In this paper, I have presented an essay regarding the last Ice Age and its effects on Central Asia and the Central Asians. I have highlighted the background environmental conditions in the area from about 40,000 years BP to the termination of the last Ice Age and to present times. In summary this paper reports that:

The Ice Age treated the continents of Europe and Asia differently. While most of Europe was invaded by a very thick ice shield all the way down to about 45 °N latitude all throughout the duration of the Ice Age, the ice coverage in Central Asia took place only during the time period between about 26,000 and 20,000 years BP. This influenced the human development in both continents differently during the tail end of the Ice Age.

The West Siberian Lowland and the Central Asian steppes provided a special environment such that these lands were not covered with an ice shield during the Ice Age up until about 26,000 years BP.  From the beginning of the Ice Age to 26,000 years BP, the area conditions were minimally changed from what they were at the onset of the Ice Age. Therefore plant and animal life in Central Asia thrived even during these cold climate conditions.

During the period between 26,000 and 20,000 years BP, the world's climate become gradually colder and the northern lands and the high mountains of Central Asia were covered with glacials, although not as thick as those in Europe and North America.

By the beginning of 20,000 BP, Earth's climate started to warm up and continued warming until present times. This warming of weather melted most of the ice shield in the northern hemisphere by about 12,000 years BP.

5.  Between 20,000 and 12,000 BP, a huge inland sea-size lake was formed in the
West Siberian Lowland by the melt waters of the melting ice shield in north
Central Asia and the glaciers on the surrounding mountains.  This flood water sea, which I call "Ak Tengiz", formed because the water drainage outlets running into the Arctic Ocean were plugged by huge glacial. Ak Tengiz covered an area probably as large as three times the present size of the Caspian Sea.

The flood stories found in Sumerian writings and in the mythologies of many peoples of the world are most likely referring to a single event like the formation of the Ak Tengiz lake in the West Siberian Lowland during the tail end of the last Ice Age. Its initial formation would have been a catastrophic event because the flood waters would have swept over and obliterated any civilization that existed in the
lands overtaken by the flood waters.

7.   Mythological flood and creation stories all over the world appear to be Central Asiatic in origin, hence they seem to corroborate the formation of Ak Tengiz.

8.  It probably took another 3,000 to 4,000 years after the ending of the Ice Age before "Ak Tengiz" was reduced to what it is at present. The present remnants of this ancient lake in the West Siberian Lowland consist of:

          a network of major rivers such as Ob, Irtish, Katun, and others;

          innumerable swampy area; and

          many lakes that are distributed throughout the southern outskirts of the land.

This ancient West Siberian Lowland lake, which is not there now, will probably form again at the end of another ice age. It is quite reasonable to think that this kind of an inland lake formation has taken place in this part of Central Asia during the tail end of many ice ages.


9.  During the tail end of the Ice Age, the water levels of the Caspian Sea and Black Sea must have also swelled up by the ice shield melt waters flowing into them from northern Europe and the Ural mountains. It is likely that the Caspian Sea overflowed its eastern banks to join with the Aral Sea; and possibly the Black Sea and Caspian Sea also joined each other for some time.


10.  Because land was taken over by the ice coverage of the northern hemisphere during the Ice Age, migrations took place. Because plants could not grow in northern Europe during most of the Ice Age, the land animals, and with them the humans, must have been forced out of that area.


11.       The human migrations from Central Asia probably did not occur until after 26,000 BP when the ice shield was starting to cover Siberia, and the Bering Land Bridge was established. The first migrations to North America and also to southern  Asian lands probably took place between 26,000 and 20,000 BP when the ice shield was taking over land in Siberia.


Further migrations could have taken place during and after the formation of the Ak Tengiz - during the period of about 20,000 to 12,000 years BP. Most of the migrations to North America probably happened during this period before ocean levels rose sufficiently to cover the Bering Land Bridge. Also during this time, as the ice shield of Europe started to melt and retreat, plants and animals moved back into the recovered lands of Europe. With them, the Central Asians also moved into Europe.


12.  During the last 20,000 years, plant, animal and human life would have thrived to new heights in the Central Asiatic land mass between the latitudes of about 35°N and 55 °N, all the way from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean, until desertification started.


13.  With global warming, Ak Tengiz diminished in size and desertification in the southern latitudes of the Central Asian land mass started. Famous deserts of Central Asia, such as the Gobi, Taklamakan, Kizil Kum, Kara Kum and others were formed,  thus forcing new migrations from Central Asia. During this time, additional migrations  from Central Asia into areas such as Europe, China, the Mediterranean belt, Mesopotamia,  Iran and India and even into the Indonesian Islands and the Americas must have occurred.


14.  The peopling of Europe by the Central Asians probably occurred thousands of years  earlier than the peopling of Europe by Indo-European speaking peoples.


15.  The remnants of highly developed, but lost, sedentary civilizations, that must have existed during ancient times in different parts of Central Asia, are likely to be found under the sands of the Central Asian deserts and possibly under the silts of marshy low areas.


16.  It is highly likely that the presence of Ak Tengiz, and other lakes in the area, provided the opportunity for Central Asians to also become seafaring peoples, in addition to their animal husbandry based lifestyle. The forms of boats used by the people on the island of Crete (so-called Minoans), the ancient Egyptians and the Central Asiatic peoples as portrayed on bronze vases found in

north-western China82 bear a large resemblance to one another.  This is an indication of the continuity of the same culture at three different locations.


17.  As the people of Central Asia migrated to other locations, they took with them their culture, language and religion. All of these were developed into different but related forms in their new environment with magnificent results.   They shared their culture, religion and language with the native peoples - wherever they found them. The One Sky God concept, i.e., Tengriism, was a Central Asian concept that was spread everywhere by the ancestors of Turkic peoples.  One God (Bir Tengri = Bir Ata An Eri) was the central theme of their religious beliefs since ancient times. Other religions have borrowed much from the features of this Central Asiatic One Tengri concept.


18.  Additionally, the culture of ancestor (- Ata Ata An = Tatan = Titan –Atalar in Turkish and Titan as adopted by the ancient Greeks) worshipping was the culture of Central Asians.   Because of this ancestor worshipping culture, Central Asians, wherever they lived in the past, built the most elaborate tomb structures to honor their ancestors. The pyramid building culture which emulates mountains, i.e., the sacred lofty ceremonial places of Turkic peoples, is essentially a Central Asian culture as indicated by the pyramids of Eastern Turkistan. It originally started as mound (kurgan) building and was developed by the migrant Central Asians into forms of pyramids as found in ancient Egypt and South America, and in the forms of ziggurats in Mesopotamia.  Similarly, erecting tall vertical stones for the dead was also Central Asian culture that was spread all over Asia and Europe by the Central Asians.


19.  Pastoral animal farming culture, such as sheep, cattle and horse based husbandry, and bee farming, were all initially Central Asiatic cultures established since prehistoric times.

"AK TENGIZ" The Ice Age Great Flood Lake Covering The Lowlands of SIberia 

Note: The whole paper was first published in: TÜRK DÜNYASI ARAŞTIRMALARI,

No. 121, Ağustos, 1999, p. 97-148, İstanbul, Türkiye.


Polat Kaya