The Yeleke Sazy Golden Man

22 October 2019

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For over 2,800 years, ancient burial mounds in the remote Tarbagatai mountains in Eastern Kazakhstan have kept the secrets of the Saka civilization. In 2018, a team of Kazakh archeologists uncovered remains of a Golden Man at the Yeleke Sazy plateau located at an altitude of 1,500 meters above sea level and only accessible by helicopter.

Dating circa 7th-8th century BC, the skeleton belonged to a young man aged 18 who was 165-170 centimeters tall. When buried, he was originally dressed in clothes heavily embroidered with gold beads and bedecked with gold-made objects and jewelry, including a massive golden torc around his neck, a golden quiver for arrows and a dagger in a golden quiver. All this suggests his noble origin and important social rank. Scientists have classified appearance of the Saka nobleman as European with an admixture of Mongolian genes.

The research team also unearthed over 6,000 burial objects and jewelry in the form of patterned plates, beads, bell-shaped earrings, necklaces with precious stones and exquisitely crafted figurines of deer with horns. The objects and weapons of the Tarbagatai kurgans were relatively well-preserved and made of 22K gold (the fineness of 920). Archeologists were impressed by the level of technological development in gold jewelry crafting that the pieces showcase.

Excavation works in the Tarbagatai started in 2016 as part of the state-funded Program for the Development of Research Works in Archeology. To date, researchers uncovered over 300 burial mounds at Yeleke Sazy and unearthed thousands of items made of gold and precious stones. Yeleke Sazy, one of a kind kurgan in the entire Kazakhstan, might have the largest number of historical monuments and it is expected that excavation works will last for at least five more years.