1/3 Snow Leopard – Hero of the bio-cultural landscape

Artwork by Joanna Dobson

Photographs of snow leopards have recently been published on the UNDP Altai-Sayan Ecoregion site. The fact that snow leopards still inhabit the Altai Mountains fills the soul with hope. Not only  because they are not ‘gone’ as feared, but also because the historical continuity of the bio-cultural landscape continues.

This image which I painted a few weeks ago during a wet weather week is copied from a book, showing photographs of a metal buckle excavated from a Berel Scythian burial mound (first century B.C.). Sadly, no connection would ordinarily be made between the photograph of the metal buckle with a snow leopard stamped onto it and the photographs from the camera traps showing snow leopards quietly doing their thing in the Altai Mountains. The first image is probably known only to archaeologists. The second (the photograph) known mainly to conservationists, and an interested public. To me, their is a huge, wonderful, obvious connection between them: the land, the bio-cultural landscape!

We marvel today at this beast as we see it’s elusive image on camera and surely, the peoples of the past marvelled at the snow leopard centuries ago inspired to produce its image on this metal buckle. What marvels me, and what I find so very significant, is that these expereinces so apparently seperated by time, actually coexist in spirit and body in one landscape, one ecoregion.

To celebrate the wholeness of the bio-cultural landscape I am making two more post contributions which each have the snow leopard as their hero. One is a tattoo image belonging to a mummy excavated from the Pazyryk kurgans in the Ulagan region, supposedly created approximately 500 B.C. and the second is a letter, sent to Altai national newspaper ‘Altaidyn Cholmoni’ 2013. Both feature the snow leopard as hero and both originate in one landscape – Ulagan, Altai.

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