Grotto Shakhty

A natural cave containing painting (petroglyphs) drawn with red colour on huge rock attracts visitors travelling to Murghob, Eastern Pamir. The Grotto Shakhty is considered as the oldest rock paintings in Central Asia, which exist at an altitude of 4,200 meters above sea level. The site of the Grotto Shakhty paintings is located 40km to south-west off Murghob, and 300km to the east off Khorog city. The cave has an open entrance and faces to the east and is dry inside. It is seven and a half meters wide at the entrance and six meters deep. The cave was formed due to tectonic fractures. There are seven paintings in the centre of the cave, four of which are preserved to this day. These images were taken at the level of the southern wall of the peninsula at a height of 1.6–2 m above ground level. They are all painted in a natural red colour.

A closer look at the image reveals that a man with a mask of a bird is hunting a wild boar. Yaks and bears are depicted along with it. Spear arrows reaching the bodies of the yaks are visible in the images, which reveals the art and magic of hunting. The paintings on the Shakhta Cave were first discovered in 1958. According to the findings of this recent expedition, the images of Shakhta cave are very similar in style to the Palaeolithic images found in France.

The main reason for the survival of these images, paintings on the rock in the arid climate of the Eastern Pamirs. Russian archaeologists have dubbed this cave with the word ‘Shahta’ to make it easier to Russian pronunciation. In fact, the word shakh means а rock in the Tajik language or a big stone in the Shugni -one of the Eastern-Irani Pamiri language.

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Travelling to the site

Shakhty Cave site can be seen reached with a day trip from Murghob. Visitors who are travelling on the Pamir Highway connecting Murghob and Khorog should turn into remote gravel track after 40 km. This road will finally lead them to the site of petroglyphs or as known Shakhty Caves. They are located in the Cheshtebe a V-shaped valley valleys with an arid landscape with very few landmarks.

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