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© Photo The Moscow News / Daryana Antipova

Siberian riddles on rock

by Daryana Antipova at 12/11/2012 18:59

‘Petroglyphs of Khakassia’

Until Nov. 19 at the Museum of Moscow, 2 Zubovsky Bulvar, m. Park Kultury, www.mosmuseum.ru
Open Tue., Wed. and Fri. 10 am-6 pm, Thu. 11 am-9 pm, Sat and Sun. 11 am-6 pm

The Museum of Moscow is presenting stone sculptures, rock paintings and runes from a Siberian land shrouded in mystery: Khakassia.

“Many of [the works] don’t exist anymore, and these copies are the only ones saved,” museum press secretary Anastasia Burova said. “Most of them are already underwater or destroyed by people.”

Since the first expedition led by Daniel Messerschmidt in 1721, scientists have explored the Siberian past as preserved in the legends, rock art and monuments of its ancient peoples. The L. R. Kyzlasova National Khakas Museum, which provides the basis of the exhibition, has a rich assortment of items from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages that were preserved in copies and rubbings made by Soviet scientists.

Archaeologists still debate the symbols’ meaning

© Photo / The Moscow News / Daryana Antipova

Archaeologists still debate the symbols’ meaning

Southern Siberia was an ancient center of metallurgy, and ornaments, weapons and household items on display demonstrate the skill of its craftsmen. Viewers also see bronze Scythian animal sculptures, Tashtyk funerary masks made of clay and plaster in the first through the fifth centuries and ceramic tableware that dates from the Eneolithic Era to the Middle Ages.

Yenisei runes reveal epitaphs, spells and domestic inscriptions on the stones. Visitors can read the inscriptions from top to bottom or left to right, reading the translation next to the copy to learn about important events and heroes.

The pride of the museum is a collection of ancient stone sculptures. They were created at the dawn of the Bronze Age by Okunevskaya tribes who inhabited the Khakassko-Minusinskoi Basin about 5,000 years ago. The figures, known as the “Idols of the Yenisei,” have intriguing, enigmatic forms: three-eyed anthropomorphic masks, sun gods, fantastic beasts and figures with animal heads. Scientists continue to argue about the meaning of these images.

Ancient drawings from the Tagar culture of the Scythian period reveal human figures, hunting and war scenes and frequent images of the deer. They display a variety of scenes, most of them narrative.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a unique copy of the Bolshaya Boyarskaya Pisanitsa, which bears petroglyphs depicting first-century inhabitants of the villages of the Khakassko-Minusinskoi Basin. A section of this site, one of ancient artists’ greatest creations, completely covers a low, long wall in the museum.

“I’ve visited Khakassia several times,” museum visitor Valery told The Moscow News. “Facing south, the [Bolshaya Boyarskaya Pisanitsa] is clearly visible in the evening and is especially clear in the early morning. When the slanting rays of the rising sun glide over the rough, weathered surface of the rock, the image becomes clear.

“The figures come alive: there are the ancient inhabitants of the settlement of the Middle Yenisei, their houses, livestock, utensils and weapons.”

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