A potato farmer in Kyrgyzstan uncovered the huge 10-ft stone statue while ploughing his field near Ak-Bulun village in the Issyk-Kul region. It is believed that the "balbal" depicted a fallen warrior.
Potato farmer Erkin Turbaev was plowing his field near the Northern Tian Shan mountains in Eastern Kyrgyzstan on October 15, 2022, when he broke his plough on what he believed at the time was a large rock.
It wasn't until Mr Turbaev started digging around the rock with the aim of removing it from the field that he realised that what he had found was no normal rock - it was in fact a huge stone statue depicting the face and torso of a human being.
Upon closer inspection, it became apparent to Mr Turbaev that he was looking at a large statue of a balbal. A balbal is a type of carved stone statue that was used by first-millennium inhabitants of Central Asia to memorialize the dead.
The statues were most frequently associated with nomadic Turks who, at the time, occupied the land that is modern-day Kyrgyzstan.
Mr Turbaev told Arkeonews that his discovery was "a great historical find for his village that would bring good fortune."
The statue appears to show a warrior, equipped with a helmet, armour, and holding a short sword with one hand and the other folded across his chest.
Zhanbolot Abdykerimov, a historian who examined the statue, explained that this particular balbal had special markings and inscriptions on the head, a pendant around its neck, and the hand folded across its chest, all of which indicate that this particular individual that had been memorialized held an important title.
Mr Abdykerimov added that without further examination and archaeological study, it was difficult to confirm exactly what period the balbal was sculpted in.
This recent discovery is far from the first balbal to be unearthed in the region, with several similar statues being found at several sites along the lake shore of Issyk-Kul, giving the indication that the practice was common in the area.
Mr Abdykerimov said: "There are historical kurgans (burials) that date back to the third century BCE between the settlements of Ak-Bulun and Frunze", adding that this offers historians some evidence that "the ancient city of Sarybulun was in the eastern part of Issyk-Kul."
Several different theories are passed around by historians discussing why the Turks began erecting stone monuments like balbals. One theory suggests that the statues were carved to look like fallen soldiers as a way of honouring the dead.
Another theory, claims that the balbal-laden gravesites actually featured stone carvings depicting the dead enemies of heroic fighters, put in place next to the fallen heroes to serve them in the afterlife.
Whichever theory is true, most historians are in agreement that balbals depict warriors whose feats were so impressive that they deserved commemorating, whether they were fighting for the Turks or against them.