Petroglyphs can be found in abundance all over Central Asia, signatures of ancient man praying for a good hunt, a fertile marriage, or perhaps only expressing the nature of their daily life.
An exceptional site for the sheer wealth of rock drawings is the Sarmysh Gorge north of Navoi, Uzbekistan. 3000 etchings are carved into smooth black shale for over 10 km into the gorge. Animals like deer, bulls, goats and horses make up the majority of the drawings, but there are also tender depictions of dancers, men with large penises and an alien spaceman.
The petroglyphs stem from the Bronze Age, around 3000 years ago. A big part of the pleasure of visiting comes from the immediate connection one can feel with the artists, our imaginative forefathers who we can suddenly relate to. The pictures draw us into their mindset, and the gentle execution and the vitality of the craftsmanship on show makes us realise we are not all that different.
The rest of the fun comes from hunting down more petroglyphs further down the valley, scrambling up the black walls of the Sarmysh Gorge with a camera lens, a pair of binoculars or simply a piece of paper and a pencil, looking for that final exquisite find.
See the location of the Sarmysh gorge on a map of the region. To get there, you need to pass a children’s camp, which is gated. As an independent traveler, you might need to spend some time convincing the guards of your intentions. We have heard of something like a permit, but pretending such a thing does not exist is not unwise.