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

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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Human Journey


Meet the Author
Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek’s 21,000-mile Out of Eden Walk is a multiyear experiment in slow journalism. Moving at the beat of his footsteps, Salopek is walking the pathways of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age and made the Earth ours. Along the way he is covering the major stories of our time—from climate change to technological innovation, from mass migration to cultural survival—by giving voice to the people who inhabit them every day. His words, as well as his photographs, video, and audio, are creating a global record of human life at the start of a new millennium as told by villagers, nomads, traders, farmers, soldiers, and artists who rarely make the news. Join the journey at outofedenwalk.org and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @OutofEdenWalk.