Baikal Petroglyphs in Siberia, Russia – Original Art of Prehistoric People

Petroglyphs of the unique Baikal Lake.

The cliff of Sagan-Zaba on Baikal stands out for its appearance. It is a marble rock of a special, white color, contrasting against the gray background the rest of the rocks.

On the cliff of Sagan-Zaba the biggest in Baikal collection of rock paintings by prehistoric people was found.

These are some of the most complex images in terms of their subject-matter and the execution of petroglyphs.

The cliff of Sagan-Zaba also has several caves which were most likely used for sacrificial rituals. With the water rise in Lake Baikal due to the construction of water power plants many caves became basically inaccessible or accessible only by squeezing between the top of the grotto and ice (in winter).

The scientists believe that the oldest rock images date back to the Stone and Bronze Ages – the end of the II millennium BC. The images cover a period of 3,000 years – until the I millennium BC

Disappearing Baikal Petroglyphs

The first images were discovered by modern researchers in 1881. At the time of the discovery there were about 60 drawings.

Images of caveman on the cliff of Sagan-Zaba, collected by the Russian scientist T. Savenkov

Images of caveman on the cliff of Sagan-Zaba, collected by the Russian scientist T. Savenkov / Cliff Sagan-Zaba / Lake Baikal / Russia

However, the world industrial revolution did not spare Baikal – many images that are in the open air, became quite badly damaged or even got completely lost.

Some drawings were damaged by the waves of Lake Baikal.

Also, the monks of the located nearby Posolsky monastery due to their ideas about the world carved crosses over some images.

There was also some damage from modern vandals.

What is Depicted in the Paintings of Primitive People on the Rocks of Sagan-Zaba

The sizes of drawings are between 1 and 50 centimeters.

The drawings are done using the most ancient of paints– ochre. Some images are carved on rocks. Some are done by pointed knocking.

The images contain a lot of animal figures – deer, swans. According to some scientists, they can symbolize the totems of the tribe they belonged to.

There are many scenes from everyday life. For example, hunting scenes, scenes of birth and death.

Also, among images there are many figurines of a dancing man with horns. Most likely these are images of shamans during ritual dances. This is the only “mass” depiction of shamans in Siberia.

Dancing humanlike figures with horns Cliff Sagan-Zaba Lake Baikal RussiaDancing humanlike figures with horns/ Cliff Sagan-Zaba / Lake Baikal / Russia

How to Get There

The cliff of Sagan-Zaba is located 2.5 km north of Cape Krestovsky on Lake Baikal.

From Cape Krestovsky it can be reached by boat (in summer), on the ground (by car), or on the ice of Lake Baikal (in winter – about a 30 minutewalk).

There is a bus that goes from Irkutsk (Russia) to Cape Krestovsky. You can also stay overnight at Krestovsky (be sure to make reservations in advance).

You can get to Irkutsk by plane from the Russian capital, Moscow.

pic 1 – D. Dubrovsky, V. Grachev / “Ural petroglyphs in the world rock art”

фото 2 – фотобанк Лори

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