The Tamga Signs of the Turkic Nomads in the Altai and Semirechye: Comparisons and Identifi cations
The Tamga Signs of the Turkic Nomads in the Altai and Semirechye: Comparisons and Identifications
A.E. Rogozhinsky1 and D.V. Cheremisin2 1Margulan Institute of Archaeology, Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Dostyk 44, Almaty, 500010, Kazakhstan 2Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Pr. Akademika Lavrentieva 17, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
This article presents a classification of tamgas on petroglyphs and portable items. Tamgas are signs of group identity used by medieval Turkic nomads inhabiting Southern Siberia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. We describe eight groups of tamgas found in the Altai and in Semirechye, and compare them with similar signs from other parts of the region. The mapping of tamgas, including petroglyphic, sphragistic, and other types have allowed us to assess their date, ethno-political attribution, and the migration routes of groups with which they were associated. The comparison of tamgas in the Altai and Semirechye evidences close links between those regions. Whereas certain groups of tamgas (combinations of many varieties) were emblems of major tribal unions, others were supratribal markers of social status, privileged clans, and alliances. Certain emblems were dynastic signs of the ruling elite. Dynastic tamgas of the Yaglakar clan are known from sites such as Syrnakh-Gozy and Kurai I in the Altai. Certain tamgas on coins and petroglyphs in Semirechye are emblems of the 8th and 9th century Karluk rulers of the Altai (Chagan, Taldura, etc.) and central Mongolia (Shivet Ulan). Two groups of tamgas (No. 1 and 3) have many derivatives, marking certain divisions of the Karluk federation. An example of a supratribal emblem is tamga No. 2, which shows little variation despite being found in various contexts over a vast territory.