The Golden Man: A symbol of courage and Kazakh pride

One of the must-sees at Kazakhstan’s national museum in Nur-Sultan is The Golden Man, an impressive statue dressed in a richly embroidered golden attire. The display is a replica of the original, which was discovered in 1969 in a burial mound by the Issyk River some 70km away from Almaty, in one of Kazakhstan’s most significant archaeological find in the last century.

But who exactly is this Golden Man, and what is his story?

in 1969, excavators uncovered in the burial mound a skeleton, along with warrior equipment as well as over 4,000 pieces of gold ornaments. These items led to the skeleton being called the Golden Man, though the sex of the skeleton could not be verified.

The gold accessories and ornaments suggest that they came from the Saka tribe, and subsequent research concluded that the skeleton belonged to an 18-year-old Saka warrior.

Photo credit:

Ancient records suggest that the Saka people originally inhabited the Ili and Chu river valleys of modern Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The steppe tribe formed a complex society with a military democracy, where kings and warriors, who simultaneously served as high priests, were elected by other tribe members. The people took ancestor worship seriously too, and their treatment of the dead embodied the belief. Those who had passed on were embalmed, and a portion of their possessions were placed with them in their graves.

Photo credit:

The Saka people — men as well as women — were masters of horses and archery. Every one learnt to ride and shoot, so they could hunt and go to war.

Apart from the museum in Nur-Sultan, a statue of the Golden Man crowns the Independence Monument on the central square of Almaty. The Golden Man symbolises the courage of the defenders who protected the land on which the ancestors of today’s Kazakhs lived.

Featured image from