The history of Kazakhstan before our era begins millions of years ago, when people began to develop fertile wilderness areas, which are now part of Kazakhstan today. It is known that the first ancestors of Homo sapiens – Pithecanthropes and Neanderthals – settled in this area in the Karatau and Mugodjary mountain ranges as well as in Mangistau and northern Balkhash. Excavations at the site of the Eneolithic settlement of Botai confirmed that as early as the 4th millennium BC, tribes inhabiting north-western Kazakhstan tamed Camels, wild Sheepdogs and mountain Sheep, mastered horse breeding and learned to make various products from Copper, Stone, Bone and Clay.
During the Bronze Age, tribes of the Andronov and Begasy Dandybayev Culture (XVII – VIII century B.C.) lived in Kazakhstan. They practised cattle breeding, agriculture and metallurgy. They were brave warriors.
People belonging to these cultures usually lived in large settlements surrounded by walls or ditches (prototype towns).
They were replaced by the Sakas. The members of these tribes lived a nomadic and semi-nomadic way of life, some of them practising agriculture (in the valleys of the Syrdarya, Chu and Talas rivers). It was heard that the Sakas were excellent horsemen. They were among the first to master the technique of archery on horseback. Furthermore, the Sakas had their own script, mythology and art. The style in which the Sakas painters and goldsmiths created works was later included in scientific works called “animal” style.
In the VI-III century BC the Sakas founded the first state on the territory of Kazakhstan of today. It was located in the district of Zhetysu (Seven Rivers).
The most famous ruler of these tribes, who left a significant trace in the history of Kazakhstan before our era, is Tomaris, the queen of the Southern Sakas (Massageten), who ruled in the Aral region. Tomaris and her army succeeded in capturing one of the most influential military leaders of the ancient world – Cyrus the Great (530 BC). Later, the prisoner was executed by order of the ruler.
A decade later, Darius the Great (the fourth King of the Akhaemenid Empire) also tried to enslave the disobedient Sakas with fire and sword and take possession of their land. However, the cavalry units of brave nomads caused considerable damage to the invading army and forced it to retreat.
Among the most researched monuments of the Sakas culture today are: the Besshatyr cemetery (the site – the valley of the Ili River) and the Issyk burial mound, which is located in the Almaty region. In the latter, archaeologists found the remains of a Saka warrior in a ring of gold plates. The find was given the conventional name – “The Golden Man”. Also from one grave more than four thousand ornaments (made of gold plate), weapons made of bronze and gold, figures and vessels of different sizes were taken out.
In the 2nd to 3rd century B.C. the Huns settled in the far south and southeast of the Altai. The core of the Huns consisted of representatives of the Mongolian and Proto-Turkish tribes.
The Huns were regularly involved in the wars against the Chinese Empire. It is believed that their raids were the main reason why Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di ordered the start of the construction of the Great Wall of China.
Over time, the Hun Empire became huge and its territory stretched from Manchuria in the east to the Pamir in the west.
The Huns had a code of law. There was an ordinary court. The most serious crimes for which the death penalty was provided were assault on a tribesman, theft and various war crimes.
The Hun Empire, as a single state, existed until the II century AD, after which the society of nomadic warriors was divided under the influence of internal and external influences.
A part of the Huns lived in the area of the Dsungar-Alatau Mountains, where they formed the Yue Ban State. Another group moved to western Kazakhstan (Volga, Emba and Ural regions). In the Ural and Volga regions they were joined by the Ugrians tribes. In 375 the Hunnu-Ugrian duo went to Europe. There the guests from Asia put the Roman Empire under considerable pressure. ⇒ History of Kazakhstan in the first Millennium