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WHAT TO DO IN MONGOLIA. 11. TO VISIT TO BIGGEST NATURE GALLERY OF ROCK ART

Blog | published: 2019-01-15

11TH THING YOU SHOULD DO IN MONGOLIA IS TO VISIT TO NATURE LARGEST GALLERY OF ROCK ART   

Blue Mongolia Tour agency names the one of the best things to do in Mongolia is to visit to nature biggest gallery of ancient rock engravings.  

  • Where is one of the biggest, the longest, the widest, the richest gallery of rock art works with the most many numbers in the world?
  • In Mongolia from Asia and Zimbabwe from Africa continents.
  • What are the names of the site with lots of rock art in Mongolia?
  • The biggest and the most valueable and richest site is called as Tsagaan Salaa and Baga Oigor’s Petroclyphic Complex in Bayan-Ulgii province. The second biggest and most mysterious and the most meaningful Rock art Site is Del Mountain’s Rock Art Complex in Dundgobi Province.
  • Are these art works engravings or paintings?
  • These are engravings – petroglyphs.

What is about Baga Oigor Tsagaan Salaa Rock Art Complex?   

It was determined during the archaeological expedition work by Mongolia-Russia-America in 1994 and then in 2011 it was registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Unique Rock Art Complex sizes with 20 km long and 2 km wide areas, as well as it keeps approximately 100.000 figures on south side of Tsagaan Salaa river. This Tsagaan Salaa Complex is the richest in terms of chronological age, quantity, and quality of imagery and the most understandable in terms of content and culture side.  There are images of various animal species (wild goats, wild mountain sheep, wolves, tigers or pumas, hyenas, elephants), hunting scenes, and scenes depicting aspects of human life in the region. Single depiction of wild animals are dated to back to neolithic age (8000-3000B.C). There are humans riding and leading animals, loaded caravans and schematic drawings of what we assume are enclosures and these kinds of depiction is dated back to Bronze age (3000-1000B.C). At some parts of this area, chariots or wagons were being used and their images pecked into the rocks. Scenes with animals being ridden, pastorized animals and hunting animals and their very well depictions are dated to more early by iron age – B.C1000-B.C200 years.

What is about Del Mountain Rock Art Complex?

Second massive collection of rock art, specially, rock petroglyphs complex is located in gobi steppe in the distance of 350 km south of Ulaanbaatar. The Del Mountain Rock Art Complex territory reaches 5 km long and 3 km wide rocky hills in gobi desert steppe area. It has keeping approximately 5000 rock carvings. Almost all of these rock art is a carving, no paintings. The Del Mountain name is sent to World Heritage Center to be registered under the name of UNESCO Cultural Heritage.      

These rock engravings are rich not only in their numbers, but also in meanings, expressiveness, subject and compositions. These carvings are important proof at the open air art that transition from ancient hunter-gatherer societies transferred to livestock breeding and the beginning of the classic nomad economy in Mongolia.

Certain imagery seems clearly to have had some kind of religious/ritual significance: For example: bell-shaped anthropomorphs, dancing people, birthing scenes, standing people, funeral ceremony depiction and so on… A great deal of the imagery may be connected with human and animal reproduction and love-making group process.

Who were the artists? 

Today we can see that ancient talented painters and rock carvers were living in present Mongolian territory.  Most of carvings are made by ancient hunter-gatherer families in neolithic period, later made by animal herders- nomadic tribe people during the Bronze age, who were ancestors of present Mongolian and Tureg tribes. These Hunter- gatherer families would live together in a cave or ground hole shelters, feeding on yangirs (a type of wild mountain goat) and using the animals skin to make clothing.   

What’s on display in these complexes?

Ancient rock carvers used stone tools during the Neolithic period and later used bronze knives and iron hardy chisel to make carvings on rocks. Most of the depicted objects are simple and single animals: wild mountain sheep, wild mountain goats, tigers or pumas, or snow leopards, hyenas, steppe wolves, cows and bulls, man and woman, hunter and hunted animals and so on…    

But some of the tableaus are much more complex; 1 man is falling in the ground, 7 women are looking at him and other men dancers are dancing happily. It’s generally believed they depict communities in a funeral ceremony. Another tableaus is more strange about shamanic rituals: getting into trance and dancing and so on.. The Mongols are — big believers in the spirit world, and some talented artists would incorporate liver colored red stones into their scenes, using them as a portal for animals and people to enter another dimension.

These massive rock arts are an important treasure and art history: not only because they’re very numerous, but also because their composition and interpretation have a big expressiveness and real historical and artistic significance.  Relating the transition between a primary society, based on hunting and picking, and a breeding society, they give us precious information about the beginnings of nomadic pastoral economy in Mongolia.

It’s art based on life! Of course it’s controversial

One of the country’s more risqué and shameful rock art appears to show group sexual activity. Ancient time, there is a philosophy that if someone is leaving this human world, it means that if someone is dead, another new baby should come back in return. So funeral ceremony depiction and group sex depiction may be found in one place very close to each other. It is the topic of life wheel.  

How has rock petroglyphs stayed so pristine?

Dry conditions and inaccessible locations have kept many rock engravings in very good condition, looks like it was carved as yesterday.

Religious Interpretation

In many instances, the creation of rock art was itself a ritual act.Some rock art has been interpreted to represent presumed cultural behaviors. In Mongolian other places there are so many of rock painting and rock carvings portraying shamans, such as man with six fingers, man holding a drum in his hand, or woman with bitting the drum, and some symbols used in shamanic religious ceremonies such as hollowed eyes, cross, the sun and the moon and so on.. . The concept of death and revival is often associated with shamans and the way they are portrayed. Some carvings claim that the mysterious figures are evidence of alien visitation in our ancient past, For example: A man with 2 long anthennas on the head, triangular shaped head man, the half round shaped object with two legs and so on…

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