Archaeological site Butakty-I is located on south-east edge of Almaty, 100 m east from turn to Jubileiny Village. The site occupies the plain platform 1,5 km length and 1 km width on the right bank of the Zharbulak River (Kazachka), edged with northern spurs of Ile Alatau Gorge. It was just in the middle of XX century when territory of the site undergoes build up activity which caused a serious damage and irrevocable partly loss of a monument. Only flattened hill cut away with steep and deep ravine dominated above nearby territory in the western part of the complex. Remains of burial constructions and fragments of household ware were fixed on the preserved part of the site of 200 x 50 m in seize.
Economic and construction activity cause unsafe condition of the monument. As a result of archaeological survey the Bronze Age dwelling and a site of the Early Iron Age, consisting of 4 living and one household constructions were dug out; discovered and studied 41 burials of the Early Iron and the Middle Ages. Referring the data it was determined that archaeological complex functioned for more than 2 500 years, which makes it an invaluable source in study of ancient history of Almaty.
The earliest archaeological layers correspond to the settlement of the Bronze Age. The functioning of the settlement within XIV – XII cc. BC and most characteristic features of material culture refer the settlement to Andronovo cultural-historical community. Scientific reconstruction represents the type of the dwelling as a square half-dugout of frame and pole structures 11x11 m in seize. Walls are built of trimmed logs, coated with earth and red vegetable paint. Four-pitched roof leans on square frame in the centre of the dwelling, supported with 4 pillows; extraction hole remains in the roof above the hearth. Such type of construction is typical for Andronovo tribes in Kazakhstan.
The floor was covered with liquid clay with organics, the level depressed to the center. An oval hearth with horseshoe sides 1,2 x 2,2 m in seize was placed exactly in the center of the dwelling. It was calcined up to 0,5 m depth which witnesses a long period of exploitation.
Different forms of economy cause a large number of stone and bone tools. The most typical of stone implements are querns, mortars, pestles which testify development of agriculture. The cattle-breeding economy is proved by stone tools like bolas, side-scrapers for leather treatment and a vast number of animal bones, among which remains of small cattle (above 80 %), cattle (about 15 %) are prevailing. A small number of horse bones do not mean they were not preferred, most likely they were not used in food. These aggregated data let us presume, that in the middle of the II millennium BC pastoral cattle-breeding emerged among sedentary population of the northern slopes of Ile Alatau. This fact is proved by permanent dwellings and predominant number of cattle in the herd.
Bronze articles – needles, awls, pin holers, a bronze band, a ring with spiral edges, beads testify development of metallurgy. Forgery and castings were used in process of metal treatment. Majority of standard tools were made by castings, while forgery was used in jewelry making.
Handicrafts are mostly presented by weaving, sewing and ceramic production. Leather treatment is witnessed with stone scrapers, tupiki and bronze awls. Tradition of sewing leather articles with sinew thread is well known. Leather also may be used for making outerwear, headdress and shoes. Most often weaving production is testified with clay spindle-whorls and imprinted traces of woolen mould inside ceramics. Thread of 1 mm thickness was obtained by weavers. It is presumed that fabric was produced on a primitive loom with bone needle and plummets (oval shaped river pebble?). Production of earthenware was standardized, and, probably, by circular sticking. Typologically among ceramics are predominated clay jars and pots. Some vessels were ornamented by small comb-shaped bone stamp, discovered near pillar in the eastern part of the dwelling. The main decorative element consists of rectangular triangle with an apex down. Pottery was fired, usually of darkish-grey color.
The Bronze Age economy of Butakty-I residents is defined as complex cattle-breeding and agricultural with supplementary presence of hunting and gathering. However, situation was cardinally changed at the turn of XII –XI cc.BC, when Andronovo settlement at the gorge entrance suddenly collapsed. In the Late Bronze Age in XII –IX cc. BC the settlement didn’t regenerate, but we became aware of rather specific Terenkara settlement on the territory of Almaty. It was a temporary site typical for nomadic cattle-breeders pertained to community of shafted ceramics culture.
Revival of ancient settlement took place in the second half of the 1 millennium BC in the Sakae period. An oval site was cleared of obstruction inside dug-out of 8 m in diameter. Then it was densely smoothed with riddle earth, and wooden pillars were dug in on perimeter. Separate wall segments were installed between pillars, supposedly, of wicker fence type. Smoothing of soil floor in temporary sites is one of the most distinctive features of the sites attributed to the Late Sakae period, which solves the problem of protection the dwelling from rising subsoil waters. Roof constructions have not been found, but considering the features of the site we shall presume it is similar to yurta structure. Remains of hearths have been observed within household yards.
The character of palaeo-zoological data confirming prevailing number of cattle and horse bones suggests it was a temporary site of pastoral herdsmen with well developed forms of economy. Localization of the site in the vicinity of gorge entrance, in the place where a number of large settlements of the Sakae period are fixed, particularly, in the area of Gorny Gigant, presumes active interrelations of ancient herdsmen with farmers and handicraftsmen.
Ceramics uncovered in the layer is presented with jugs, kettles with handles, large khums and pots and bowl of different seizes. Sherds of wheel-made earthenware, ornamented with rippled decoration have analogies in Central Asian ceramics of the same period. The bones of cattle are prevailing over horse bones.
Just after the turn of the era’s change of the functional purpose of the site occur. This phenomenon was caused by moistening period started approximately at the same time and coincides with diffusion of the Wu-sun tribes in Jetysu. Dead members of their tribes were buried in Butakty-I burial ground, on the flat platform near the gorge entrance, on the high above flood-plain terrace.
Burial constructions are represented by pit-graves with udercut, deepened to 1-1,5 m. Deceased persons were buried in supine position with their hands stretched along the body. Any funeral attire has been found in the grave. The main characteristic feature of these graves is orientation of deceased to north-west, and quiet rare – to north-east. Bones of small cattle (sheep or goat) are very often found at the head-side. The female graves differ with specific tradition of flexing left hand above belly.
Deceased in graves with funeral attire are oriented south-west. A jug or bowl with plane bottom was always placed at the head-side. The main feature of this group of the Early Iron Age defines with elongated face and high stature. Predominance of meat food above vegetable in burial traditions in Jetysu evidences prevailing development of cattle-breeding economy.
The closest analogies to Butakty-I ceramics of the Early Iron Age are found in materials of the burial grounds located on the right bank of the Ile River. Mounds with pit-graves and undercuts and buried persons with mentioned above anthropological features correspond to the beginning of our era. Funeral attire and type of burial construction attribute to the Wu-sun period of the II c.BC – III c.AD.
Today about 30 medieval burials of the archaeological site Butakty-I have been studied. The most striking of them are burials of warriors with horses. Place of the horse in everyday life became so important that it was reflected in burial rites. This fact proves the idea of continuity of cultural-economic traditions in the Early Iron Age and the Middle Ages, promoted by similarity of climatic conditions at this time.
Despite similar attribution they have some differences in burial rite. So, 1 and 36 burials were executed in catacomb graves. The deceased was a man of middle ages buried in supine position and oriented to the east. Horse bones are fixed in catacombs to the east of the grave. Close to them jaws mouth-pieces of 8-form are found.
10th and 17th burials are represented by pit-graves with undercut, oriented from south-east to north-west. Undercuts are located as from the south (17 mail burial), so from the north (10 female burials) sides. Deceased were oriented in north-west direction. In the undercut of 10th burial only lower jaw of the horse and iron stirrups with 8-shaped mouth-pieces near legs of interred were fixed.
The buried of the 17th grave is placed in the inner side of the undercut on the back in supine position and oriented north-north-west. The scull is lightly displaced to the left shoulder. The skeleton belongs to a man of middle ages. Near his left forearm an oval iron flint has been found. At the right edge of the hip-bone an iron belt buckle with circular frame and movable lug is dug out. Whetstone in a sac (?) is fixed under the left thigh-bone. Near it was found a flint with traces of soot, and a bone article. To the left of shin bones are found iron piece-mouth. On the staircase formed by the bottom of the ante-pit are found horse bones; a scull is laying on the left side, with parietal bone oriented to the center of staircase, and feet. Bones of three legs are located south-east of the scull. Probably, it was a burial with skin of the horse with scull and legs. The heads of a buried person and a horse are located near the same edge of the grave. Tail vertebrae of the sheep, representing burial food and lately removed by rodents are also fixed in the grave.
All burials of this group were deepened to 1,8 -2,2,m from the surface level. At the depth of 2 m three graves in catacombs were also found out. Deceased are oriented south-west or north-east. South-west orientation was in 11th female burial, in which a large number of fragmented iron cover-plaques from high head-gear, and ear-rings with pearls and bronze rings were fixed. 28th burial construction is presented by a warrior of the age of 40-45 with fixed out fragments of iron weaponry and a quiver with arrows. The burial of a man and a woman are excavated in 35th tomb. In specialists opinion such burial group may serve for reconstruction of the rite of protection from deceased, typical for residents of this region in VIII-IX cc.AD.
Another cluster of Turkic burials forms by children’s graves. (9). Among them is a twin burial deepened to 0,6-0,8 m from the surface level. The twin burial of teenagers was also oriented south-east. Left hand of the elder boy was laid on the breast and belly of the junior. In his right hand he holds a flint whetstone and a little iron knife. Especially distinguished the 5th burial with children oriented south-east, in which bronze circular pendants with cornelian beads have been found.
The most interesting artifacts were found out in 21st burial. There was excavated a child’s skeleton (a girl of 4-6) put on the back with the head oriented north-north-west; the kegs are flexed in ‘position of a rider’. The scull is damaged; vertebrae bones are displaced and mixed. Undisturbed were only feet bones. The fact of plundering doesn’t explain situation. The grave has all signs of ‘rendering harmless of deceased’.
Amongst the bones of interred girl five amulets-astragals of the sheep have been found, three of them are placed by the sides and in the center; another two were laying at the bottom of sepulcher – above the head and near feet. All astragals have holes for hanging. Among mixed up bones of the skeleton servical vertebrae of a hare with hanging holes (except one of them) are discovered. On the bottom left from the scull an oval pebble is laying. Near feet, on the same row with astragal there was found a bronze coin with a hole for hanging. To the east, near the bottom, there was laying a bronze amulet with anthropomorphic image and broken hook. One more item – a stone bead with ‘eyeball’ decoration- was fixed near heel bones.
The closest analogies to funeral attributes and decoration from Butakty-I burial ground of the Turkic period on the neighboring with Kazakhstan territories are traced in materials of Siberia Srostky culture and Saltovo-Mayatsky culture in Eastern Europe. Typological features of the items from Butakty-I burial complex are very specific for Turkic speaking nomads of Middle Asia and Kazakhstan in VIII – IX cc. AD. The separate cluster is formed by 8 burials in the western part of necropolis. These burial constructions due to stratigraphy position correspond to latest period, as contours of grave-pits are fixed exactly under the turf at the depth of 0,2 – 0,3 m. Majority of grave-pits differ according to the age of buried person. Adults were interred in grave-pits with undercuts or in catacombs. In some cases the undercut was separated from the dromos with wooden ceiling made of Tien-Shan fir-tree.
As a whole archaeological site Butakty-I is a multilayered complex on the territory of Almaty belonged to different epochs. Its emergence in the second half of the II millennium BC was defined by diffusion to the foothill area a group of steppe tribes from the Central Kazakhstan characterized by Alakul type of Andronovo cultural-historical community. Later the settlement undergoes reconstruction witnessed a long residential period of its life as in the Late Bronze Age so in the Sakae-Wu-sun periods. From the turn of our era the top of the hill, the place, where the settlement began to start from was arranged for the burial ground which functioned up to Mongol period. Thus archaeological site represents the history of the city over a period of 2,5 millennium.