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A tamga or tamgha (tamga is a Mongolian word and means "stamp or seal". It also has similar meaning in Turkish damga, "mark", "stamp") is an abstract seal or device used by Altaic and Eurasian nomadic peoples and by cultures influenced by them. The tamga was normally the emblem of a particular tribe, clan or family. They were common among the Huns, Mongols, Scythians, Sarmatians, Bulgars, Alans, all Turkic peoples, including Khazars and Uyghurs. Neighboring sedentary people sometimes adopted tamga-like symbols; for example, the stylized trident tamga, or seal were used by various peoples of Eastern Europe and Asia: Kushans, Bulgarians, the House of Dulo, Rus', Khazars, Kypchaks, Tatars, Hungarians, Lithuanians and Poles.[1] Archaeologists prize tamgas as a first-rate source for the study of present and extinct cultures.


Tamgha used by the Huns and Mongols

Logo with the Xiongnu Tamgha, these five symbols were later used as the Tamghas of Genghis Khan and his sons.

Since the time when the ancients, including the Mongol nations, have developed into relative groups, origins, and ethnic groups, the symbol and belief of a clan have emerged, and a custom to distinguish their origins and relatives have been established. Consequently, when labor distributions within clans began to develop and people started to manage an economy, various tamghas, drawings, notes and earmarks have been used as an identification sign for labor instruments and utilities as well as in domestication of animals. Every time the clan branched off due to internal clashes, the number of derivative tamghas been gradually developed into personal, family, lineage, khans, and state tamghas. Those new tamghas were created through adding new markings on the original tamgha, in order to conserve the tradition.

Tamga used by Turkic peoples

Flag of the Crimean Tatars, sporting the traditional tamğa.

Among modern Turkic people, the tamga is a design identifying property or cattle belonging to a specific Turkic clan, usually as a cattle brand or stamp.

When Turkish clans took over more urban or rural areas, tamgas dropped out of use as pastoral ways of life became forgotten. This is most evident in the Turkish clans who took over western and eastern Anatolia following the Battle of Manzikert. The Turks who took over western Anatolia founded the Sultanate of Rum and became Roman-style aristocrats. Most of them adopted the (at the time) Muslim symbol of the Seal of Suleyman after the sultanate disintegrated into a mass of feuding Ghazi states (see Candaroglu, Karamanid). Only the Ottoman Ghazi state (later to become the Ottoman Empire) kept its tamga, and this was highly stylized, so much so that the bow was stylized down eventually to a crescent moon.

The Turks who remained pastoral nomad kings in eastern Anatolia and Iran however, continued to use their clan tamgas, and in fact they became high-strung nationalistic imagery. The Ak Koyunlu, like many other royal dynasties in Eurasia, put their tamga on their flags and stamped their coinage with it.

For those Turks who never left their homeland of Turkestan in the first place it remained and still is what it was originally, a cattle brand and clan identifier.

Tamga and Uran

Traditionally, each tribe and clan has its tamga and uran battle cry, and the identity of such ethnic groups is defined by both attributes. While tamgas are more conservative, and some are traced back for two millennia, the battle cries are more fluid, and the present urans are frequently associated with tribal divisions, migrations, and relatively late religious symbols. The urans have survived until the present among most of the Turkic people, a necessary component of their ethnological description. Among Germanic and Slavic peoples they have taken the form of the famous battle cries, the English "Hurray" and the Slavic "Urra".

The Tamga in Polish heraldry

Polish heraldry includes the extensive use of horseshoes, arrows, Maltese crosses, scythes, stars and crescents as well as many purely geometrical shapes for which a separate set of heraldic terms was invented. It has been suggested that originally all Polish coats of arms were based on such abstract geometrical shapes, but most were gradually "rationalized" into horseshoes, arrows and so on. If this hypothesis is correct, it suggests in turn that Polish heraldry, also unlike Western European heraldry, may be at least partly derived from a kind of rune-like symbols: the Tamgas used by nomadic peoples of the Steppe, such as the Sarmatians or the Avars, to mark property. However, the evidence about the origins of the system is scanty, and this hypothesis has been criticized as being part of the Polish noble tradition of romanticizing their supposed Sarmatian ancestry. On this matter, research and controversy continue.


In the Urdu language (which absorbed Turkic vocabulary), Tamgha is used as medal. Tamgha-i-Jurat is the 4th highest Military medal of Pakistan. It is admissible to all ranks for gallantry and distinguished services in combat. Tamgha-i-Imtiaz or Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Urdu: تمغہ امتیاز), which translates as the medal of excellence, is fourth highest honour given by the Government of Pakistan to both the military and civilians. Tamgha-i-Khidmat or Tamgha-e-Khidmat (Urdu: تمغہءخدمت), which translates as the medal of services , is 7th highest honour given by the Government of Pakistan to both the military and civilians. It is admissible to non commissioned officers other ranks for long meritorious or distinguished services of a non-operational nature.

Use in Egypt

In Egypt, the term tamgha تمغة is still used in several contexts:

The first is a tax or fee when dealing with the government. It is normally in the form of stamps that have to be purchased and affixed to most government form, be they a driver license, registration of a contact, any most other forms. The term is derived from Ottoman times.

The other is a stamp that every piece of jewelry made from gold or silver must have to ensure it is genuine, and not made of lesser metals.


  1. ^ Ottfried Neubecker. Heraldik. Orbis, 2002; Brook 154; Franklin and Shepard 120-121; Pritsak 78-79.


  • Brook, Kevin Alan. The Jews of Khazaria. 2d ed. Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.
  • Christian, David. A History of Russia, Mongolia and Central Asia. Blackwell, 1999.
  • Franklin, Simon and Jonathan Shepard. The Emergence of Rus 750-1200. London: Longman, 1996.
  • Pritsak, Omeljan. The Origins of the Old Rus' Weights and Monetary Systems. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 1998.
  • Yatsenko, S. A., "Tamgas of Iranolingual Antique and Early Middle Ages people". Russian Academy of Science, Moscow Press "Eastern Literature", 2001 (in Russian)

See also


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Tamga lies in the middle part of the south shore of Issyk Kul Lake, 1 km from the beach with red sand.



Tamga got its name from an old petroglyph text; its name can be translated as letter. Nobody translated the text yet, nobody knows how old it is, but there are speculations about old Tibetan language.

Get in

Either from Karakol by taxi, marshrutka, bus or hitch-hike, or from Balicnyi by the same ways.

  • Petroglyphs - you won't find it yourself, ask for a guide. It lies around 20 minutes by horse from the centre.
  • Christian/Muslim cemetery, on dry hills behind the village.
  • Sanatorium where Jurij Gagarin was preparing for the first cosmic flight ever. Open until September 15.


Behind the main sanatorium entrance there is cafe that serves common Kyrgyz stuff - lagman, manty, samse... and some other food. They have tasty pasta-style lagman.

At the main crossroad there is a cafe that serves food.


There are a few privately run guesthouses, but they are not cheap. Apparently they are using the fact that you have no choice.

Just next to the bazaar there is Tamaras Guesthouse B&B, in front of which there is a small shop run by Kyrgyz family. Tamara and her daughter Alia speak fluent English. Tamara was a teacher of Russian language and literature, her husband Akbar was journalist. Interesting and resourceful people to speak with. Tamara is able to organize horse tours with guide and old horses for inexperienced riders if needed. B&B costs 500 soms (September 2009). Do not accept the offer to eat in her place instead of kafe which is 50 meters away. Tamara charges 200 som for lagman with bread and tea, while in kafe you would pay 70 only.

Close to the entrance of the village, on the left side, there is guesthouse run by a Russian. She does not negotiate and does not go lower than 600 per person. It's further from centre.


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