by Prof. Yuri MURZIN, Institute of Geocryology, RAS Siberian Branch
For a geologist, the term "scar" means more than a mark left on the skin by a healed wound. It stands for an isolated or protruding rock or a steep rocky eminence or a base place on the side of a mountain.
Such outliers produced by the weathering of rock are known by many different names in different parts of our planet-earth pillars, or pinnacles in Europe, "ram" - rocks in Kazakhstan and "mare"-rocks in the Eastern Zabaikalye region. People travelling across Yakutia along the watersheds of the Lena, Yana and Indigirka, and also on top or some
local, mountain encounter tall rock pillars which look like a human figure or a group of people. They are known as kigilyakhis (pillar, rocks of irregular shape on mountain slopes). In the Yakut language the word simply means "people". And one more name for such pillars accepted in Eastern Siberia is "kekur".
Some of the most picturesque pillars of this kind are found in the Verkhoyansk Ulus are on the watershed of the Yana and Adycha in the arms of one of the smallest mountain ridges in the north-western part of the Chersk-Kisilyakhsky mountain systems. It consists of dark-gray clay slates, argillites, Triassic aleurites and light-gray Jurassic sandstones. This mass of sediments is strongly dislocated and is "ruptured" in many places by intrusions of granites and granitoids of the Cretaceous. It is these geological formations that produce kigilyakhi pillars some of which are up to 50 m tall. And the tallest of them are found on tops of the local mountains where they form long walls separated from one another by narrow labyrinth passages. The kigilyakhis diminish in size with distance from the mountain top, but their shapes become more varied. I happened to visit some of these fantastic sites and spend hours roaming among these graven images carved from granite rocks by Mother Nature herself. And I could not help giving them some fitting names-like "Repentant Magdalen" or "Creeping Terminator". Slabs of granite stretching along the slope down below looked to me - some as caterpillars and others like a caravan of camels.
Closer studies of such residual outliers proved that most of them were damaged by vertical cracks. Their northern side is usually covered with lichen moss and the southern - with "desert varnish" (shiny dark crust of about 5 mm). Their western sides usually flake and crumble off.
In the past the watershed between the Yana and Adycha absolute water marks. Over the millennia denudation processes reduced the total level of the surface of sedimentary layers, pierced by intrusions, which tower over the local landscape. The processes of weathering, assisted by the efforts of Aeolus himself, have been able to sculpture from local granite rocks of all kinds of shapes and sizes-puzzling and often charming. This work continues to this day.
In 1986 - 1990 archeologists of the Yakutsky Science Center of the USSR Academy of Sciences working near the kigilyakhis (at the foot of the Kisilykhsky Ridge at river terraces) discovered 68 ancient settlements and one burial ground. This attests to the region being densely populated in ancient times and disproves the opinion that the mountaineous regions of North Asia were inaccessible for tribes of the Stone Age because of their extremely adverse conditions. An abundance of mammoth fauna in the thick Pleistocene alluvial deposits of the Nizhne-Adychanskaya depression make the Verkhovyanye region a promising place for archeological studies and for investigations of ancient "multilayer" camp sites which could have been of central importance for the whole of Yakutia's north-east.
The Yakut rock pillars are an indisputable tourist attraction. Travelling from the mouth of the Ketet brook along the traditional route of geologists leading uphill to the watershed divide, the tourists will be rewarded by a fantastic encounter with a "gallery" of exotic shapes and sizes.
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