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Pamir is a highland region differently defined. A famous geographer, Agakhanyants O.-E. (1965), for example, determines four regions from a combination of physiographical conditions: Kashgar, Central, Hindukush, Vakhan Hindukush, and Western Pamir. However, Pamir is divided according to the administrative borders of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of the Republic of Tajikistan: in the north along the Alai Range, in the south along the Pamir and Pyandzh rivers, in the east along the Sarykol Range, and in the west along the Darvaz and Khazretishi Ranges. Geomorphological features differentiate Western Pamir (Badakhshan), with a Mediterranean type of vegetation, from Eastern Pamir, where the vegetation is Central Asian. Western and Eastern Pamir strongly differ from one another according to terrain, climate, and natural settings. The frontier is marked along the 73rd meridian that stretches from the Lenin Peak south of the Muzkol Range and farther east to the middle of the North Alichur Range along the western shore of Lake Yashilkul and to the Pamir River in the area of the Khargush Pass.

Western Pamir (Badakhshan) petroglyphs

It is part of a deeply dissected terrain in a highland that evolved in the Pleistocene as a result of the active denudation at a high altitude, with peaks at 7,000-6,000m above sea level (Ismail Samani Peak: 7,482m, Karl Marx Peak: 6,726, or Mayakovskiy Peak: 6,095m and others). Separated from the Central Asian deserts, this region shows no loess accumulation under conditions of deep erosion, but only gravitational and alluvial deposits. The lowest tier of the narrow and deep Badakhshan valleys consists of pebble terraces. This is the center of social life. The most ancient terraces are preserved in fragments as small patches of alluvium : suspended high above the valley at an altitude of 300-700m. A specific feature of the Badakhshan valleys is steep mountain slopes often covered with a thick layer of scree and altitude differences between the bottoms of valleys and the mountain ranges, aligned mainly from north to south and reaching 3,000.4,000m. The steepness of slopes sometimes causes a change in elevation from 500m to 1km.

The Badakhshan mountains are considered dry. Annual precipitation in the valleys ranges from 100mm to 20mm and up to 300mm in the west of the region. In February-March the snow cover reaches 20-40cm and stays for about three months. Maximum precipitation occurs from March to May. The summer in the valleys is warm or moderately warm. Temperature changes are significant within a range of 24 hours.

The Badakhshan flora and fauna change significantly depending on the altitude. Differences in the faunal composition of Tian Shan and Western Pamir are relatively insignificant, while the fauna of the latter is scarcer than that of the former.

Badakhshan people's lives are, from birth to death, closely related to the mountains, so they have to adjust to these harsh conditions that shape personality and world outlook. The main prey hunted by Pamirians is the mountain goat (Capra sibirica Pallas) or nakhchir in the local language. Markhoors (Capra falconeri Wag.) occur less frequently. Wild sheep or argali (Ovis ammon Linnaeus) may be found on flat surfaces in the area of contact with Eastern Pamir. Large mammals include a Central Asian subspecies of brown bear (Ursus arctos Linnaeus). According to rock art, Bactrian deer (Cervus elaphus bactrianus) may have lived there up to an altitude of 3,000m. Predators include snow leopards (Felis unica Schreber), black Tibetan wolf (Canis 1 chanko Gray) and red dog (Canis alpinus Pallas). Smaller predators include fox, otter, and rock marten. Hares are found everywhere.

In some plains, valleys are quite wide and have a large flood plain as, for example, Vakhan between the villages of Langar and Namatgut, and are suitable for farming and gardening. Wheat and barley grow at an altitude of 3,000-3,300m and are farmed in addition to potatoes, corn, lentils and other crops.

Eastern Pamir (Pamir Plateau or High Pamir) petroglyphs

It is located where the high ranges of Tien Shan, Kunlun Shan, Karakorum and Hindu Kush meet. This region is the western part of the system of the highest mountains in Asia and offers some of the harshest conditions in the world for humans to live in.

External ranges that reach altitudes of 6,000-7,000m significantly surpass the mountain ranges located in the internal part of Pamir. The Pamir Highlands comprise a system of broad lake beds and river valleys at an altitude of 3,600-4,200m separated by relatively low ranges up to 1,000-2,000m severely deteriorated by denudation processes. Pamir is one of the harshest mountain deserts in the world comparable, in this respect, with Tibet. Its main climate features include high altitude aridity, and an extreme continental climate that causes cold winters with little snow and a short cool summer. The annual temperature range can be as much as 73 degrees by C. Botanists determine these very harsh climatic conditions of the "Roof of the World" as "extreme for living".

This region represents a western outpost for the Tibetan fauna. Commonly found large animals include Tien Shan argali (Ovis ammon L.) and mountain goat (Capra sibirica Pal.). A typical domestic animal in Pamir is kutas or yak (Bos mutus P.), which provides highlanders with meat and high quality dairy products. There are also bears (Ursus arctos L.), wolves (Canis Lupus L. and Canis Cuon Hodgston), snow leopard (Unica unica Sch.), hare (Lepus tolai P.), marmots (Marmota menzbieri) and others in the Pamir highlands.

Prevailing types of landscapes with rock art in this sub-area; type of substrate for rock art Pamir is the Tajikistan region richest in rock art; more than 50 concentrations of petroglyphs are registered. No other surrounding highland region such as Svat, Gilgit, Khunza, Ladak, Tibet or Afghanistan can boast of such quantity and diversity. There, as in Pamir, most sites are concentrated along the valleys of major rivers, since human activity has always been linked to valleys, while mountainous or taiga areas were barely ever used. A glance at the petroglyph map of Pamir will convince one that a major accumulation of petroglyphs is tied to the Pyandzh River and its main tributaries; quite a few are found in Yazgulem and Gunt. Concentration of sites in this area resulted from the fact that a narrow strip of valley suitable for agriculture, which Pamirians intensively used for all their activities, stretches along the foothills of high mountains. Other concentrations of petroglyphs, such as Vybistdara, are located in traditional summertime areas for cattle grazing and the processing of dairy products.

Locations with few images are found in the upper reaches of rivers, i.e. mountain passes (Abdukagor, Dzhamak, Koytezek, Aktash) or where tributaries join larger rivers (Darsay). Quite often large boulders or vertical rock surfaces polished by the sun and wind caught the attention of people with artistic abilities as if urging them to leave a kind of message on their surfaces (Namatgut, Dzhamak petroglyphs). Known concentrations are related to ancient caravan routes or to most remarkable places (Langar). Many images are found on low terraces near old or still existing roads, burial sites, fortresses, the ruins of ancient settlements, and along lakeshores. Many petroglyphs were made in places renowned as hunting grounds; in Langar, for instance, piles of stones are used as a refuge for hunters. At the same time, no strong links of petroglyphs were noted with modern sacred places, most passes or known springs (Bubnova 2008: 36).

In Eastern Pamir, all petroglyphs are found near ancient burials (paintings in rock shelters at Shakhty, Kurtek, and Nayztash). In Western Pamir, rock art was registered at an altitude of 3,500m, and at an altitude of 4,200m in Eastern Pamir.

It is difficult to pinpoint other patterns of petroglyph locations in Pamir, since they are tied to the different landscapes of this mountainous region. Images were engraved on isolated stones (more often on water-worn boulders, sometimes on their debris) or on large rock faces, vertical and horizontal. It is difficult to determine patterns in the arrangement of images on rock surfaces with different expositions.

Quantity and Distribution of Rock Art Sites in the Sub-Area

The total number of images is over 10,000. According to the quantity of their petroglyphs, sites can be divided into three groups: 1) those with more than 1,000 or several thousands of images (Bybistdara: 1,200, Langar: 6,000); 2) sites with no more than 100-200 images (Akdzhilga, Darshay, Salymulla); 3) sites with 10-20 petroglyphs or even single petroglyphs (Kukhilal, Tamdy, and others). Sites of the third group are the most numerous.

Large locations of petroglyphs are true picture galleries, with compositions and sometimes tens, hundreds, or even thousands of similar petroglyphs that preserve for the future the ancient ideas, beliefs and traditions of the people who inhabited the lands or found a temporary abode there, when moving from one place to another.

Dating of Rock Art

The Shakhty grotto paintings are the most ancient in Pamir. Ranov V.-A. dates them, from the discoveries of stone flints, to the Mesolithic - Early Neolithic (8th - 5th millennia BC). Apparently, the Shakhty grotto paintings are related to a culture found at the highest altitude - the Markansui culture. Paintings were also found two kilometers away from the Shakhty grotto under an overhang (Kurteke) and 15km away near the Nayzatash pass, both attributed to the Neolithic. The listed sites dated to the Stone Age are located within the same area in Pamir at a small distance from one another. Nevertheless, the three sites completely differ in technique and style, so they, apparently, must differ in time.

Akdzhiga rock art is made using a specific technique on an open surface and is dated to the Bronze and Early Iron Ages. The numerous petroglyphs of such large sites as Langar and Vybistdara have a wide chronological range, from the Bronze Age to the 1st millennium BC to the 17th - 20th centuries and modernity. Most other sites contain images of different periods, the most ancient dating to the Bronze Age.

Archeological Context of this Sub-Area (Brief Description, Level of Study of Archeological Cultures Relevant to Identified Traditions of Rock Art)

Despite weather conditions that made human adaptation in the highlands difficult, Pamir was peopled long ago. Markansu archeologists discovered and excavated Mesolithic sites with a wellpreserved occupation level. This is the highest site in the world; according to radiocarbon dating, it is 9,530-130BP years old.

A total of 63 sites with Stone Age evidence were registered in Pamir including some in caves and rock art sites. Most relate to the Markansui culture (8th - 5th millennia BC), which manifests similarities with contemporary cultures in Siberia, Transbaikalia, and, probably, north-western China.

Pamirian sites of later periods - Neolithic and Eneolithic (Chalcolithic)- are less known, probably because of climatic deterioration. Bronze Age evidence is also rare: only 5-6 isolated sites. Conversely, the subsequent Saki period is well-represented by numerous kurgans. The main researcher of sites of that period, Litvinskiy B.-A., reports data on more than 50 Saki burial sites and individual kurgans and estimates the population of Pamir in the 1st millennium BC to be about 10,000-15,000 people. The latest research showed that in Pamir, sites of the Early Iron Age, the Middle Ages and modernity are the most numerous (Bubnova 2008: 38).

Sites of different historic periods are unequally represented in Pamir due to the significant climatic variations during the Holocene. It is difficult to imagine the existence of Mesolithic tribes under the current climatic conditions of Pamir.

It is suggested that the Pamir Plateau experienced a significant and rapid tectonic upheaval, the amplitude of which amounted to 500-600m, within the last 10,000 years. The upheaval of mountains surrounding the Pamir Plateau aggravated cooling and arid conditions. Back in the Saki period (8th - 3rd centuries BC), the vegetation cover of the steppe was richer and the Pamir climate was more moderate and favorable (Sidorov 1979). This is indicated by the spread of kurgans in regions that have no water sources now. The eventual desertification of Pamir occurred at the end of the 1st millennium BC and triggered a rapid reduction in the number of archeological sites in this Central Asian region.

Modern Ethno-Cultural Context of Rock Art Sites; Availability or Absence of Registered Tradition of Worship and Reverence Related to Rock Art Sites

In Pamir, most petroglyphs have secular rather than religious motifs: hunting and battle scenes, pets, mythical or, probably, real heroes. Religious notions, antique mythologies and the routine life of mountain-dwellers "farmer, pastoralist, and hunter" quaintly intertwine. Nevertheless, most petroglyphs reflect day-to-day life, rather than people's religious ideas.

Rock art containing an obviously religious content includes images of an open palm (palm with five fingers - a symbol of Ismaili). Images of an open palm were registered on several Pamir petroglyph sites. Detailed drawings are quite often found among later images at Vybistdara. At present, the local population pays a special attention to palm images rather than worshipping them.

The Most Significant Rock Art Sites in Western Pamir

Langar petroglyphs

The petroglyph site is located in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, in the Ishkashim District, Dzhamoat (village council) Zong, 10km south-west of the district capital Ishkashim. Langar is the easternmost settlement in Western Pamir (Badakhshan) of a series of villages located on a narrow strip of land bounded on one side by the Pyandzh River and by tall mountains on the other. Further on, only 40km eastwards, around the place where the small Khargush River flows into the Pamir River, is the nominal border between Western and Eastern Pamir and the beginning of highland desert unfit for farming. Geographic coordinates of the petroglyph location: NL 37 02.236, EL 72 37.321; altitude: 2,700-3,500m.

Langar village is at the foothills of a spur of the Shakhdarya Range with Karl Marx Peak being its highest point (6,723 m above sea level) opposite the confluence of the Pamir River which bursts out of a narrow canyon and cuts through the high ranges of the Hindu Kush to join with the Afghani Vakhandarya River. Langar is located in the foothills of a small, but steep and narrow pass. A traveler descending from the side of the Pamir Desert to Langar would find the first village, Badakhshan, a paradise on earth because of the drastic contrast of natural landscapes. Langar is at the crossroads of many caravan routes. This determined the significance of the area as indicated by the abundance of rock images. In addition, the area has long been considered as the best hunting grounds in Pamir (Bobrinskiy 1908).

The Tajik Archeological Expedition led by Ranov V.-A. documented and studied the Langar petroglyphs in 1972; the most important images were traced on paper, described, photographed, and a topographic plan of the key locations of petroglyphs was made. A total of 5,883 images were registered, but the total quantity of Langar petroglyphs, according to Ranov V.-A., amounts to 10,000 images.

Main Substrate of Rock Art

Images were engraved on convex or flat and very weathered surfaces of granites, with, as a rule, horizontal, and less frequently vertical, faces. Nowhere else on the way from Khorog to Langar is there such a concentration of relatively smooth inclined slabs so convenient for engraving. This natural point of interest in Langar also preconditioned the emergence of a true "picture gallery" in the open air that was many centuries in the making.


Most images are pecked; impact dots are 1-2mm deep and 3-5mm in diameter; the lines are 5-6cm wide, thicker lines being less common. Lines of earlier images are finer, straighter, and more exquisite, apparently made by a more confident and surer hand. Dots often merge into one line, but they may be separate and then the surface appears to be spotted. The nature of the dots allows identification of the tool used for pecking. There is a difference between images pecked with a sharp metallic tool by direct impact from above or by inclined left impacts, but more often the images were pecked using a flint that left a mark with ragged edges and shallow crude chipped irregular outlines. It is worth noting that not only later images, but many ancient patinated images were pecked with a stone tool. Only in some cases were images deeply engraved with a metal tool resembling a sewing awl or hand-punch. There are also later images scratched with a knife.

Small-sized images - 10 to 20cm - are predominant, but there are also a few images as big as 30-40cm. The same goes for small (up to 10cm) and larger (over 50cm) images; the smallest drawing of an animal is 6cm and the largest is 80cm. A large figure of an archer stands out on a panel named "White Figures" (1.80m), as well as an image of a musical instrument rubob (lute-like instrument) that is 1m high.

Description of the Site

The range of Langar images is very broad. Therefore, researchers defined and named "image margins" - main concentrations of petroglyphs, which received numbers and names reflecting specifics of the image motifs or locations. There are small concentrations of images between these sites, also provisionally attributed to one group or another.

Field I was named "White Figures"; its area is about 12,000m2. A total of 1,811 petroglyphs were registered.

Field II was named "A Mount of Rubobs", since about 300 images of rubobs - favorite instruments of Pamirians- were found there. On an area of 750m2, a total of 1,770 petroglyphs were registered.

Field III was called "Scythian Goats"; nearly 1,000 petroglyphs were found there. Unlike the two previous fields, these images are arranged in small groups at a distance of about 500m.

Field IV is named "Inscription"; a total of 779 petroglyphs were found there. The main surface with images has an area of 10m2.

Field V received a name, "Near a Flag", in 1972, because border guards hoisted a USSR flag a little above the place. A total of 523 images were found there on an area of 200 x 50m.

One more field with a smaller area, 1 A, was discovered in 2001. The concentration of petroglyphs is located on the eastern slope of the Kishtirdzharv fissure almost opposite Field 1. The number of images was not determined.

The repertoire of Langar petroglyphs includes four groups of images. Mountain goats -nakhchirs - are the most numerous: 3,511, sometimes in scenes of hunting herds (up to 15 images of animals per scene). Other wild animal images include snow leopards, deer (including Bactrian tugai deer - Cervus claphus bactrianus), animals from the Bovidae family and a bull. Human images are sketchy and resemble a cross. Horse riders with sabers are shown on one of the rocks. Some humans' bodies are represented as triangles with connected vertexes. There are images of Buddhist Stupa, tamgas of various forms, signs, circles (sun signs) and open palm (Ismaili symbol). Images of rubobs are numerous.


Langar petroglyphs belong to different chronological periods, with images of the Bronze Age - 1st millennium BC, Kushan and Ephthalite period (early 1st millennium BC), the Middle Ages (9th - 16th centuries), as well as the Late Middle Ages and modernity (17th - 20th centuries). Images of rubobs with a special type of chipping are dated to the 1st century AD.

Archeological Context

Mountain roads leading to Fergana and China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India meet there. Although the roads were difficult and dangerous, there was one branch of the Silk Road; the Vakhan part of the road, which connected many centers of the ancient world and played a very important role for many periods. It is not improbable that the Vakhan route helped Buddhism make its way to China.

Stone Age sites were found in Western Pamir: Shugnou site (35-20 millennia BC), location Dzhaushangoz I (8th - 5th millennia BC).

Bronze Age sites: burial site Dzhaushangoz VII, rock art Namdgut, rock drawings at Darshay III.

Sites dated to the Early Iron Age include various fortresses, tuphona, burial sites, fortified settlements, and locations of petroglyphs: Chasem I, Miyonakuh I, Dzhaushangoz VI, Dzhaushangoz VII, Chilhona, Ratm I, Ratm II, Vybistdara (rock drawings), Richiv, Darshay III (rock drawings), Yamchun I, Yamchun II, etc.

Vybistdara petroglyphs

In the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, in the Shungon district, 30km east of Khorog City and 7-8km away from Debast (Vybist), on the left bank of the Vybist-Dara River near the summertime encampment (kosh) Tirel; altitude: 3,500m. There is a total of 1,203 drawings registered on an area of 1.2 ha.

Level of Study

The Vybistdara petroglyphs were discovered in 1960 by a biologist, A.-V. Gurskiy. In 1972, the site was surveyed by a petroglyph researcher group from the Pamir Archeological Party of the AS of Tajikistan (group leaders: Ranov V.-A., Zhukov V.-A., etc). The boundaries of the main concentrations of petroglyphs were established and the groups described; the most interesting drawings were photographed and traced on paper. The petroglyphs were provisionally classified (Ranov 1976: 6-12; 2001: 146-147), but most have remained unpublished.

Description of the Site

Petroglyphs are pecked on the patinated surfaces of large fragments of granite in large mounds on the slope of the gorge. All images are pecked and differ in patina shade.

Four (A,B,C,D) groups of petroglyphs are associated with different mounds and different chronologic, stylistic, and motif peculiarities. The largest petroglyph concentration (including the most ancient) is near a site of summer pasture.

In general, the repertoire of petroglyphs is not very varied, but it is notable for a large number of humans, signs and ornamental motifs. The most common motif is a row of horse riders following one another. There are many scenes of hunting archers including horse riders. A scene of wild yak communal hunting was carved on a large surface. There are several examples of an armed man fighting an unarmed man and varying motifs of running men holding hands. Numerous signs such as circles with a central point and an intersection, florets, and squares are interesting. The latest images include an open palm - a famous symbol of Pamirian Ismaili. Rare images include camels, dogs, and chariots.


According to style and repertoire, there are images of the Early Iron Age (few images of animals in a tradition of animalistic style) and of the Islamic medieval period including its end (horse riders, battle scenes, signs, open palms) (Ranov 1976: 6-12). The drawings are dated from the 1st millennium BC to the 16th - 19th centuries, and medieval petroglyphs prevail.

The Most Significant Rock Art Sites in Eastern Pamir

The site is in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, in the Murgab District, 100km north-east of the district capital ЦMurgab settlement on the southern slope of Bazar Dara (North Alichur) Range, not far from the Akdzhilga pass at an altitude of 3,800m. The Ak-Dzhilga petroglyphs are among the highest in Central Asia. The highest peaks of Pamir, also referred to as "Roof of the World", Ismoili Somoni (7,495m), and Revolutsiya Peak (6,974m) are located 90-140km farther east.

At the end of the 1960's, geologist Bulin V.-P. discovered petroglyphs in an area difficult to access on the Severnaya Akdzhilga River. They significantly differ from the ones known in Pamir. In 1972, archeologists Zhukov V.-A. and Ranov V.-A., with a small group of colleagues (a photographer and an artist) recorded this unique concentration of rock art. A special summary article by Zhukov and Ranov on the Akdzhilga petroglyphs was published in the same year.

The Main Substrate of Rock Art

The petroglyphs are engraved on the surface of a solitary flattened rock (shale) (23.6 x19m), located on the right bank of the valley at a height of 25m above the river. The wind has given a mirror-like polish to the black surface of the rock; images take up almost one-fourth of the surface. The slab stands out in the environment among the chaos of numerous morainic rock fragments.


Akdzhilga petroglyphs were made with a technique unusual for Pamir. An outline was initially incised on the surface with a sharp tool, then it was shaded inside with carved lines and then additionally abraded. The lines of the drawing are shallow and practically the same color as the rock surface. Pecking techniques were only used for several petroglyphs obviously dated to later periods.

Description of the Site

There are a total of 100 petroglyphs on the rock surface. There also are isolated images and panels. The drawings are grouped in several places of the rock. Most of them are in its southeastern sector including its inclined part. There, the drawings form a palimpsest that allows us to determine a relative age for the figures. Particularly, large animals are overlaid by images of wild goat hunting scenes. Figures of goats walking one after another in the central part of the slab are one of the most exquisite and stand out for their excellent execution. In the northeastern part of the slab, an isolated archer wears a peaked head-dress; the arrowhead shape is conspicuous. A panel located in the north-western part of the rock is the most interesting, with several chariots (one with a driver) and oxen carved in a unique stylistic manner unusual for Pamir. Most Akdzhilga drawings are carved in outline, with the entire surface of the figure filled with dots or dense lines.


The earliest group of Akdzhilga petroglyphs, with chariots and oxen, can confidently be dated to the Bronze Age. An archer in a peaked hat and a series of wild goats may be dated to the Early Iron Age. There are also sketchy images of animals from later periods and modern inscriptions.

Shakhty Grotto is located in the Gorno-Badakhshanskiy Autonomous Region, in the Murgab district 40km south-west of the district capital - Murgab settlement on the left slope of the Shakty Gorge adjacent to the Kurtke-Say River valley. Geographic coordinates of the location: NL 37 55.225, EL 73 55.755; absolute altitude: about 4,200m. Shakhty Grotto is located 60m above the valley bottom, but it is easily accessible from the surface of an alluvial cone along a nice path.

In the autumn of 1985, an Archeological Group of the Pamir Expedition of AS of USSR led by Ranov V.-A. discovered petroglyphs in the Shakhty Grotto, in Eastern Pamir. Ranov provided a detailed description and attributed them to the Mesolithic in a special article published in 1961. In 1967, Ranov described and studied them in his popular book "Arkheology na Krishe mira" ("Archeologists on the Roof of the World") (Ranov 1967). A zoologist, Tanasiychuk V., published a popular article on the subject with very good photographs in the same year (Tanasiychuk 1967).

The Main Substrate of Rock Art

The grotto formed as a result of karstic erosion of a tectonic crevice. The grotto faces east and is dry and sunlit. The entrance is 7.5m wide and 6m deep; the roof height is 25-30m. The images are carved as a frieze on the southern wall of the grotto 1.6-2.0m from the floor; paint stains and fragments of other obliterated figures still remain.


All images were painted with a mineral paint in two shades: most were painted in light-brown ocher, while others with a maroon shade of ocher.

Description of the Site

Seven images are in a good state of preservation: an outlined ornitho-anthropomorphic figure (23cm), two contoured figures of wild boars, yak or bear (85cm), an arrow against the body and head of an animal, another contour of an unidentified animal superimposed on another drawing and painted in maroon. The frieze with drawings is 4m long and 1.5m high.

The images are painted with a mineral pigment. Ancient painters apparently obtained raw material for the paint right there in wall cracks, where deposits of powdered iron oxides occur. The paint has two shades: light and darker maroon. The lighter shade was used more often, and dark maroon - a strong concentration of pigment- was used mainly to draw details. One maroon drawing overlaps light-brown images. Lines are relatively thin (1.5-2cm), irregular, often additionally corrected. Presumably, the figure was finger-painted.

An image nearer to the entrance is anthropomorphic and masked as a bird. Next, figures of a wild boar and bear or two boars are drawn opposite each other. Only half of the drawings on the left remain. Then, there is a contour of a large animal shown ready to pounce. Then follows the largest figure, depicting an animal with massive legs, with a small hump that evokes an animal from the Bovidae family (yak), but with an elongated snout, small ears and an absence of horns that would rather suggest a bear. The legs are drawn realistically. Arrows are of special interest: the largest is shown below the nape of the animal, another one in the lower part of its snout, and the third one under the animalТs head. The arrows point at the animal from opposite directions to suggest a collective hunt.


A Paleolithic Research Group of the Pamir Archeological Expedition of AS of the USSR (led by Ranov V.-A.) discovered and was first to survey the site in 1958, in the course of surveying caves and overhangs in south-eastern Pamir. Photos of the grotto and its rock paintings were taken in addition to carrying out excavations in an exploratory trench inside. Stone flakes and several knifelike flints and one fragment of a core were found (Ranov 1961). From those finds and comparisons between motifs and styles, Ranov dated the drawings to the 8th Ц 5th millennia BC or to the Mesolithic - Early Neolithic (Ranov 2001: 128-129). Their most likely age would thus mark the first appearance of people in Eastern Pamir after the Glaciation.

Protection and Current Condition of the Site

The site is on the National List and receives protection from the local authorities of the Murgab District of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in Tajikistan.

In 2005, on the instructions of the Murgab Association of Ecotourism, R. Sala surveyed the site and noted the satisfactory preservation of the drawings. The traces of the 1958 archeological excavations can be seen inside the grotto and outside the entrance: remainders of the unfilled trench and earth excavation heaps. The grotto is rarely visited by locals or tourists.

Kurteke Rock is located in the Murgab District of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, 38km south-west of the district capital city, Murgab. The site is 2km from the Shakhty Grotto on the opposite slope of the Kurteke-Say Gorge at the exit point of the last gorge in the Karauldyn-Dala, at about 4,020m above sea level.

The site was discovered and surveyed by Ranov V.-A. in 1964. The first article about Kurteke Rock petroglyphs was published the same year. An abstract of the report "Stone Age Drawings in Pamir" presented at a scientific workshop in Bishkek "Petroglyphs in Central Asia" was published in 2001 (Ranov 2001:128-129).

Description of the Site

The overhang is adjacent to an isolated Jurassic rock. Traces of painting are on two walls. Apparently, only a small portion of the paintings, made of a grayish-brownish-maroon mineral pigment, was preserved on the northern and eastern walls of the shelter. Their surface is severely damaged and polluted and they can barely be seen. They are approximately 1.5m from the floor. They include poorly preserved figures of two people with legs astride and arms raised.

Archeological Context

Excavations helped identify two cultural horizons. The first dates to the Late Bronze Age, the second to the Late Neolithic - Eneolithic. The upper horizon includes ceramics typical of the Bronze Age of the Central Asian steppes, with stone tools and bronze arrowheads. The lower horizon only includes microliths and half-burnt coal.

Nayzatash petroglyphs

The site is in the Murgab District of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, 45km south-west from the district capital city Murgab. A grotto with drawings is not far from the Nayazatash pass, at an altitude of 4,137m.

Research Status

The site is known only from photos made by Seleznyov V.-F. handed over to Ranov V.-A. (Ranov 1995).

Description of the Site

The grotto is in a large limestone Jurassic rock. The drawings, painted on a rough surface with red mineral pigment, occupy a 2 x 1.5m area. Their sizes do not exceed 12-15cm. Only six figures were preserved with some unidentified lines and spots. Two contour images of mountain goats (Capra sibirica Mayer) can be seen, and, possibly, a human, a sign in the shape of a closed figure (or incomplete image) and three short lines.


The Nayzatash paintings have no direct similarities among Pamirian petroglyphs; they are even difficult to compare with those at Ak-Chunkur in Kyrgyzstan, Akbaur in Kazakhstan, Zaraut-Kamar in Uzbekistan or even at the Kurteke overhang located in the vicinity. Dating them to the Neolithic is provisional (Ranov 2001: 129-130).