Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Deerstones of Baya Ulgii (Day 15)

Photo: Deerstone on the riverflats of Sagsay.

The Smithsonian Institute has only just begun studying these ancient sculptures, which dot the landscape across Bayan Ulgii province. 

Nobody knows for sure exactly how old these are, or who put them there, although it seems that many are burial markers of some sort as there are often remnants of a burial mound nearby.  These preliminary studies suggest that the stone people seem to face the rising sun of the winter solstice, and a project to map the exact locations of each sculpture and site was entering its 8th in 2008;I have no idea if the study continues today.


Photo: 'Hawk chalk', almost looks like dreads.

I had read a little about these mysteries prior toarriving in Bayan Ulgii, and was nervous to meet the ancient Mongolian ancestors to our Hawaiian pohaku.  We drove 20km past the settlement of Sagsay soum, almost clear across the vast riverflats which hold the Hovdsgol, Sagsay, and Turgin rivers. 

If we hadn't known where to look, it would have been easy to miss the stone sentinel standing guard over who-knows-what watching quietly from his plain-sight-hiding-site on the rocky flats.  The constant and freezing wind (which locals hardly seem to notice) almost froze my hands stiff (in ten minutes flat) as I worked quickly to photograph the site.

Photo: Bek chills out with his ancestor.

Bek casually (I though callously) rested his hands upon his ancestor's head to my shock and horror as I moved reverently around the Deerstone.  "He is ancestor, he is Friend," he explained simply, and I had to laugh in spite of myself.  The people of Bayan Ulgii live so closely to their lands, because their climate is so harsh, and the margin of error so slim, that they have a living relationship with the environment that most of us in the developed world have lost.

It was a simple, profound lesson that is still lingering.

Photo:Introductions are made...

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