top of page

ALTYN EMEL (Besshatyr)

Saka mounds Besshatyr (translated from the Kazakh language - "Five tents") is a complex of royal tombs dating back to the 1st millennium BC, one of the most remarkable objects of the historical and cultural heritage of the Altyn-Emel National Park and the entire region Semirechye as a whole.
The Besshatyr necropolis is located in the western part of the Altyn-Emel National Park on the right bank of the Ili River, in the Shylbyr tract between the Degeres (Dzhungar Alatau) ridge in the west and the Small Kalkan mountains in the east, 35 km from post No. 1 (arrival from the village Shengeldy).
Historical and cultural landmark
Besshatyr is a necropolis (burial place) of the leaders of the nomadic Saks-tigrakhauda tribe (in the Western world, the Saks were called Eastern Scythians), who lived in this territory in the 6th-4th centuries BC.
The age of the Besshatyr burial mounds is about 2.5 thousand years.
The mounds, which from afar look like tents, are made of stones. A total of 31 burial mounds were found in this area. Of these, 21 barrows are covered with stone and 10 with an embankment of crushed stone and earth.
The mounds are stretched from north to south for 2 km and from west to east for 1 km. The total area of the Besshatyr burial ground is about 2 km².
Mounds are divided into large, medium and small. For the leaders of tribes and unions, rulers, kings, mounds with a diameter of 50-100 m were erected, for famous warriors, heads of clans, the nobility - from 30-40 m, mounds from 15-25 m were built for simple combatants. The largest, the so-called Royal Mound , has a height of 17 m, a diameter of 105 m.
Complex underground passages were found in large mounds. From the inside, the mounds are finished with Tien Shan spruce wood, which was harvested in the Zailiysky Alatau, 200-250 km from this place, and rafted down the Ili River.
The Besshatyr necropolis was explored by the Semirechensk archaeological expedition in 1957, 1959-1961. During the excavations, many historical artifacts were discovered, which gave an idea of the life of the powerful nomadic Saka tribe.
Unfortunately, the royal burial mounds were plundered in antiquity, and from the remaining objects and the grandeur of the structures, one can only guess about the value of the missing things. However, the Besshatyr mounds themselves are of great cultural value as a historical artifact.
The burial mounds of Besshatyr are called Semirechensky, or Saka pyramids.
The name "Besshatyr" ("five tents") comes, apparently, from the number of the largest tombs in this territory. On the way, you can see many smaller burial mounds scattered throughout the territory between the Sholak mountains and the Ili River.
Besshatyr mounds were not only a place of burial, but also a place of religious rites.
Of great historical and cultural value are altars in the form of circles of stacked and vertically installed stones (on the east side), which could correlate with the cult of the sun, characteristic of the Saka culture.
Particularly powerful megaliths, or menhirs (from the Breton men - stone and hir - long), were installed near the Tsar's burial mound.
Images of animals, symbols of the sun, as well as tamgas of Kazakh clans are carved on many menhirs.
Menhirs near the Besshatyr necropolis
Menhirs in the national park "Altyn-Emel" - monuments of Saka culture and religion.
Steles of Oshaktas
Approximately 30 km east of the Besshatyr mounds, at the foot of the Maly Kalkan mountains, there are similar structures - the Oshaktas steles.
Scientists suggest that the entire territory between the Dzungarian mountains and the Ili River was a place of pagan rites among the ancient nomads.
tourist attraction
A visit to the Besshatyr necropolis is an opportunity to touch the antiquity and see the traces of the nomadic civilization of the Saks, who inhabited the entire territory of modern Kazakhstan in times before our era.
In order to get to the Saka mounds of Besshatyr, you need to drive into the national park through checkpoint No. 1 from the village of Shengeldy.
The road to the necropolis of Besshatyr passes through a picturesque valley between the mountains of the Dzungarian Alatau and the Ili River. This is the most secluded and protected part of the Altyn-Emel National Park - here you can see kulans and goitered gazelles. For the sake of saving these graceful animals, the through passage from the Besshatyr mounds to the Singing Dune was closed so that the animals could freely descend to the river to drink.
Birdwatchers (bird watchers) will also appreciate this protected part of the national park - here you can see the birds of the delta of the Ili River and the mountains of the Dzungarian Alatau. Fans of mountain trekking can explore the low-mountain gorges - Taigak and Kyzylauyz.

On the way, you can stop by to look at the ancient rock paintings in the Sholak mountains - petroglyphs of Tanbaly Tas, dating back to the Bronze, Iron and Middle Ages.

bottom of page