a burial ground on the Tagisken Plateau near the Syr Darya’s ancient bed (the Inkardar’ia) in Kzyl-Orda Oblast, Kazakh SSR. It was discovered in 1959 and excavated between 1960 and 1963 by the Khorezm Expedition of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Tagisken consists of two complexes: Northern Tagisken and Southern Tagisken.

Northern Tagisken is a necropolis for tribal chiefs of the ninth and eighth centuries B.C; the burials are in mausoleums of mud brick with added burial facilities for relatives and retinue. The funerary objects included gold and bronze earrings, carnelian beads, bronze arrowheads, and glazed clay pottery, both modeled and cast on a potter’s wheel, with incised geometric designs. The material culture shows traces of the traditions of late Bronze Age local cultures and was apparently linked to the more advanced culture of southern Middle Asia.

Southern Tagisken is a barrow burial ground of Saka tribes of the seventh to the fifth century B.C ; there are surface-level funerary structures and pit graves for both inhumations and cremations. Among the items found in the graves were horse harness sets, bronze arrowheads and mirrors, stone sacrificial altars, long swords in wooden scabbards, and modeled clay pottery. Decorative gold plaques and facings were done in the Scythian animal style, as were bronze articles that were part of equestrian gear. The material culture points to links with the Sauromatians of the southern Ural region, the Saka of the Kazakhstan steppes, and the Scythian-type cultures of Southern Siberia.


Tolstov, S. P., and M. A. Itina. “Saki nizov’ev Syr-Dar’i (po materialam Tagiskena).” Sovetskaia arkheologiia, 1966, no. 2.
Vishnevskaia, O. A., and M. A. Itina. “Rannie saki Priaral’ia.” In the collection Problemy skifskoi arkheologii. Moscow, 1971.
Vishnevskaia, O. A. Kul’tura sakskikh piemen nizov’ev Syrdar’i v VII-V vv. do n.e. Moscow, 1973.


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Archaeologists have excavated over 100 kurgans at Tagisken in the delta region of the Syr-Darya; only kurgan 6 at North Tagisken has been radiocarbon dated (Askarov 1992: 444-7; Itina 1986; Vishnevskaya & Itina 1971).
On the basis of the arrowhead and horse gear typologies, the North Tagisken and Xiangbabai cemeteries are seen as being the oldest Saka cemeteries and pre-dating the Bes-Shatyr cemetery, kurgan 5 at Chilikta and the Chirik-Rabat cemetery (Frumkin 1970: 93,104; Itina 1986; Tolstov 1964; Wang 1987: 40, 41).
The calibrated dates for Arzhan do not seem anomalous when taken into account with those from North Tagisken and Xiangbabai.
The calibrated radiocarbon determinations for Arzhan, Tagisken and Xiangbabai question this approach and support the ideas of Bokovenko (1996), Gryaznov (1980) and Sher (1988), these authors who have not generally depended on radiocarbon determinations.