Engraved images of the Shulgan-Tash (Kapova) cave, Bashkortostan, South Ural

Kotov V.G.




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The cave of Shulgan-Tash (Kapova) with wall drawings of the Upper Paleolithic is located in the mountain course of the River Belaya in the Southern Urals, nearby the village of Gadelgareevo, Burzyansky district of the Republic of Bashkortostan. In the process of more than 50 years of studying the cave sanctuary, the search for engraved images has been carried out. Two compositions with engraved images were discovered in 2008. Composition No. 1 is located in the Main Gallery, 100 m from the entrance, in a niche on the western wall at a height of about 2 m above the floor level. It consists of the elements located on two levels. At the lower level, a number of elements are confined to the natural fracture and a chain of caverns. Parallel to the horizontal crack, five lines were drawn. The lines connect to a quadrangular shape filled with vertical and horizontal lines. Behind it, the crack merges into a chain of caverns. The upper tier consists of four oval artificial recesses. The fourth groove is located under the engraved anthropomorphic figure, between the legs. This indicates that this is a vulva-shaped symbol. The grooves are connected by deeply incised lines to the quadrangular figure and caverns of the lower tier. Lines also run from the chain of the caverns downwards. Thus, these groups of artificial and natural elements were combined into a single composition. Composition No. 2 is located in the Dome Hall, 150 m from the entrance, above the Chapel of Skulls in the western wall, nearby the colorful wall images in the shape of splashes. It was made on a 16 cm × 14 cm rock surface leveled and cleaned of calcite deposits. The composition consists of three pictorial elements made in three different ways. The first element is represented by two parallel arcuate bands of comb lines of 4 cm wide and about 30 cm long made with a serrated stone tool of 4 cm wide in the soft mondmilch. Under them, with finger impressions in the mondmilch, a circle of about 6 cm in diameter was made of round dimples; rows of engraved straight lines and zigzags were applied to the right of the circle. At present, the composition is held together by calcite incrustation and has completely hardened. The use of stone tools to create the engravings and grooves, the calcite crust inside the engraved lines, the use of the natural forms of the wall relief in the pictorial ensemble, the similarity of the quadrangular figure with the quadrangular symbols painted with ochre in the same cave, and the presence of a vulva-shaped symbol all this indicates the Upper Paleolithic Age of these compositions.

Keywords: Southern Urals, mountain course of the Belaya River, Shulgan-Tash (Kapova) cave sanctuary, engravings, Upper Paleolithic.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 05.12.2022

Article is published: 15.06.2023


Kotov V.G., Institute of History, Language and Literature of the Ufa Federal Research Center of the RAS, prosp. Oktyabrya, 71, Ufa, 450054, Russian Federation, E-mail: kslav1@yandex.ru, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3510-0058