Domestic tourism and inconsiderate construction projects in Kazakhstan have been causing a lot of damage to Kazakh historical heritage. Last year, Saka kurgans (burial mounds) were partially damaged during sand extraction in Nauryzbay district; in 2014, six out of nine kurgans in Alatau village were destroyed due to construction works.
There is a silver lining though. Kazakh archeologists, activists and a group who call themselves ‘Petroglyph Hunters’ are saving many historic monuments of Almaty and Almaty region. Alexander Goryachev, a senior researcher at the Margulan Institute of Archaeology, has been involved in the exploration and creation of a register of historical and cultural monuments in Almaty and the region since the early 2000s. He shared the successful preservation stories at the roundtable on "Actual problems of conservation and protection of the archaeological heritage of Almaty and Almaty region” held by the Gylym Ordasy Academy of Sciences.
QazMonitor gives you three stories of preserved sites in the eco-battle against businesses:
One of the brightest examples of the preservation of a unique historical monument was the rescue of petroglyphs in the Arkharly mountains. In early 2021, the rocks with ancient drawings were to be destroyed by local stone miners. Thanks to the joint work of public activists from the "Petroglyph Hunters" team, scientists, media representatives, local departments, and later the majilis deputies, the petroglyphs were not only saved but also studied.
Scientists uncovered more than 215 archaeological monuments in this territory, divided into 180 complexes. In the center, there are about 20 clusters of petroglyphs with drawings of sacred character. Among the discovered drawings is a unique composition depicting in detail a battle scene of Turkic warriors.
Located in the Kazachka River gorge, the settlement was on the verge of destruction. There were plans to build a hotel in its place, which was supposed to become part of the Kok-Zhailau resort complex. Eco-activists managed to stop the construction of the resort, which saved the archaeological site along with it. There are remnants from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages and a cemetery from the 17th-18th centuries in this settlement.
"There were also examples when the citizens themselves saved monuments from destruction. On the outskirts of the city in the Oryntai neighborhood are three large royal burial mounds, which fit perfectly into the modern surroundings of private houses. Seven years ago, developers wanted to demolish the mounds, but the local population fenced them off and closed access to them. The people declared that they would not allow the destruction of their cultural heritage and demanded all the documents and permits from the builders and did not allow the builders to go there. As a result, the mounds have survived to this day," said Alexander Goryachev.