Bizarre reddish mountains are located in the valley of the Beliy Iyus River. The mountain range received its unusual name due to the form of the top of one of the mountains — from a distance it looks like a huge chest (sunduk). Actually, this summit is called «Perviy Sunduk» (The First Chest).
In ancient times, Sunduki were not just a mountain range but a multi-functional complex. The researcher Vitaliy Larichev believes that Perviy Sunduk and other mountains in the valley between the rivers Beliy and Chyorniy Iyus were an ancient open-air observatory. Observations of the cyclical movements of the Sun and Moon were very important for people because all their economic and ritual activities depended on that rhythm.
Stones, holes and openings in the rocks on the top of Sunduki were used as instruments for observations; they were focused on the most important points of sunrises and sunsets of celestial bodies on the equinoxes and solstices — the most important points of reference for the ancient calendar. An ancient mythological creature, resembling a dragon, sectioned into six parts, is depicted on the rocks of Sunduki. This is the first clock in the East. Before noon, the shadow of the wall moves from left to right, passing one section in about an hour. At noon, the Temple of Time is lit completely, then the shadow of the wall starts to slide in the opposite direction.
Ancient people used the mountain range not only for astronomy but also as a defensive structure. There are ancient stone and earthen walls, built of horizontally stacked stone slabs and plates, dug in vertically. Man-made fortifications were supplemented with natural rocks. During wartime, such structures allowed to keep several thousand head of cattle inside the walls.
A panorama of the steppe with a network of rivers and irrigation canals opens up from Sunduki. The oldest of these canals were built as far back as the early Middle Ages. They were abandoned after the Mongol conquest. New irrigation systems replaced them in the 20th century and they are still in operation.
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