Toponymy of the Ancient Sary-Arka (North-Eastern Kazakhstan)

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Kuat Saparov
Jiri Chlachula
Aigul Yeginbayeva


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.


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Saparov, K., Chlachula, J., & Yeginbayeva, A. (2018). Toponymy of the Ancient Sary-Arka (North-Eastern Kazakhstan). Quaestiones Geographicae, 37(3), 35–52.


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