Archaeologists draw on urban legend to find ancient Bronze Age wall paintings (PHOTOS)
The 4,000 year old drawings were thought to be the stuff of urban myth, with locals of Gorbitsa, which is near the Shilka River, retelling how they were first found by a hunter decades ago and again in the 1990s by a teacher from a nearby village.
Despite the anecdotal evidence, the incredible red drawings of matchstick men and animals appeared destined to remain lost in the wild and sparsely populated Shilka River basin region.
Directions to the area apparently died along with the teacher, and nobody had seen the rock paintings in years, let alone taken pictures of them.
However, after combing through an area identified by a local man as a possible place of interest, archaeologists led by Novosibirsk State University Professor Sergey Alkin finally uncovered definitive proof that the ancient drawings actually exist.
The blood-red paintings in ochre depict humans, trees, and bull-like animals, with one sequence appearing to show people sitting in a long boat, according to Novosibirsk State University.
“This image on the river is a very rare thing,” Alkin told the university website.
“First of all, the artwork is quite large, with multiple figures. It contrasts with some images of bad quality previously found in the area. Secondly, the petroglyph is very clear and detailed, in a good state of preservation.
“Having been accidently found by a local hunter, the site was visited by other people very seldom.”
The discovery is described as a “petroglyph,” in which parts of the rock face were removed to create images.
Alkin, whose work includes archaeological research in Siberia and China, said the find was actually made in the summer of 2013, but has been kept under wraps for its preservation and protection while experts document the discovery.
“Now we have a full copy of this piece of art to work on,” he explained.
“On the one hand, we want to inform the public and researchers about this new and interesting petroglyph; on the other hand, we would like to keep this site unspoiled, without any tourist carvings or graffiti.
“This is the reason archaeologists copied the petroglyph so carefully, which took a couple of years, and did not rush to attract the attention of journalists. The very site, wild and out-of-the-way, has also been protecting the paintings.”
After comparing the artwork to other ancient pictures found in the Eastern Transbaikalia area, experts believe that it was created during the Bronze Age.
However, a definitive conclusion as to who painted the images remains elusive. Alkin said old tools or weapons found in the vicinity of a find usually give an indication as to what type of people lived in the area, but no such artifacts have been found nearby in this case.
Alkin’s team is now analyzing the clay like substance that was used to make the markings in an effort to found out where the ancient artists might have come from.