Uushig Deer Stone Monument – A deer-decorated stones in Uushigiin uver of Khuvsgul province considered as most clearly depicted deer stones in Mongolia. These deer stones were aligned from north to south in a single column. Each stone is 3-20m distant from each other and made of tetrahedral granite stone in reddish color. A deer, an arch, a shield, a horse, a knife, the moon, the sun and a mirror figured belt were engraved on the stones.





Deer stones are usually constructed from granite or greenstone, depending on which is the most abundant in the surrounding area. They have varying heights; most are over 3 feet tall, but some reach a height of 15 feet. The tops of the stones can be flat, round or smashed, suggesting that perhaps the original top had been deliberately destroyed. The stones are usually oriented with the decorated face to the east.

The carvings and designs were most usually completed before the stone was erected, though some stones show signs of being carved in place. The designs were pecked or ground into the stone surface. Deep-grooved cuts and right-angle surfaces indicate the presence of metal tools. Stone tools were used to smooth the harsh cuts of some designs. Nearly all the stones were hand carved, however some unusual stones show signs that they could have been cut with a primitive type of mechanical drill.




V. V. Volkov, in his thirty years of research, classified three distinct types of deer stones.



These stones are fairly detailed and more elegant in their depiction methods. They usually feature a belted warrior with a stylized flying reindeer on his torso. This type of stone is most prominent in southern Siberia and northern Mongolia. This concentration suggests that these stones were the origin of the deer stone tradition, and further types both simplified and elaborated on these.



These stones feature a central region of the stone, sectioned off by two belts, horizontal lines. There are also earring hoops, large circles, diagonal slashes in groups of two and three known as faces, and necklaces, collection of stone pits resembling their namesake.



The Sayan-Altai stones feature some of the West Asian-European markings, including free-floating, straight-legged animals, daggers and other tools. The appearance of deer motifs is markedly diminished, and those that do appear often do not emphasise the relationship between reindeer and flying. The Sayan-Altai stones can be sub-divided into two types:

  • The Gorno-Altai stones have simple warrior motifs, displaying tools in the belt region of the stone. Reindeer motifs appear but are few.
  • The Sayan-Tuva stones are similar to the Gorno-Altai but contain fewer images of animals. No deer motifs are present. The artistic style is much simpler, often consisting of only belts, necklaces, earrings and faces.


Reindeer feature prominently in nearly all of the deer stones. Early stones have very simple images of reindeer, and as time progresses, the designs increase in detail. A gap of 500 years results in the appearance of the complicated flying reindeer depiction. Reindeer are depicted as flying through the air, rather than merely running on land. Piers Vitebsky writes, The reindeer is depicted with its neck outstretched and its legs flung out fore and aft, as if not merely galloping but leaping through the air. The antlers, sometimes appearing in pairs, have become extremely ornate, utilizing vast spiral designs that can encompass the entire deer. These antlers sometimes hold a sun disc or other sun-related image. Other artwork from the same period further emphasizes the connection between the reindeer and the sun, which is a very common association in Siberian shamanism. Tattoos on buried warriors contain deer tattoos, featuring antlers embellished with small birds’ heads. This reindeer-sun-bird imagery perhaps symbolizes the shaman’s spiritual transformation from the earth to the sky: the passage from earthly life to heavenly life. As these deer images also appear in warrior tattoos, it is possible that reindeer were believed to offer protection from dangerous forces. Another theory is that the deer spirit served as a guide to assist the warrior soul to heaven.



Particularly in the Sayan-Altai stones, a multitude of other animals are present in deer stone imagery. One can see depictions of tigers, pigs, cows, horse-like creatures, frogs and birds. Unlike the reindeer, however, these animals are depicted in a more natural style. This lack of ornate detailing indicates the lack of supernatural importance of such animals, taking an obvious backseat against the reindeer. The animals are often paired off with one another in confrontation, e.g. a tiger confronting a horse in a much more earthly activity.



Weapons and tools can be seen throughout all the stones, though weapons make a strong appearance in the Sayan-Altai stones. Bows and daggers crop up frequently, as well as typical Bronze-Age implements, such as fire-starters or chariot reins. The appearance of these tools helps date the stones to the Bronze Age.



Chevron patterns crop up occasionally, usually in the upper regions of the stone. These patterns can be likened to military shields, suggesting the stones’ connection to armed conflict. It has also been suggested that chevron patterns could be a shamanic emblem representing the skeleton.



Human faces are a much rarer occurrence and are usually carved into the top of the stone. These faces are carved with an open mouth, as though singing. This also suggests a religious/shamanistic connection of the deer stone, as vocal expression is a common and important theme in shamanism.



Archaeologists have found over 900 deer stones in Central Asia and South Siberia. Similar images are found in a wider area, as far west as Kuban, Russia; the Southern Bug in the Ukraine; Dobruja, Bulgaria; and the Elbe, which flows through the Czech Republic and Germany.