National park / Reserve

Reserve-museum "Issyk"

The museum and archaeological complex "Issyk" is dedicated to the burial mounds of the Saka era and a significant find in Kazakhstani archeology - the "Golden Man".

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Almaty province

Reserve-museum "Issyk"

The museum and archaeological complex "Issyk" is dedicated to the burial mounds of the Saka era and a significant find in Kazakhstani archeology - the "Golden Man".

At the Issyk burial mounds Almaty region, whose age is about 2.5 thousand years, in general, a happy fate. Due to their considerable size and large number, many of them have survived to this day. Of course, there were very few chances that the graves of the Saka kings and military leaders themselves would survive on this busy branch of the Great Silk Road, in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau, where life was always seething. After all, everyone knew that the larger the barrow, the higher the rank of the buried person, which means that the more treasures are hidden in it. In fact, all large mounds were looted.

However, in Soviet times there was a strict rule to carry out security excavations. In 1969, during the expansion of the city of Issyk in a northern direction, it was planned to build a motor depot on the site of one of the mounds. In this regard, a group of Kazakh scientists led by Kemal Akishev conducted security excavations. The main burial, as expected, was plundered long ago. And at the moment when the excavations were planned to be stopped, an experienced archaeologist Bekmukhanbet Nurmukhanbetov asked the bulldozer operator to open the side of the mound. To everyone's surprise, an unlooted burial was discovered there at a depth of 1.2 meters from the level of the ancient horizon. It contained the remains of the Saka prince in a gilded dress uniform. More than 4,000 gold items were also found in the burial log, including animal-style jewelry, an iron sword and dagger, a bronze mirror, metal and wooden vessels.

Interest in this find increased significantly after Kazakhstan gained independence. The elements of the prince's helmet formed the basis of the coat of arms of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Bekmukhanbet Nurmukhanbetov dreamed of creating a museum on the site of the Issyk mounds. In the late 90s and early 2000s, being already a pensioner, every summer he set up a yurt in the mound area and opened a personal exposition of ancient finds there. He talked about the ancient Saka settlements, showed where they were located, explained the structure of the barrows. Thanks to his knowledge and eloquence, he even received the title of the best guide in the country.

The dream of Bekmukhanbet Nurmukhanbetov came true in 2010, when the Issyk Museum Reserve was created in the area of the mounds as part of the Cultural Heritage program. Nurmukhanbetov became one of its founders. In 2013, the territory of the protected zone of the reserve-museum was approved in 422.7 hectares. It included more than 80 burial mounds, as well as the ancient Saka settlements of Rakhat and Orikty. The museum fund consists of collections consisting of three thousand archaeological exhibits. Four exposition halls are open for visitors: the hall of the history and culture of the Saka tribes, the hall of the history of the discovery and study of the Golden Man, the hall of archeology of Kazakhstan, the exhibition hall and the memorial office of archaeologist Bekmukhanbet Nurmukhanbetov. The cultural landscape is represented by burial mounds adjacent to the museum building.

Useful tips for 2021-2022

How to get there?

The reserve-museum "Issyk" is located 50 kilometers east of Almaty before entering the city of Issyk from the north. It is more convenient to get from Almaty along the Kuldzhinsky tract. At the fork with a high stele, turn right. Before entering the city of Issyk, on the right side, you can see the mounds and the museum building. You can get there both by private transport and by sightseeing buses. If you are going to Lake Issyk or the Turgen waterfalls, then a stop at the reserve-museum will make a noticeable difference to your trip and allow you to make a fascinating dive into the Saka era and learn the history of the Golden Man.

Meals and accommodation

A visit to the reserve-museum "Issyk" is usually included in the program of one-day routes to the Issyk, to Lake Issyk and to the Turgen Gorge. Food in these cases is usually taken with you or purchased along the way. If necessary, you can stay overnight in the city of Issyk, where there is a choice of hotels, as well as cafes and restaurants.

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