Minusinsk basin

The Minusinsk basin is literally filled with history. It has long been famous for the wealth of traces of a person's stay of various eras, from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. Over time, here some peoples were replaced by others, and with them their culture: Afanasyev, Okunev, Andronovo, Karasuks, Tagarsky, Tashtyks. For almost three hundred years, scientists have been exploring the Minusinsk basin, its burial grounds and the remains of dwellings, ruins of fortresses, cave paintings and stone sculptures.

The Minusinsk basin is literally filled with history

The sculptures of the mysterious "stone animals" of the Minusinsk basin in the 18th century attracted the attention of the first scientists and researchers of Siberia. Some are made in the form of flat steles, others in the form of high reliefs and reach a height of 2,5 and even 4 m.

The most attention is attracted by a group of carved steles with masks marked with animal features, horns, bull eyes and ears crowned with high headgear. The most famous is the so-called "Shirin woman", decorated below with a mask of a predatory beast with a frighteningly opened mouth, and at the top - a realistic image of a human face. But what did these reliefs and drawings mean?

The answer to this question lies in the very problem of the origin of the Yenisei stelae. They have never been associated with mounds. Some of the steles have long stood at crossroads in the steppe or marked the beginning of mountain road passes. But more often than not, "stone women" were found in the fences of burial grounds of very different times.

And only in the 1960s. scientists managed to find out that the bulk of the Yenisei stelae was created by the tribes of the so-called Okunev culture that existed in the Minusinsk basin at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC.

The Okunevites were engaged in cattle breeding, hunting, and fishing, they knew blacksmithing and foundry, and they made tools from copper and bronze. People of this culture arranged their graves in stone crates, often using plates with patterns stamped on them. The variety of artistic techniques of sculptors and carvers of that distant era is amazing.

It is now generally accepted that the Yenisei statues of the Minusinsk basin are not grave monuments and not images of real people. These are deities who were worshiped and who combined the cult of totems - the guardians of the clan. Scientists note that nowhere did the tribes of the Bronze Age create monuments as complex in content and execution as stone sculptures of the Minusinsk basin.

As archaeological excavations have shown, these statues did not serve as objects of worship for a relatively short time - the tribes that replaced the Okunevites, and sometimes even the Okunevites themselves, treated them very disrespectfully.

Rock carvings of the Minusinsk basin are no less than stone sculptures. Among them are images of real and fantastic animals, solar signs. Today, in the Minusinsk basin on the rocks along the Yenisei River, hundreds of rock paintings of various eras have been discovered. The meaning of these ritual drawings consisted in the process of their creation, dedicated to a certain event, and not in their further fate.

Knocked out with a sharp instrument in the rock, the scribble drawings depict the life of large villages that once existed here: lined up houses, food is boiled in boilers, people stand in prayer poses, horse and deer riders drive herds of animals.

The largest mounds on the land of the Minusinsk basin were left by people of the Tagar era. Located near Abakan, the Grave Steppe is literally filled with dozens of large and small mounds. Among them, Big Salbyk, the largest mound in Southern Siberia, built around the 3rd century BC, attracts attention with its size. An eleven-meter embankment was built over the grave of a noble elder of a clan or tribe, with whom several more people were buried.

The burial grounds serve as one of the most important sources of modern ideas about the artistic culture of the peoples who inhabited the Minusinsk basin. Their transformation is one of the signs of a change of cultures. The monuments of Tashtyk culture are especially distinguished here. She succeeded in the 1st century BC. Tagar and existed until the 5th century AD.

In Tashtyk burials, there are many items decorated with gold, rich weapons, items of shamanic ritual. The sculptors of that time were not only portrait painters making funeral masks, but also skilled animal painters. Famous animal figurines - deer, bulls, horses, rams, carved in wood and covered with gold leaflets or paintings. But funeral ceramic masks are most characteristic of the Tashtyk culture.

In the 3-5 centuries. AD on the land of the Minusinsk basin, the first state of the ancient Khakasses is formed. The power in this state belonged to people from the Yenisei Kyrgyz tribe. The highest achievement of this culture was the Orkhon-Yenisei script.