The Georgievskaya mountain is situated on the left bank of the Tuba river (a tributary of the Yenisey), 1 km south of the village of Tes’ in the Minusinsk district of the Krasnoyarsk region. It is a dominating height in the valley, which made the mountain an object of worship. The worship was maintained even by Russian peasants from the village, who erected a chapel on top of the mountain. The chapel was dedicated to St.George — hence the name of the mountain. The famous and major rock art site of Shalabolino is situated on the other bank of the river and can be seen from the Georgievskaya.
Petroglyphs on the rocks of the Georgievskaya were already known in the 19th century. N.M. Martyanov, the director of the Minusinsk museum, knew the site and informed D.A. Klements, who put it on his map of archaeological sites of the Minusinsk basin, which was published later, in 1888, by V.V. Radlov. In 1972 the rock art site on the Georgievskaya mountain was re-discovered by students from the expedition led by E.B. Vadetskaya, who excavated sites near the village of Tes’. In 1974, 1975 and 1980 the petroglyphs were specially investigated and recorded by N.V. Leontiev. In 2003 and 2004 an expedition worked here from the State Hermitage, led by S.V. Pankova, with the special aim of documenting the engravings of the Tashtyk culture.
The mountain stretches along the little Tes’ river, a branch of the Tuba. Most of the panels are located on the south slope, facing the extensive valley (col.il. 1-3). A fairly steep slope ends at the top with a wide horizon of outcrops of red Devonian sandstone. Petroglyphs occur along the whole length of this horizon, with the exception of several areas which were destroyed by a rock quarry. Some scattered images also occur on smaller horizons, above and below the main outcrop, as well as on the other slopes of the mountain. In total there are about 40 panels at the site. In the foothills several cemeteries have been found, dating from the Eneolithic period to the Middle Ages. Among them are the vaults and funerary remains of the Tashtyk culture.
The mountain attracted the attention of ancient artists for several thousand years. The most ancient petroglyphs are related to the earliest stratum in South Siberian rock art — to the so called Minusinsk style (fig. 2,3; col.il. 4). Even the appearance of the images testifies to their great antiquity: they and the panels are covered with a yellowish calcite crust. The next stratum is represented by several schematic zoomorphic figures, which by their style can be attributed to the Late Bronze Age (i.e. the Karasuk culture) (fig. 4). Not many images are related to the Early Iron Age (i.e. the Tagar culture): only one panel with deer figures may be ascribed to it with confidence (fig. 5; col.il. 5). The Tashtyk culture of the Early Middle Ages is represented the most abundantly. Nearly all the depictions rendered in the technique of fine engraving were created in this period. The Tashtyk engravings on some panels are superimposed by pecked figures of humans and animals, whose dating is unclear. Perhaps, they are no younger than the 13th-14th centuries. Finally, the most recent stratum (not counting the modern imitations) can be dated to the 15th-18th centuries. It consists of roughly pecked human figures, sometimes with sabres and drums in their hands, and of depictions of trees and various animals (fig. 6; col.il. 7, 9). This stratum still remains practically unstudied, but N.V. Leont’ev considers that these images belong to the Baikotovians — ket-speaking people, who lived in the area before the Russians came here.
The sandstone outcrops on the Georgievskaya are being intensively destroyed: the superficial rock crust is exfoliating and entire blocks of stone are falling down. Moreover, many panels on the south slope are covered with modern painted inscriptions, which conceal ancient images. The top of the mountain is very popular among the local youth: they use it as a playground, and unfortunately they leave their graffiti on the rocks.
The stratum of the Tashtyk engravings is the most significant among the Georgievskaya petroglyphs. This paper deals with it comprehensively, and publishes them completely. The petroglyphs of the other periods are only briefly mentioned here; they require special investigation and publication.
Most of the Tashtyk engravings are situated within the main horizon on the south slope. They are concentrated in 12 panels at 5 sections (col.il. 1). The inventory of the sections goes from west to east, and the panels within each location are marked with letters. The surface of these panels is plain and smooth, convenient for creating engravings.
Most of the Tashtyk compositions on the Georgievskaya are scenes of people hunting hoofed animals, and of hoofed animals being pursued by predators. In those compositions where only hoofed animals are represented, apparently the same subjects are depicted: deer, roe deer and elk are defeated with arrows or are running rapidly or trotting. According to hunters, deer and elk, as a rule, move at slow pace, and only in moments of danger and periods of rutting do they gallop or trot. Mostly wild animals are depicted: among these, hoofed animals dominate — deer, roe deer and elk — and there are single images of a wolf and a bear (or lynx). On panels 5A and 5B there are images of bulls — individuals and in pairs (fig. 22, 24). Through analogy with the bulls depicted on the plaquettes from the Tashtyk vaults, one may assume that the paired images of bulls on the rocks are draft animals. But they could also represent wild species, for example, the aurochs. South Siberia was part of the wide area of aurochs distribution, from which they had been completely exterminated by the 18th century.
One very expressive figure is a depiction of a stag in a composition with an archer figure (fig. 12, col.il. 7). The animal’s dense and long hair is executed by stripes on the neck and by triangular lines on the body.
Within Tashtyk imagery such a depiction is unique. Similar variants of rendering a deer’s hair are known from numerous engravings of the Turkic period at the Altay sites. This was probably aimed at stressing the luxuriant mane of the males, which was especially noticeable during the rutting period, and possibly embodied the deer’s vitality.
Scenes with the participation of a man are found on 3 panels. One represents an armoured horseman (fig. 10, 4). Another represents an archer hunting a stag 12). And the third panel contains a multi-figured composition including 5 figures of archers, both mounted and not (fig. 24). This is the only panel on the Georgievskaya in which a significant number of humans is represented, comparable with the number of animals. It is hard to say if this is a depiction of a hunting scene or an episode of a battle, or perhaps both together. But the mass presence of “active” humans distinguishes this composition from the others at the Georgievskaya.
Each of the Tashtyk rock art sites possesses its individual style. The Georgievskaya is no exception here. Most of its engravings are rendered in the same manner, i.e. they convey a similarity, which is revealed both in the general impression of the depictions, and in the specific peculiarities of the figures. These depictions are expressive and elegant, lively animal figures, cut with filiform lines, giving the impression of extreme lightness. The same specific details are recognizable on many panel — for example the deer antlers on panels 2C, 3, 4 (fig. 13, 5; 18, 4; 20, 3); almost identical images of roe deer on panels 2A, 2G and 3 (fig. 10, 3; 17; 18, 1-3); and birds on panels 2F and 6 (fig. 16, 25, 3). The figures of stags on panels 2C и 3 (fig. 13, 3; 18, 4) are very similar to each other. Hoofed animals on panels 2C, 2G and 4 are united through the manner of rendering thin legs, as though growing from one point, and a chest of rectangular shape (fig. 13, 4; 17; 20, 2, 3). The horse and the stag on panels 1 and 2B (fig. 7, 2, 12) are executed in a similar way. It is highly possible that all the listed compositions from sections 1-4 and 6 were engraved by the same master. In contrast, the engravings on panel 5B differ through featuring another “hand” and some carelessness in execution (fig. 24). They were most likely engraved by another person, who also engraved the bull figures on panel 5A (fig. 22).
The image of a horse with stirrups (which was not rediscovered in 2003, and so is possibly lost) differs from both groups of engravings (fig. 11). It is much smaller than the other figures. The horse has no plume at the head, and its tail is depicted differently. Stirrups are not shown in any Tashtyk depiction. However, stirrups were in use in the later stages of the Tashtyk culture: miniature models of stirrups are found in some late Tashtyk vaults. The peculiarities of the depiction of a horse with stirrups make it possible to relate it both to the Tashtyk period and to a later time.
The dating of the engravings of the Georgievskaya can only be given in general outline. The technique, the dynamism and elegance of the figures, the manner of executing the hind legs of animals, their specific pose of a rapid trot — all this enables us to relate these images with confidence to the art tradition of the Tashtyk culture. Engravings of this style only correlate with the later stage of the culture — the so-called stage of vaults, which is dated to the 5th-7th centuries AD. The real objects depicted on the Georgievskaya (such as bows, cauldrons, arrows) are not indicative and cannot help to define the date more precisely.
A comparison of the engravings of the Georgievskaya with those from wooden plaquettes demonstrates their stylistic unity, while the distinctions are connected with the subjects, the degree of executing details and the spatial arrangement of figures. The engravings of the Georgievskaya contain far fewer subjects; there is an especially noticeable absence of battle scenes. On the plaquettes the main heroes are the numerous warriors, depicted in various positions, various costumes and with a variety of weaponry, while the wild animals are deprived of their individuality and shown most often as rows of identical figures. At the Georgievskaya the opposite occurs: the animal figures are individual, expressive and variable, while the human figures are small in number and inexpressive. In addition the depictions of real objects are much less representative at the Georgievskaya, but there are depictions of cauldrons there which are not shown on the wooden plaquettes.
It is hard to say if the listed peculiarities are characteristic of Tashtyk rock art in general or just of the Georgievskaya. For more complete information about these sources we need publications of other Tashtyk depictions.
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