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​Altyn Adam

Qazaq Geography

"The Golden Man" (in Kazakh Altyn Adam) is the conditional name of an archaeological find made in 1969-1970 53.5 kilometers from Alma—Ata as a result of excavations of the Issyk mound on the bank of Issyk River, which reached a height of 6 meters and a diameter of 60 meters. It represents the remains of a Saka warrior in golden clothes.

In 1969, a group of Soviet scientists led by archaeologist Akishev Kemal Akishevich discovered a unique archaeological complex of the Issyk burial ground. The Issyk mound is part of a burial ground complex located on the left bank of Issyk Mountain River, near Issyk city, 50 kilometers east of Alma-Ata. The burial ground consists of 45 large royal burial mounds with a diameter of 30 to 90 and a height of 4 to 15 meters. The Issyk Mound was located in the western half of the burial ground. Its diameter is 60 meters, height — 6 meters. After the demolition of the embankment, two burials were discovered at a depth of 1.2 meters from the level of the ancient horizon: central and lateral (southern).
The central one was repeatedly robbed. The side grave turned out to be undisturbed, the burial and the buried inventory were completely preserved. The burial chamber was constructed of treated spruce logs. In the northern half, the remains of the buried were found. More than 4 thousand gold objects, an iron sword and dagger, a bronze mirror, clay, metal and wooden vessels were found in the burial chamber.

In the side burial chamber, cut down from the trunks of the Tien Shan spruce, more than four thousand ornaments made of gold leaf, once sewn on clothes, shoes and headgear, as well as gold rings, figurines, bronze and gold weapons, various vessels were found. A silver bowl with 26 written signs was found in the burial. The find dates back to the VI—V century BC. The inscription on the bowl has not yet been deciphered. In the southern and western parts of the side chamber, dishes made of wood, clay, bronze and silver were placed, and in the northern part, on the plank floor, the remains of a buried man lying with his head to the west were found.

On the skeleton and under it, many gold ornaments of clothing, headdress and shoes were found. Weapons and various utensils that could be useful in the afterlife are laid out nearby. An arrow with a gold tip is placed at the elbow of the left hand, here, but above the elbow, there is a whip, the handle of which is spirally wrapped with a wide gold ribbon, even higher is a bag containing a bronze mirror and red paint.

According to the anthropological definition of O. I. Ismagulov, buried one in the Issyk mound has a characteristic Caucasian appearance for the Semirechensk Saks with an admixture of Mongoloid features, his age is 16-18 years. Due to the subsequent loss of bone remains, it is not possible to reconstruct the appearance or make a chromosomal analysis. The objects in the burial can belong to both a man and a woman.

There are several options for reconstructing the costume and headdress.
Presumably, this is sak—tigrahuda, because he has a pointed headdress of 70 cm high on his head, decorated with gold plates and plaques depicting horses, leopards, mountain goats, birds, trees. On the neck there is a golden torque with tips in the form of tiger heads. On the left side of the skull, a gold earring decorated with grains and turquoise pendants was found.

The form of clothing and the method of burial suggest that the "Golden Man" was a descendant of a prominent Saka leader or a member of the royal family. Some Kazakh historians suggest that the burial belongs to Wusun.
Most likely, he was buried in ceremonial array or finery: a thin silk shirt, a short doublet, tight trousers made of red suede and high boots without heels. On the head of the leader there was a high conical cap — kulakh. A three-turn tubular torque with tips in the shape of a tiger's head was found on the neck. On top of the doublet there was a heavy set belt made of figured cast plates. To the right of the deceased, on a belt in a wooden scabbard there was a sword for equestrian combat; to the left, there was an iron dagger in a scabbard with overlays in the form of an elk and a horse. Its pommel has the appearance of two griffin heads; it is covered with gold leaf. The blade is inlaid with gold plates with images of various animals. A symbolic rod with a golden tip and a whip decorated with gold was placed at the left shoulder. The features of the armament enable to date the Issyk mound to the V—IV or IV—III centuries BC.

The Story of the Golden Man

In 1963, Issyk Lake burst through a powerful mudflow. As a result of the incident, many houses and industrial buildings of the village were washed away, including the local carpool. In 1968, Issyk received the status of a city, as a result of which there was a need to develop the infrastructure of the district center. Among other tasks was the construction of a new carpool at the entrance to the city. According to the USSR Law "On the Protection of Historical, Archaeological and Cultural Monuments", after the allocation of land for construction, it was necessary to coordinate with the authorized body for the presence of historical monuments on this territory. To do this, the archaeologist Beken Nurmukhanbetov went to the site with a laboratory assistant and photographer (Oleg Medvedev). The mentioned mound was located on the territory of the future carpool. Its study began — throughout 1969, the embankment was demolished, and in the spring of 1970, the central burial was opened, which turned out to be robbed several times. When the work was already being curtailed, B. Nurmukhanbetov, having gone with his gut, asked the bulldozers to "pass" again a dozen meters north of the central burial. After several passes, the bulldozer's knife came across a wooden log house, undisturbed by the robbers. After clearing the entire log house, the young archaeologist decided to call his colleagues. After that, the teacher, Akishev Kemal Akishevich, took the excavations into his own hands.
Currently, Beken-aga has opened an open-air museum on the site of the Issyk mounds, where he is the main keeper of the Saka mounds.

Symbol of Kazakhstan

The treasures of the Issyk mound, including an exact copy, were exhibited in the Kazakh Museum of Archaeology, located in Alma-Ata, and now in the State Museum of Gold and Precious Metals of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Astana.
The "Golden Man" on the winged leopard has become one of the national symbols of Kazakhstan. Copies of the Saka warrior are installed in many cities of Kazakhstan, one of them crowns the monument of Independence on the main square of Alma-Ata.
In total, five burials with the so-called "golden man" were found in Kazakhstan as a result of archaeological excavations: the second "golden man" was found in the Araltobe Mound, the third one was found in the Shilikty mound - Baigetobe, the fourth one was found near Astana and the fifth "golden man" was found in the Taldy burial ground of Karkaraly region.


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