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How Soviet climbers uncovered the centuries-old mystery of an inaccessible treasury in a cave in the Pamirs
How Soviet climbers uncovered the centuries-old mystery of an inaccessible treasury in a cave in the Pamirs

Among the caves of the Pamirs, one is associated with a mysterious legend. Mata-tash, only 3 meters long, allegedly hid huge treasures hidden by the Chinese troops for centuries. The entrance to the ancient cache is difficult to access, it is located almost in the center of a high sheer cliff. The hole was half-blocked with stones, obviously for the purpose of disguise. Climbers repeatedly tried to get inside, but the risky volunteers threw vultures off the cliff. And only after a number of unsuccessful expeditions, the climbers of the Leningrad University reached their goal and revealed the age-old secret.

The legend of the Pamirs and the mountain travels of a rich caravan

Plumb lines of the Pamirs

The entrance to the Mata-Tash cave is more than 200 meters from the top and about 180 from the bottom. The hole 5 meters high is deepened. Even from a distance, it is noticeable that the lower part of the entrance is covered with man-made masonry, so that the view of the interior is hidden from view. And only over time, after a visual inspection of the object through powerful binoculars, it was established that such a disguise is the natural destruction of the rock. And the visor was white from the long-term layer of vulture droppings.

The history of Mata-Tash, or as it has long been called "the caves of treasures", was first published in 1898 in Turkestan vedomosti. The newspaper reported that about 200 years ago, in winter, Chinese troops approached the Rangkul Basin. Having discovered a luxurious pasture in the vicinity, they stayed for the winter. The camp was set up on the shore of a nearby lake, under a sheer cliff. So much snow fell that year that the horses were unable to forage for themselves.

Anticipating the inevitable death of animals, the Chinese undertook to save the wealth they had. They decided to hide the treasures in a cave, which seemed to be a reliable inaccessible storage. To climb the sheer wall, they cut the bodies of horses into pieces and applied them to a stone. In the cold, the meat quickly froze, forming a kind of ladder. With her help, the Chinese hid all their goods inside, but soon everyone died. In the spring, the pieces of meat thawed out, and the cave with all the treasure hidden in it again became inaccessible to people.

Unsuccessful attempts and guard vultures

Legend in pictures

There were many attempts to get to the cave entrance. Some even ended in tragedies. The situation was complicated by aggressive inhabitants of Mata-Tash - vultures. Anyone who reached the desired point was attacked by huge birds guarding their nests in the cave. Several climbers were killed by vultures. Returning targets, supporting the legend of the treasures, said that birds, as if mocking people, dropped precious items on top of them.

In 1951, climbers from the Turkestan Military District went to the cave. The assault was undertaken simultaneously from above and from below. Having climbed the mountain ridge and spent the night at the top, the climbers dropped the rope down. But even with the help of radio corrections, they did not succeed.

The group succeeded a little more, making its way from below and reaching the lower boundaries of the entrance. Without getting inside, they got a visual representation and an internal location. The cave turned out to be quite shallow, with collapses and pockets.Apart from the many vultures, there was no more presence inside. However, the question of the presence of a blocked extension in the cave remained open.

In 1957, the expedition was organized by Academician Tamm at his own expense.

He managed to explore the nearby Rangkul cave, making an attempt to climb to Mata-Tash. Tamm's group, like the previous daredevils, had to fight off the vultures. As a result, the ascent was turned off. Not without a tragic episode: a student died, who came from the vicinity to observe the operation and uncoordinatedly tried to climb the stones personally. Tamm's expedition discovered an ancient knife point device, a saddle buckle and an amulet in the area of ​​the mysterious grotto. Moscow archaeologists attributed the first find to the 4-5 centuries BC, and the buckle was recognized as a unique Chinese thing of the 1-2 centuries.

Surprisingly, until that moment, no other archaeologists had found anything like this near Mata-Tash. Indeed, a year before Tamm, in 1956, a Paleolithic group worked at the cave under the leadership of an experienced researcher of the Central Asian Paleolithic Ranov. He testified that due to insufficient lighting, it was not possible to examine in detail the distant chambers of the cave. Scientists conducted a visual inspection of the gallery. In the vicinity, scientists met only fragments of wooden dishes, a fireplace, and expressionless shards. All this was dated to a much later period against the background of finds a year later.

Climbing Soviet climbers

The hole is the entrance to the cave

The mystery of cave treasures continued to excite researchers. In the spring of 1958, Leningrad researchers began to unravel the mystery of Mata-Tash. The members of the group, including nine masters of sports, employees of Leningrad universities and representatives of the research institute, headed by the master of sports Gromov, approached the top of the cliff. The climbers, relying on previous experience, lowered the steel cable, starting the ascent from the bottom. At the same time, they used rocky hooks and rope stirrups, which helped to move up the lowered rope. The master of sports Valentin Yakushkin ascended directly to the entrance to the cave. The last ten meters, the researchers overcame the same masonry, which supposedly hid the treasures from prying eyes. The surface was loose and very loose, but Yakushkin was belayed from below and from above, so he successfully moved forward. Valentine entered the cave on April 19. The depth of the grotto turned out to be small - about 2 meters with one and a half in height and two dozen in width. Inside, except for the nests of vultures and a huge layer of their droppings, there was nothing. The floor of the cave was a massive rock, which made the idea of ​​excavation impractical.

A red flag was hoisted over the valley, and Leningrad climbers in an instant dispelled the centuries-old mystery of the inaccessible treasury of Mata-Tash.

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