Altay Mountains Survey Project (AMSP) (1995-present)

Ghent University has been active in the Altay Mountains since 1995, with large scale survey projects and a limited number of well-targeted excavations

Group of large stelae in the Chuya steppe (Altay)
Group of large stelae in the Chuya steppe (Altay)
The Altay Mountains are situated where south‐western Siberia meets Central Asia, near the boundaries of China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and the Altay Republic (Russian Federation). Scattered across the Altay Mountains are thousands of surface structures – funerary monuments, ritual structures and petroglyphs – of different, mainly nomadic civilisations, from the Eneolithic to the Ethnographic period (from the 3rd millennium BCE to the beginning of the 20th century CE). They are uncommonly well preserved; thanks to the specific geographical context with little sedimentation and erosion, low population density and limited urbanisation, until the present day. Even smaller monuments, comprising no more than a few stones, are still visible today, presenting us with a unique view of past and present landscapes.

The Altay Mountains Survey Project (AMSP)

Ghent University has been active in the Altay Mountains since 1995, with large scale survey projects and a limited number of well-targeted excavations (see project overview below). After some initial surveys and collaborations with different Russian partners, a PhD research
Turkic anthropomorphic stela in Dzhazator (Altay)
Turkic anthropomorphic stela in Dzhazator (Altay)
(Wouter Gheyle, 2003-2009) mapped and analysed the archaeological landscape in detail, bringing together old and newly gathered survey data. If we also take into account the survey work of 2010 in Yustyd, and the recent survey expeditions in 2014-2015 in Turu-Alty, there have been 11 survey campaigns in the Russian and Kazakh part of the Altay Mountains, resulting in a GIS-based database with information about over 16.000 surface monuments.

In 2011, we excavated a special and previously unstudied type of monument. Spread over different research areas, we encountered hundreds of geometric stone settings, mostly concentrated in groups of 10-60 structures. They appear to have the layout of a type of dwelling, but their use, meaning and date was unknown. The excavation of two of these monuments gave us interesting new insights and a precise chronology. Interestingly, they appeared to be some of the oldest surface structures in the valley.

The project received support over the years from UNESCO/Flanders Fund-in-Trust, FWO - Vlaanderen, IWT and Ghent University Research Fund (BOF).

The transport of equipment was partly supported by Brussels Airlines, and C&C Technologies provided the Starfire RTG signal for the use of the C-Nav GPS.

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Contact

Dr. Wouter Gheyle

Prof. dr. Jean Bourgeois