Registration of petroglyphs

Simultaneously to practical students’ exercise of estampage, the project experts numbered each identified stone and took GPS coordinates and photos. As a result of two full days of field work, 67 stones with various images were registered with individual number assigned and GPS coordinates and photos taken.

Difficulties and interim results

According to the general impression of the participants, the workshop and field trips were successful, with almost all tasks being achieved.

On the workshop: the first difficulty we encountered was to attract the attention and interest of the students to work in the field. Abdumanapova Zukhra, lecturer at ISU, showed great interest in research, and actually became a member of the group.

Four of the 10 students who took part in the workshop showed a particular interest in field research and study of petroglyphs and the process of stamping. This result, we consider as moderately successful.

Discussions of ideas for future multimedia results of the project: ideas for an online platform about the historical and archaeological sites of Ak-Bulun and ideas for visualizing the process of certification of archaeological sites, planned within the framework of the workshop, were postponed to the next workshop. Taking into account the general level of preparation of the student group, the project team focused on topics that were more necessary for practical work. In particular, classical archaeological definitions and their corresponding traditional terms were discussed in detail. Discussions of the multimedia results of the project are postponed to the next workshop, when all materials from the field trips will be presented.

At the end of the three-day work, students received certificates of participation in the workshop and  small scholarships.

Based on the results of the workshop, the experts and the project coordinator came up with the idea to hold a workshop in the village of Ak-Bulun with the participation of the villagers and employees and leaders of the local government. The purpose of the planned workshop is to raise awareness of the local population about the importance and necessity of preserving historical and archaeological monuments located near Ak-Bulun complexes of petroglyphs, boulders and mounds.

Regarding the process of registering the petroglyphs: the work on registering the stone carvings for 2 days of field work was carried out by experts as successfully as possible. It was possible to fully register 67 stones with images. About 20 stones of a small place remained unnumbered (the western side of one of the three hills where petroglyphs are accumulated). Data on these stones are already available from the results of the first exploration trip. The results of all field trips will be combined by project experts into a single report.

Further activities:

Based on the archaeological description of  Ak-Bulun petroglyphs, it will be discussed and planned the certification of Ak-Bulun petroglyphs to include the complex in the list of historical monuments of local importance for further protection.

Another field trip is planned to complete the work on numbering the remaining stone carvings.

In the near future, the tasks of the planned seminar in Ak-Bulun will be discussed.