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Preservation of the Frozen Tombs of the Altai Mountains

Preservation of the Frozen Tombs of the Altai Mountains

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PRESERVATION
OFTHE FROZEN TOMBS OF THE ALTAIMOUNTAINS
5
PRESERVATION
OFTHE FROZEN TOMBS OF THE ALTAIMOUNTAINS
 The views expressed in the articles contained inthis publication are those of the authors and notnecessarily those of UNESCO.Staff Head in the Formof Large Gryphon’s Headwith a Deer’s Head in itsBeak.Wood and leather;carved. H. 35 cm PazyrykCulture. 5
th
century bc.Inv. no. 1684/170.
© The State HermitageMuseum, St. Petersburg.
7
 Table of Contents
Foreword
Koïchiro Matsuura 9
Introduction
 J. Han 11
Maps and Chronology
16–17CHAPTE R I
SCYTHIANS IN THE EURASIAN STEPPE AND THE PLACE OF THE ALTAI MOUNTAINS INIT
The Scythians: Nomadic Horsemen of the Eurasian Steppe
H. Parzinger 19
The Frozen Scythian Burial Complexes of the Altai Mountains: Conservation and Survey Issues
V.I. Molodin 25
Culture and Landscape in the High Altai 
E. Jacobson-Tepfer 31
 Ancient Altai Culture and its Relationship to Historical Asian Civilizations
H. P. Francfort 35
The Silk Roads and the Road of the Steppes: Eurasia and the Scythian World 
P. Cambon 41CHAPTER I I
UNESCO PROJECT
PRESERVATION OF FROZEN TOMBS OF THE ALTAI MOUNTAINSBackground to UNESCO Preservation of the
Frozen Tombs of the Altai Mountains Project
and Perspectivesfor Transboundary Protection through the World Heritage Convention
 J. Han 49
UNESCO-Sponsored Field Campaigns in the Russian and Kazakh Altai 
 J. Bourgeois and W. Gheyle55
Climate Change and its Impact on the Frozen Tombs of the Altai Mountains
S. Marchenko 61CHAPTER III
CHALLENGE FOR CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT
The Altai: Heartland of Asia
 Y.P. Badenkov 65
Excavation and Sampling Techniques in the Frozen Tombs of Kazakhstan
 J. Vasquez 67
Recommendations of the Gorno-Altaisk UNESCO Workshop, March 2006.
73
Afterword
Ivan Belekov 77
Acknowledgements
799
Foreword
Koïchiro Matsuura
Director-General of UNESCO
 
T
he safeguarding and protection of the world’s cultural heritage has long been considered oneof UNESCO’s foremost achievements. Since its creation some 60 years ago, the Organization hasresponded to numerous threats confronting heritage, whether they result from armed conflicts,natural disasters, uncontrolled modernization, touristic development or other factors. In recent years,a new threat has emerged as the focus of great international concern, namely climate change. In keepingwith its mission to safeguard the world’s cultural diversity, UNESCO has consistently sought to riseto all of these challenges over the past six decades.In this context, the project presented in this booklet – the Preservation of the Frozen Tombs of theAltai Mountains – is especially timely. Undertaken by UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in collaborationwith a distinguished international team of partners, this initiative is among the first of its kind,addressing, as it does, urgent cultural issues related to the environment and climate change. As statedin its title, the project’s principal aim is to ensure the preservation and conservation of the remarkablefrozen tombs that lie scattered across the Altai Mountains, which spread over China, Kazakhstan,Mongolia and the Russian Federation. These ancient tombs, or
kurgans
, contain unique relics of thevast Scythian civilization that once flourished on the Eurasian steppe and have been preserved intactin the permafrost, or frozen ground for over 2,500 years. The tombs contain the remains of mummifiedhuman bodies and sacrificed horses, as well as a range of everyday artefacts including saddles, furnitureand textiles.However, these precious objects are now under threat from various factors, most notably globalwarming, which is precipitating the meltdown of the permafrost that has guaranteed their preservationover millennia. To meet such new challenges, the World Heritage Committee requested theWorld Heritage Centre to develop a number of innovative strategies to assist States Parties to moreeffectively deal with the consequences of climate change on cultural and natural sites. The outcomesof the project on the frozen tombs of the Altai Mountains have been very useful in the process of elaboratingsuch strategies.It is my hope that the project for the preservation of the Frozen Tombs will inspire those countrieswith territory in the Altai Mountain range to strengthen their efforts to safeguard the region’simmense heritage. We are pleased to note that the Russian portion of the Altai Mountains wasinscribed as a natural site on the World Heritage List in 1998. UNESCO heartily encourages all of thecountries concerned to work together to ensure that the natural and the cultural value of the entireAltai Mountain region is recognized internationally and protected accordingly. Thus far, this project has served to focus wider international attention on the larger problemsconfronting other natural and cultural heritage sites affected by global warming and climate change.Indeed, this project has already enriched the international debate on this issue. I am confident thatthis booklet, with its insightful articles on the Altai region by several eminent specialists, will stimulatefurther reflection on matters related to conservation, sustainable development and climate change tothe benefit of heritage in other regions of the world.I would like to express my gratitude to the UNESCO/Flanders Funds-in-Trust for its generouscontribution to this landmark project and to the publication of this booklet. My sincere thanks also goto all of the contributing authors and institutions, which have graciously lent their time and expertiseto ensuring the quality of this booklet.Koïchiro MatsuuraSwan. Felt; applique.H. 30 cm PazyrykCulture. 5
th
- 4
th
century bc.Inv. no. 1687/262.
© The State HermitageMuseum, St. Petersburg.
11
T
he publication of this booklet marks theend of the
Preservation of the Frozen Tombs of the Altai Mountains
project, which was launchedin 2005 and carried out by the UNESCO WorldHeritage Centre with financial support from theUNESCO/Flanders Funds-in-Trust
(Fig. 1)
.Until quite recently, issues surrounding thefrozen tombs of the Altai Mountains were knownabout by only a limited number of specialists, dueto difficulties of international access to regions of the former Soviet Union. The frozen tombs andmaterial contained in them constitute invaluableresearch material to shed light on the nomadicpeoples that inhabited the Eurasian Steppe in
 
the first millennium bce, as well as on theirneighbouring civilizations, such as the PersianAchemaenid Empire.Excavations carried out on the Scythian barrowslying between the Ural and Altai mountainranges in the 17
th
and 18
th
centuries ce, whichformed the basis of the collection put togetherby Peter the Great that is now in the StateHermitage Museum in St. Petersburg
(Fig. 2)
,already yielded considerable information on theScythians and on the other nomadic tribes thatonce inhabited this region. However, certain customsand cultural aspects of these peoples couldnot have been confirmed had it not been for excavationscarried out in the frozen tombs of theAltai Mountains themselves. For this reason,these frozen tombs are invaluable for the lighttheir contents shed over what is still a littleknownperiod in the history of the peoples thathave occupied the Eurasian steppe.Over the last three years, the UNESCO projectthat this publication records has beensuccessfully raising awareness of the importanceof frozen tombs of the Altai Mountains at internationallevel. The aim of the present publication isboth to record this project and to shed furtherlight not only on the uniqueness of the tombs asresearch material, but also on the mountain landscape,which shows how the nomadic peoples of this region have interacted with their naturalenvironment over the millennia. The first section of this booklet deals withsome of these issues, looking at historical, anthropological,archaeological and art-historicalaspects of the Altai Mountains. The first article,“The Scythians: Nomadic Horsemen of theEurasian Steppe,” introduces the Scythians andwhat is known about them, taking readers fromthe coasts of the Black Sea to Tuva (the Republicof Tuva in the Russian Federation) on the southernedges of Siberia. It was in this region that theso-called “Scytho-Siberian style” of art is nowbelieved to have originated, thanks to the recentresearch carried out on the
kurgan
, or burialmound, Arzhan-2 in Tuva by a joint German andRussian team (H. Parzinger, Deutsches ArchäologischesInstitut (DAI) and K. Cugunov, StateHermitage Museum)
(Fig. 3 and 4)
. By describing
Introduction
 Junhi Han
World Heritage Centre, Culture, UNESCO
Fig. 2
Comb with aScythians in Battle.Gold; cast and chased.12.6 x 10.2 cm Scythianculture. Late 5
th
- early4
th
century bc SolokhaBarrow.Inv. no. Dn-1913.1/1
© The State HermitageMuseum, St. Petersburg.
INTRODUCTION
v
the position of the Altai in the broad context of Eurasia as a whole, the article serves as an introductionto those that follow dealing with specificthemes. The second article, “The Frozen ScythianBurial Complexes of the Altai Mountains:Conservation and Survey Issues,” introduces two

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