Original post from: January 19, 2017 re-posted March 31, 2020
When Rise of the Tomb Raider opened, and we saw Lara and Jonah contemplating climbing the pyramid shaped peak ahead of them, it was exciting, yes. However, I was thinking that mountain looked like something I know I have seen before. At least something similar. I am not too sure if the mountain and chain of mountains this peak resides in were the inspiration, but it feels like it could be.
It seems as if this mountain in the game could be part of the Alti chain and this particular one is the highest peak in Siberia named Belukha. If you compare them they are strikingly similar.
Here is the game version:
Here is what could be the actual mountain:
Also, here is a look at part of the range as the game depicts it. All of the shapes are similar. These have a triangular appearance as most of the mountains in this chain do. Additionally, when not triangular, they have a swoop about them that is like an enormous ridge. Such as this from the game and in factual. However, being inspiration they would not be exact.
A look at part of the real mountain chain
Part of the real mountain range. Note the flat area below the first slope. Then look where Lara is standing in the illustration from the game. Same direction, same area hmm looks like inspiration.
Additionally, there is a lower valley as you can see part of it here. When Lara climbs up the foreboding ice wall to the peak of the mountain, she looks out at the landscape on the other side and it is a verdant alpine forest. Just as this area illustrated below.
Strikingly similar indeed. These elements in the game work together to bring a real feel and appear to be extracted from these areas for inspiration.
About Mount Belukha
- First ascent – 1914
- Elevation – 14,783′ (4,506 m)
- Mountain range – Altai Mountains
- Location – 49.80146°N 86.60686°E
You can see an actual climb up the highest mountain in Siberia (Belukha) in the video below. This is also a fantastic video to illustrate a little bit of what mountain climbing is like. The conditions here are very good, but the region is extremely cold.
Learn more about this mountain by following the link to the original video HERE
To speculate about the people in Rise of the Tomb Raider known as the Remnants I would say they were from the Alti Golden Mountain region in Siberia and lived in the valley of Akkem near mount Belukha. This mountain looks a lot like the one in the game and so happens to be the tallest mountain in Siberia. Here is a photo of the Akkem valley and its beautiful lake.
To further speculate on their origin, they could be descendants of the Scythians. Why you may ask? This is why. The following is a history of the people of the Alti mountains and a genetic look into their descendant origin.
A team of researchers from Barcelona has discovered evidence there was genetic blending with Europeans and Asians from the remains of ancient Scythian warriors that lived over 2,000 years ago. These warriors lived in the Alti mountains near and in Mongolia.
Originally scientists believed the blending took place due to an eastward migration of the Europeans, however, we now know it was because of the expansion of local Central Asian populations. This was because of the technology the Scythians brought with them enabling this demographic change.
The Alti Mountains
The Alti mountains (Golden mountains) are a mountain range in central Asia in the middle of the steppes. They occupy Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China. This area has been a corridor for the diversity of populations and cultures for centuries.
A World Heritage site, the Alti region is one of the world nucleuses of mild weather plant diversity. Over 3,000 species of vascular plants are recorded in the area including 700 rare species, and many which are endemic. The unique ecosystem is nearly unchanged since the last ice age. A notable endangered species that call the Alti home is the snow leopard one of my personal favorites. The Alti region is the focus of ongoing international and regional environmental conservation initiatives.
Although, there was a time in ancient days when the Alti range served as a divider between Europeans and Asians which lived isolated from each other for millennia due to the terrain being such an immense challenge to cross. Or was it?
A research team from the UAB, the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont and the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (UPF-CSIC) discovered the answers to how the blending happened and when.
Origin Through DNA …
At the palaeogenetic laboratory, mitochondrial DNA was analyzed. This is the DNA from our mother that allows us to trace our ancestors. It was extracted from the bones and teeth of nearly 20 skeletons dating back to the Bronze Age, 7th to 10th century BC, as well as from the Iron Age, 2nd to 7th century BC,. The origin was the Mongolian Altai Mountains. These scientific extractions came from several tombs containing skeletons of Scythian warriors. These findings from these tombs are considered to be the first evidence of this culture in East Asia.
The studies found that the population derived from the Iron Age, corresponded with the time frame the Scythian culture lived in the Alti Mountains. These findings had a nearly perfect blend (50%) of European and Asian mitochondrial DNA lineages aka sequences.
This discovery takes into account that in previous studies the populations showed no signs of lineage mix. The DNA from Tombs in Russia and Kazakhstan were that of European lineage. The DNA from the eastern region (Mongolian) contained Asian lineages.
These findings show us how and when the diversity of culture and peoples found in the Central Asian Stepps living in this area today started.
Assumpció Malgosa, professor of Biological Anthropology at UAB says this change started over 2,000 years ago in the Alti between the people on both sides of the mountain range. This change coincides with the expansion of the Scythian culture which came from the west.
Many studies conducted in the past through ancient DNA samples indicated that the Scythians were the first large population that was a mixture between Europeans and Asians. At that point, the only populations studied were the ones that lived in the western part of the Eurasian steppes. These older findings suggested that the migration of peoples were the result of Europeans from the west to the east.
New Findings …
However, the most updated and current research is from the first ever scientific findings which show the population mix on the eastern side of the range which indicates there was indeed contact between European and Asian people from both sides of the Alti range that date before the Iron Age. It is now believed that the Asian population adopted the Scythian culture of the time that was more technologically and socially advanced. It is reported that this adoption made them advance demographically by expanding with the European population.
These findings are allowing for a newer hypothetical thought of the population that resides in Central Asia today and how it began a couple of thousand years ago.
A bit about the ice tombs and Scythian People ..
There was a researching team from UAB that worked diligently from 2005 to 2007 with other researchers from France and Mongolia in an effort to excavate some Scythian ice tombs located in the Alti Mountains. Over this time over 20 tombs were analyzed. Some of them were frozen and in those, there were mummified remains of warriors buried with their personal items and even their horses. The amazing part of this discovery is, this was the first Scythian tombs ever discovered on the Mongolian side of the Alti, hence all the others were on the western side.
The Scythians we know about were documented by the Greek historian Herodotus, and it is through his ancient texts that much was learned about them in the past. So we know that the Scythians were an Indo-European people that defined nomadic pasturing along with horse breeding. These tough people crossed the Eurasian steppes. They came by way of the Caspian Sea and ceased when they came to the Alti mountains. All of this happened we know during the 2nd and 7th century BC. …..
What Game inspiration …
What I find interesting, is the area of the settlement of remnants potentially being in the Alti region, is steeped in ancient history. The people living there now are the descendants of the Scythians. There are ancient Scythian ice tombs in the Alti range that hold treasures of many kinds and are the key to the ancient world. The entire area is a gold mine of ancient history from the people, tombs artifacts the climate and vegetation.
In my opinion choosing this part of the world for the setting of these people and all the mystery surrounding the events in the game etc makes a lot of sense including the ice ship frozen in the glacial cave. I would say all of this fits nicely into a package that would include Scythians and part of their history which reaches into Greece and Iran for a start.
Jacob’s people were followers from the Eastern Roman Empire which was 330 AD and in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) hence the heavy Byzantine theme running through the game. The blending had already started between the Europeans and the Asians in the Alti region. When what is called the remnants came there these others people must have been there too.
Of course, this is a game and the remnants do not exist, but if they did, what a perfect setting and blend of descendants this area holds to work with the story as well as bringing the Byzantine architectural theme into play since they would have been the ones who may have brought that to the area. I exemplify on the Byzantines and Rise of the Tomb Raider through art, history, and architecture HERE.
Thank you for viewing. I shall do a follow up on this article (Part 2) about more Scythian archaeology news.
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Calafell F, Underhill P, Tolun A, Angelicheva D, Kalaydjieva L (1996) From Asia to Europe: mitochondrial DNA sequence variability in Bulgarians and Turks.