The Gold of the Great Steppe project focuses on the East of Kazakhstan, part of the Great Steppe. The Great Steppe is a vast expanse of grassland that stretches for thousands of miles across Eurasia – from eastern Siberia to the Black Sea.
Located in the centre of this steppe zone, East Kazakhstan occupies a special ecological position. With the Altai mountain system at its borders, rivers, lakes and open steppe create many unique habitats for a huge variety of birds, plants, animals, and humans.
The Shilikty valley contains over 200 funerary monuments dating from the 8th to the 1st centuries BCE. Following excavations in the 1940s to 70s, a new programme of excavation began in 2003, led by Prof. Abdesh Toleubaev of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University.
Eleke Sazy is a vast cup-shaped valley surrounded by low mountains. Staged on high ground in a mosaic landscape of river, marsh, and steppe are over 300 kurgans, including some from the earliest Saka period (9th century BCE). Excavations led by Prof. Zainolla Samashev (Nazarbayev University) began in 2018, and are ongoing.
With the Altai mountains forming a natural amphitheatre, a large terrace of the Bukhtarma river provides a stage for around 100 kurgans at Berel. Since 1998, excavations led by Prof. Zainolla Samashev have uncovered spectacularly preserved remains from the 4th century BCE to the 7th century CE.