An overview is presented of gemstones from eastern Kazakhstan in terms of their geographical distribution, geological provenance and genesis, gemmological characteristics, historical use and current applications. Locally occurring precious, semi-precious and decorative stones were extracted and traded along the northern part of the Silk Road that traversed the area in earlier historical times. Currently, non-metallic minerals, which largely originate from mafic igneous and metamorphic bodies of the Altay and Kalba Mountains of Kazakhstan, still are insufficiently known and exploited industrially only marginally. For the present study, selected depositories of coloured stones at the Mineralogy Museum of the East Kazakhstan State Technical University were used, supplemented by the newly collected material during personal fieldwork in the southern Altay between 2005 and 2015. Standard documentation of the gemstones selected is provided, alongside with their known occurrence sites and an evaluation of the perspective gemstone-bearing deposits with respect to regional morphostructural bedrock characteristics. The most precious gemstones include topaz, corundum (sapphire and ruby), beryl (emerald and aquamarine), coloured tourmalines, agates as well as diamonds. Despite the great variety, the majority of these traditionally most valued stones are currently commercially not viable, unlike high-quality decorative stones.
Taxonomic investigations of cyanobacterial and algal flora from the Southern Altai, East Kazakhstan
The study presents results of pilot investigations (2005-2007) of micro-vegetation biodiversity in marginally explored mountain and forest-steppe areas of southern Altai, East Kazakhstan. On the basis of morphological phenotypes and ecological demands a total of 351 taxa of cyanobacteria and algae were identified in the principal biotopes (rivers and streams, backwaters, irrigation channels, lakes, high-tundra periglacial and barren land settings, snow fields, and pedogenic /soil cover/environments) of the territorial topographic gradient of ca. 400-3900 m a.s.l. Microbiological records display a remarkable taxonomic variability, including several previously undescribed endemic species of algae adapted to locally specific geoenvironmental conditions. The present results show a major potential for future systematic phycological studies integrated in the complex nature monitoring and management strategy in protected areas of the Altai. The results also demonstrate a limited impact of modern human activity on the quality of local water sources with only minor present ecological risks in balance with the traditional lifestyles of pastoralist communities.
This study examines the etymology of the principal physiographic entities of the ancient Sary-Arka area–meaning in the old Turkic language Yellowing Ridge – encompassing the present territory of parkland-steppes, rocky highlands and the adjacent mountains of North and East Kazakhstan. The current linguistic evidence points to a complex and chronologically long culture-historical development reflected by the local place names best-recorded for the major rivers and mountains (hydronyms and oronyms, respectively). Not all geo-site names are securely determined by using modern onomastics. Records of material culture provide additional multi-proxy information. Local uniformity of some toponyms across the extensive area assuming a common cultural background attests to a broader ethnic homogeneity and/or mobility of the ancient populations inhabiting this vast and geomorphically mosaic land. This suggests a close relationship and interactions (including demographic exchanges and mixing) between the past pastoral ethics in the parkland-steppe and semi-desert areas north of Lake Balkhash between the Aral Sea and the southern Urals in the West and the Alatau–Altai Mountain systems in the East. Whereas the hydronyms of the Sary-Arka may have a rather complex and not fully clear origin with a connection to the Turkic-Tatar medieval tribes and nations’ occupancy in northern Central Asia eventually modified into the present Kazakh language forms, the oronyms of the East Kazakhstan mountain ranges indicate the Mongolian roots.