This happened in the fall of 1871. A crew of navies breaking ground for a military hospital in Irkutsk hit upon bones of unknown animals and a ball made of a mammoth's task - buffed to a high polish and with carved designs crammed on its surface. The men brought this find to V. Beltsov, member of His Majesty's Russian Geographical Society. Feeling he was not competent in paleontology, V. Beltsov turned for advice to Ivan Chersky and Alexander Chekanovsky, eminent explorers of Siberia, banished for their political activities. These two exiles arranged excavation works next to the foundation ditch. They recovered primitive stone instruments, bones of mammoths scattered here and there, and exquisite works of ivory. An ancient encampment site!
Our contemporary, Vitaly Larichev, thinks highly of this effort - a feat, we might say, on the part of the two "political convicts". Especially, if we recall that "in the 1860s and 1870s European archeologists were in bitter controversy as to whether man ever populated the earth in 'antediluvian times'. The 'troglodyte' works of art found in caves of France were dismissed out of hand then as frauds sold by crook archeologists avid for glory and money."
We cannot but agree with this scholarly opinion. It was just at the height of scientific clashes that Chersky and Chekanovsky found an ancient encampment dated from over a million years ago. This discovery confirmed the hypothesis advanced by Moritz Wagner, an opponent of Charles Darwin's, about the extratropical cradle of the human race. Says V. Larichev:
"Siberia again found itself in the fiendish smother of irreconcilable tug of war between 'moderate' intel-
lectuals and research 'avantgardists'."
The subtitle of his article - "Wenches of Suiek"-is intriguing enough. It refers to the rock drawing discovered in 1909 by Alexander Adrianov, an excise-tax comptroller of the Minusinsk district. Larichev gives a rather poetic description of this event which dashed the traditional scholarly views on the time and location of ancient human settlements. "From afar the mountains in the environs of the ancient ulus Suiek do not look high and forbidding. Yet once you approach their foothills, this impression is gone. So it is with the steep slope of Mount Tyurya - overgrown with grass and shrubbery, it props the skies..."
A. Adrianov explored the southern part of Western Siberia, just where more than 110 years ago a Finnish party, in search of a mythical homeland of their ancestors, came upon a large sanctuary known as "the screed of Suiek". The Russian clerk, a passionate naturalist and a lucky archeologist to boot, did not hesitate-goaded by curiosity and gut instincts of a Siberian native. So off he went to scale the forbidding peak, Mount Tyurya. It was an arduous ascent that took a lot of courage and tenacity. Now and then the intrepid explorer had to crawl on all fours, in spite of the bumps and lumps and torn clothes and footwear. In spite of the scalding sweat and swarms of flies and gnats. It was a hot stifling day, a muggy day of the summer of 1909..."
But Adrianov was rewarded with a vengeance by what he saw on a vertical face of rock. He, who had copied plenty of prehistoric drawings, had never seen anything of the kind. A fantastic beast with the legs of a stork, the trunk of an elk, and the head of a bear, or tiger, or wild boar, or serpent - who knows! - was striding straight ahead. A raving dragon bent on rape and sack and plunder?
"The monster dragon was in hot pursuit of animals drawn to the right of its gaping maw, while oval-shaped countenances, sad- eyed, looked down from above. Somehow they put Adrianov in mind of shy, timid maids from the Khakass village of Suiek...
"But those timid lasses can hop on horseback and, rearing the horse, gallop off into the steppe. We see a rearing horse like that in the left part of the drawing, just behind the dragon."
The final part of V. Larichev's article carries this title: "Magic Bull of the Earth, Come Up!" The author tells of a field party that made a close study of the rock paintings in 2001. The "Wenches of Suiek" seduced Nikolai Rybakov, an artist from Krasnodar, well-known in Siberia and Europe. His searching eye detected certain distinctions between the original and its copies. For one, he could make out what others had failed to notice before-the many subtle lines, barely visible, which traced a figure behind the fantastic dragon.
In the course of his laborious, painstaking work N. Rybakov drew a thumbnail image of the carved beast: the print showed the outline of a giant humpbacked bull, similar to the bison or aurochs hunted by men of the Stone Age is Siberia. Animals that disappeared long ago. The beast, with the sharp pikes of its horns poised menacingly, moved in the same direction as the dragon.
Besides, N. Rybakov identified yet another six figures of cows and bulls, all of them led by the giant hunchbacked bull. "A glimpse of it evoked the pristine Indo-European myths of Eurasia's west as well as those current among the Turkic-Mongolian tribes of the East about the greatest deity of the Universe, the creator of life on earth-one who was the forefather of the human race and the maker of the Moon. That was Bull the Progenitor (the sharp curves of the bull's hump and horns are a transparent hint of that). Its fertile seed inseminated the spheres of the Moon and the Earth to give rise to the plant and animal kingdoms in all their diversity."
This All-Out Deity lived on mountain peaks, with Mount Tyurya being one of them. It was there that its votaries, the high priests, sang its praises.
Thanks to Nikolai Rybakov the drawing Magic Bull of the Earth is now part and parcel of the world art heritage. "This picture," says Vitaly Larichev at the end of his poetic- and substantive-account, "that dates back to 15-20 thousand years ago is proof positive of the fact that the aboriginal art in Asian Russia of the Ice Age is in no way inferior in mastery and content to the creations of Western Europe's aborigines of the selfsame 'antediluvian age'."
Nauka v Sibiri (Science in Siberia), 2002
Prepared by Lyubov MANKOVA
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