Two vast periods are usually distinguished: Chalcolithic (Copper-Stone Age),
that is a transition period from the Stone Age to the Metal Age, and Bronze Age.
The epoch of bronze is characterized by significant landmarks in the history of mankind.
It is, in the first turn, the further spreading of agriculture and cattle-breeding, and
mastering of a new material - metal: copper and its alloys. At the beginning of the metal period contacts among peoples,
living on the vast territories had increased. This process was especially manifested on the territory of the Eurasian steppe,
where the paleometal period initiated productive cattle-breeding economy.
In many respects it was related with new technical developments, such as wheeled vehicles, and in the Late Bronze period - with using a horse for riding.
Bronze Age art
Bronze Age art has some specific features.
It becomes more diverse and spreads widely geographically.
Petroglyphs (rock paintings), painting on steles and plates, sculpture, small
forms, ornament, using of artistic images for decoration of tools and household articles become general.
In the art of that period one can trace, for the first time, vivid plots,
related with the mythology of ancient peoples, Indo-Europeans among them.
Ancient artistic images become a kind of "an imaginative language", sign system,
familiar to family groups of population. This peculiarity of ancient art is especially
manifested in ornaments and most of all in ceramic ornamentation traditions.
It is impossible to describe the whole variety of the Bronze Age art in a short article,
so only some, the most interesting examples will be touched upon.
Many archaeological discoveries are made by chance.
It's just the case with the famous painting of Karakol. While constructing a
memorial in the center of Karakol village in the Gorny Altai, the builders
found the remains of a chalcolithic barrow. The construction was held up and
the monument was studied by archaeologists. Under the mound the remains of
burials were discovered. They had been made in cists from stone plates, covered
with similar plates. There were red paint traces on the
skulls of the buried people. Not a single article to date the monument was
found but the findings were really unique.
Numerous drawings, engraved and
painted, covered the walls of the cists. Almost all of them were three-color: ancient
artists used red, white and black dyes.
Red paint traces on the skull.
What was drawn of the Karakol plates?
Anthropomorphic figures on the Karakol plates are really mysterious.
Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features are mixed up in all of them: bull
horns, beast claws, muzzles, remarkably similar to the hare's ones,
three-fingered arms - everything is closely interlaced in Karakol images.
Such a combination becomes clear, if we assume, that all the figures are in
ritual masks. This assumption is proved by the fact that these images are
completely lacking the neck and the dimensions of the head are exaggerated - that
is the very picture of a man in a ritual mask.
Another interesting peculiarity of the Karakol drawings is the
combination of some projections (e.g. a full face, a body and legs in profile) in
one figure. This impressive stylistic manner brings the Karakol drawings closer
to ancient art of Egypt. In general the characters and plots of the Karakol
drawings resemble outwardly ancient East art. Besides, near Ozernaya village
in Altai a stele with carved representations of animal successions had been
found. Their "ancient Egyptian" stylization surprised even famous Egyptologist,
academician B.B.Piotrovsky, but certainly, there could be no any influence.
In archaeology such concurrences are called phasic resemblance. It could
be both accidental and related to general psycho-physiological laws of representative
As for interpretation of plots, represented on the plates of Karakol "tombs",
it can be quite different. The only thing is obvious: these are mythological
scenes, connected with cosmological notions of ancient people. It can be representations
of divinities, called to help the dead to pass from the real world to the world of the dead.