UNESCO's newest World Heritage Sites - Petroglyphs Complexes of the Mongolian Altai, Mongolia.

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The Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai include three rock art sites in Bayan-Ulgii aimag: Tsagaan Salaa-Baga Oigor of Ulaankhus soum, and Upper Tsagaan Gol (Shiveet Khairkhan) and Aral Tolgoi, both of Tsengel soum.

The numerous rock carvings and funerary monuments found in these three sites illustrate the development of culture in Mongolia over a period of 12,000 years. The earliest images reflect a time when the area was partly forested and the valley provided a habitat for hunters of large game.

 The most recent images show the transition to a horse-dependent nomadic lifestyle during the early 1st millennium BC, the Scythian period and the later Turkic period (7th and 8th centuries AD). The carvings represent the most complete and best preserved visual record of human prehistory and early history of a region at the intersection of Central and North Asia.


The earliest images reflect a period beginning in the Late Pleistocene and lasting through the Early Holocene (ca. 11,000 – 6,000 years BP), when the paleoenvironment shifted from dry to forested steppe and the valleys provided an ideal habitat for hunters of large wild game. Later images from the middle Holocene (ca. 6,000 – 4,000 years BP) reflect the gradual reassertion of steppe vegetation in this part of the the Altai and the early emergence of herding as the economic basis of communities. Imagery from the succeeding, Late Holocene Period, reflects the transition to horse-dependent nomadism during the Early Nomadic and Scythian periods (1st millennium BCE) and the subsequent spread of steppe empires in the later Turkic Period (7th-9th c. CE).

The petroglyphic imagery includes animals such as mammoths, rhinoceros, and ostriches, executed in static profile contours. These animals inhabited North Asia when the region was significantly colder, drier and covered by rough grasses and forbs rather than forests. By the end of the Late Pleistocene (ca. 11,000 BP), the dry steppe was gradually being replaced by the forested environment of the Early Holocene (ca. 11,000 – 6,000 BP). This period is reflected in majestic images of elk, aurochs, and ibex, executed in profile silhouettes. There are very few sites in North Asia that include pre-Bronze Age petroglyphs in such number, variety, and quality.


The authenticity of the property is demonstrated by its physical condition, which aside from the wear of time and the elements is essentially pristine. There is some modern damage on rock surfaces but, in general, the rock art and monuments are relatively unimpacted by human or animal activities. The authenticity of the sites is protected by their relative inaccessibility due to both terrain and weather.

This article is only publisher's viewpoint.

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