Tanbaly Tas Petroglyphs

The petroglyphs of Tanbaly Tas in the Altyn-Emel National Park are rock paintings of the Bronze, Iron and Middle Ages.


The Tanbaly Tas petroglyphs are located in the western part of the Altyn-Emel National Park in the Sholak (Chulak) mountains, in the Kara-Espe, Taigak, Terekty and partially Kyzylauyz gorges, 17 km from Checkpoint 1 (when entering the park from the village of Shengeldy).

Historical and Cultural Landmark

The Tanbaly Tas petroglyphs in the Altyn-Emel National Park are part of one of the main and largest rock art centers in the world, which stretches along the Sayan and Altai to the Tien Shan and Pamir mountains.

Animals, anthropomorphic characters, scenes of hunting, everyday life, migrations, rituals, geometric symbols (solar symbols and others) are depicted on natural canvases - patinated rocks.

Many petroglyphs are most likely associated with the Besshatyr burial mounds in the Ili river valley, since most of the drawings date from the Bronze Age to the Saka Era, although there are also more recent paintings dating from the Middle Ages.

Petroglyphs - drawings of people and animals carved on stone - give an idea of ​​the lifestyle of the nomadic tribes that inhabited the territory of Semirechye (Jetysu, Seven Rivers) in ancient times.

Images of people and animals (deer, argali, ibex, wolves, snow leopards) reflect a closer connection between man and nature than at the present time. The ancient nomads revered the natural elements and animals living nearby, as their survival and well-being depended on it.

In the Taigak gorge, rare images of two elephants were found, as well as Buddhist inscriptions, the main meaning of which can be reduced to a universal prayer formula, "Om mani padme hum". Their appearance is associated with the spreading of Buddhism among nomads in the 9th-10th centuries and its support by the Mongol conquerors in the 13th century.

The first sketch from this monument of late Buddhism was made in 1856 by the first explorer of the sanctuary, Chokan Valikhanov, who was interested in this religion. Judging by the concentration of the inscriptions, one can suggest that one of the monasteries of Buddhist lamas could have been located in this area (possibly at the present Taigak post of the Altyn-Emel National Park).

Tanbaly Tas petroglyphs are a rare historical monument that reflects the religious beliefs of nomads, from the pagan era with the cult of the sun (images of sun-headed deities) to the Buddhist culture (lamaist inscriptions).

Tanbaly Tas is of great cultural and historical value and, along with the Besshatyr necropolis, is under the protection of UNESCO.

Tanbaly Tas
Tanbaly Tas Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs in Altyn-Emel
Altyn-Emel Rock Paintings
Altyn-Emel Park Petroglyphs
Tanbaly Tas
Altyn-Emel: Tanbaly Tas


Tanbaly Tas means "stone with signs", "painted stone" in Kazakh. This term is applied not only to rock paintings in the Altyn-Emel National Park, but also to other petroglyphs in the south-east of Kazakhstan.

Not far from Altyn-Emel, down the Ili river, there is another petroglyphic complex, known under the more Russian-like name, Tamgaly Tas, and famous for its images of Buddha.

170 km north-west of the Almaty city, in the Chu-Ili mountains area named Tamgaly, there is an open-air museum of rock art, the name of which is currently changing in accordance with the rules of the Kazakh language to Tanbaly.

Tanbaly Tas, Altyn-Emel

Tanbaly Tas is the traditional Kazakh name for rock paintings.

Tourist Attraction

Studying of rock paintings is like visiting of an open-air museum of antiquity, an opportunity to dive into centuries. Touching the images carved in stone, it is hard to believe that the unknown master who worked on them lived in times before our era. It is amazing that nature has preserved these works of art, despite the destructive influence of time.

In order to get to the Tanbaly Tas petroglyphs, you need to drive into the national park via Checkpoint 1 from the village of Shengeldy.

The gorges of the Sholak mountains, the western end of Dzhungarian Alatau, where petroglyphs are located, are very picturesque and secluded places that attract scientists, researchers of local flora and fauna, birdwatchers and mountain trekking enthusiasts.

The western part of the Altyn-Emel National Park is a protected area - here you can see kulans and gazelles, which are under the protection of the Altyn-Emel National Park. Thanks to the preservation of this territory in its original form, rare animals and birds listed in the Red Book, feel at ease here. Even the rarest snow leopard was noted in the Sholak mountains.

Gorges with petroglyphs are located near the wild coast of Kapchagai, where you can relax and sunbathe.

The Besshatyr Saka mounds are located 15 kilometers from Tanbaly Tas. The entire narrow valley between the mountains of Dzhungarian Alatau and the Ili river was, apparently, a sacred territory for ancient nomads. Here burials were made and pagan rituals were performed.

There are two hotels in this part of the park - at the Zhantogai and Taigak posts, also you can arrange camping in tents or motorhomes on the banks of Kapchagai.

Checkpoint 1 Altyn-Emel
Camping in Altyn-Emel
Tien Shan Cherry in the Sholak Mountains
Kapchagai Water Reservoir
Kulan in Altyn-Emel Park
Himalayan Vulture
Beshatyr Mounds
Arba Travel

Arba Travel offers tours from Almaty to the Saka mounds of Besshatyr and the petroglyphs of Tanbaly Tas.

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