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A Rich Petroglyph Site in Central Asia Offers a Lesson in Human Restlessness—and Patience

Petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata
Kept secrets: Ancient petroglyphs defy time in a boulder field on the shores of Lake Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan. (Photograph by Paul Salopek)

Journalist-explorer Paul Salopek is walking across the world in the footsteps of our ancestors. He posts this dispatch from Cholpon Ata, Kyrgyzstan.

The drawings represent—what? A question? A plea? Perhaps a prayer?

It is impossible to say. The figures carved, chipped, and rubbed into the large boulders of Cholpon Ata, a petroglyph site in far northern Kyrgyzstan, are silent. Indeed, they are steeped in such stillness that visitors whisper as they walk among them. The images are like a challenge shouted from a mountaintop—after the echo has died. They seem to await some kind of reply. They have been waiting like this for a very long time.

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