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Activists of "Nine Treasures" ("Tos Ertine") project recognized in Tuva

Activists of  "Nine Treasures" ("Tos Ertine") project recognized in TuvaOn February 24 at the National Museum of Tuva, an event that everybody has been eagerly waiting for will take place: finally, the results of the special project "Nine Treasures" will be presented.

Everybody who participated in the project discovered something he did not know before,, and got an opportunity to see Tuva in a new light. And the scientific worker of the Ubsunur international center of biospheric research, Tatiana Prudnikova is not hiding her interest in the project. Thanks to it, she discovered for herself the nature of an astonishing phenomenon, which is in folk tradition called "charash-dash".  However, our conversation with Tatiana Nikolayevna is not only about "charash-dash".  Even though this is where we'll start.

Greetings from the Ice Age

-  I have seen this stone pancake only once before, and I have to say that it did not make a great impression. But later I found some material from the Moscow paleontological museum, an exhibition of ancient forms of organic world. Among the tremendous variety of the world of life of the preceding epochs, petrified remains of Neogene (pre-glacial) fauna were shown: armors of  sea urchins, which lived in shallow bodies of water, called among the people  "money stones'. In form they looked very much like our "charash-dash", which is also sometimes called "money stone", because it looks very much like a coin. At the moment I did not have a "charash-dash" at hand, so I could not  compare the two, nevertheless, a fantastical idea originated: and what if our mysterious stone is something like that - remains of an animal carapace from Neogene lakes? Then circumstances allowed me to go to upper Khemchik  in search of "charash-dash'.

And, I have to admit, I wanted very much to find deposits with remains of ancient organisms. But we found a totally different picture. The upper Khemchik is the center of Quaternary glaciation. All the upper tributaries of Khemchik are packed with glacial deposits, represented by lateral and bottom moraines, the washed-out deposits of glacial lakes. In one such moraine - boulder and soil deposits -  we found our "charash-dash". Analysis of the material showed: the mysterious  charash-dash  stones were formed during the melting of the glaciers, and represent limestone-clay-iron concretions (mineral formations of round shape). Of course, such formations are not very widespread, and they are very attractive for both tourists and scientists. But, to be fair, we have to say that analogous  finds have been described, they have been found fairly often  around the border of Tuva and Altai. These formations are also found in other districts, which also have undergone glaciation. For example, on the territory of Russian Ravnina.  But on Russian Ravnina you can find a whole dinosaur skeleton in practically every river valley, so nobody pays any attention to charash-dash. But generally such concretions are described quite often in lake deposits, formed during degradation of glaciers.


-  To put it simply  - is charash dash then a stone from hardened soil?

-  Yes.  Clay deposits saturated with carbonate, and sometimes with iron, also.


And was there agriculture?


-  Tatiana Nikolayevna, last summer you stayed with the archeologists from Sankt-Peterburg at the historical objects in the valley of river Khondelen.  Your eyes were shining and you had great plans for continuing the work. Will you tell us how things are going?

-  I wrote up the project for a contest to Moscow at the Russian foundation fro fundamental research.  The project was registered, and in March we'll find out if it will be approved or not. And that the remarkable archeologist  Vladimir Semenov, who has been working here for many years and knows Tuva very well, with all the customs and traditions, agreed to participate in the project,  is a guarantee  the results will be very interesting.

-   Please remind our readers what we are talking about.

-    On one of the areas of Khemchik depression, we will try to excavate possible remains of dwellings of ancient people, who lived in Tuva, and who apparently, were leading settled life-style. We can already mention the age of these dwellings. And now we will find out - either they will really turn out to be dwellings, or burials, or, possibly, something else… so far, we don't know.

-  What is the scientific value of this discovery?

-   So far, there have been no finds of dwellings of ancient agriculturalists on the territory of Tuva. These will be the first such finds. Generally, in Central Asia agriculture does not awaken great enthusiasm. What agriculturalists? They are nomadic people, etc.  Meanwhile,  we have discovered a situation analogous to Khondelen also at Demir-Sug and on the Shui. Really, these objects have to be declared protected areas, just like other natural monuments. And at Demir-Sug we have also discovered  ancient sluice systems.

-   The excavations, I am sure, will take more that one year?

- Well, I don't think so. If they are dwellings, they are not very large, and there is not much to dig. But the results could be very interesting.


Caprices of nature or global warming?


What are you working on now, Tatiana Nikolayevna?

-  I am preparing material for new projects, which could be presented for  a contest for the Russian Geographic Society. The chairman of the RGO, Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoigu announced contests for grants. It is supposed that we will  repeat the routes of the first Russian explorers - those who first came to explore Tuva:  Potanin, Grumm-Grzhimailo, Krylov, Chikhayev… We will produce a contemporary description of this route and we will research what has changed since then. How, for example, the landscapes changed.  we will research how the climate changed in a century. And it is possible that it has not changed at all…

Many fortified settlements were built on the Khemchik during the Uighur times. The ruins of medieval fortresses could be made into very good  tourist objects. We could make models of the ancient settlements, Malak-Bazhyn, for example. The places are completely accessible and analogous to Por-Bazhyn. With the exception of internal structures. All the stories that one can think of  in connection with these places!  We can also submit a reconstruction of the fortified place as a project for the  Russian Geographic Society.  We could also excavate a small part of it. And we could organize tourist participation in the digs. There are also tourist routes, where one can pan for gold. A tourist comes, they give him a pan, and he can rinse out gold. True, then the gold has to be surrendered. But the tourist will remember it for the ret of his life.

-   Well, let's start with climate change. There is a point of view opposite to the generally accepted one, that there really is no global warming on the planet at all…

-   Of course we are interested in it and are attempting to reconstruct paleoclimatic conditions, as well as the climate of historic times from the moment when people started actively influencing the land. Destroying the landscapes and cutting down the forests, people really influenced the climate. If our Tuva was now covered with forests, we would have a more humid and softer climate. That is what it was like in the beginning. As the forests were cut down, the drying started. That is all independent of global events like changes inn the path of cyclones, which cause the climate of the planet. As to warming and cooling. I am now watching the cosmic photographs, and can see, for example that the lake Ubsu-Nur, in comparison with the late 90's, has quite enlarged in dimensions.  But the glaciers that are feeding that lake are degrading. So, maybe there is a warming after all? However, these things happen periodically: now warming, then cooling again. It depends on the sun activity, there are definite cycles. It can be that such things as volcanic activity also plays a role in a climate change. If that same Iceland volcano with unpronounceable name kept smoking for another year or two, a cooling could start. The ashes which would saturate the atmosphere would not allow the sun energy to the surface of the Earth. The Earth, in such conditions, without receiving energy from the sun, would begin cooling, and we would undergo another period of glaciation. As far as Tuva is concerned,, it is interesting that here now overgrowing of the steppe is going on, and formation of forested-steppe landscapes. This already is a sign of a more humid climate, or of some astonishing properties of nature.

And could you tell us about this in a little bit more detail?

-   When you are driving on the highway towards Balgazyn, then for about 20 kilometers the entire left side is overgrown with small bushes. There, in principle, we already have a savannah landscape. Just like in Africa. And when you turn to the Kyzyl - Bai-Khaak  highway, you can also see forested areas. Those fields, which used to be plowed land, have overgrown in some 30, even 20 years. In the area of Kaa-Khem strip-mining, it is the same story, a forested steppe landscape is forming. Beside bushes, there are even small poplars.

-   So maybe in a few decades it will be taiga?

-   No, taiga also grows in  special climatic and altitude belts. But birch groves and larch trees or pines will definitely be there.


How the Chinese touched the main trademark of Tuva-  We, people of Tuva, are used to thinking that we live in the center of  the Asian continent. Nevertheless, if you dig around in the Internet, you can find totally different information. For example, that the center of Asia is not in Tuva, but in China.  More concretely, in Urumqi (Western province of China). So where is the truth? How did this idea of the center of Asia in Tuva came about? It was necessary to look through the travel notes of the explorers who visited Tuva at the end of 19th - early 20th centuries. And everywhere somehow the information slipped away. At the end of 19th century they were not talking about the center of Asia yet. But a large number of scientific expeditions was performed at that time, because before that the access to the depths of Asia was difficult for Europeans. It was terra incognita, unknown land. Only at the end of the 19thn century, the first reliable data about this territory show up. But it was in the air - the center of Asia?

At that time, a great political figure on the territory of Tuva was a merchant Safianov. He dealt with the explorers. In their works, almost all of the explorers mention that they stayed with him. Safianov, just like his whole family, was a literate and adventurous man. Isn't it an adventure to establish his house in Tuva?  And I am sure that there were scientific conversation in those circles. It is quite believable that they talked about the center of Asia. One of the sources states that the center of Asia id located 30 kilometers from the confluence of the two Yenisei rivers, and , no more and no less, right on the land of this same merchant Safianov. When I studied this material meticulously, I came to the opinion that it was a suggestion of Safianov himself, his idea. So, what is there to think about, where to put it, when it can be right here? In fact, the Center of Asia is really a relative concept. It is an adventure and a historical secret of merchant Safianov. We will not blame him for it. But if you use geographical coordinates and calculate concretely the center of Asia - and calculation of the center of Asian continent is quite difficult - in principle, Tuva is within that center. Therefore we can say with confidence that the Chinese have no case.

Viktoriya Kondrashova, "Tuvinskaya Pravda", translated by Heda Jindrak
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