International online conference of Sacred Geography starts in Nur-Sultan

International online conference of Sacred Geography starts in Nur-Sultan

A two-day international virtual conference organized by the Nazarbayev University has started in Nur-Sultan. It aims at discussing multidisciplinary approaches, including in the fields of religious studies, cultural anthropology, archeology and history in studying sacred landscapes, religious sites, and spatial dimensions of religion. Scientists and researchers from Russia, Kazakhstan, China, France, the United States, Czech Republic, Australia, Singapore and Germany attend the conference.

Historian and Research Group Leader Ivan Sablin, Heidelberg University, said that the multidisciplinary approach to the study of history, religious studies and archeology is becoming more important than ever. With the development of GIS, scientists are increasingly turning to the help of such technologies for deeper analysis and search for religious and historical sites. New technologies provide tremendous opportunities for historical science, he added.

The conference will feature projects with a digital humanitarian or social component, including technologies such as photogrammetry, electronic atlases, cartography, and GIS in the field of pedagogy, tourism and cultural heritage preservation.

The conference participant from the University of South Australia Richard Brown noted that researchers and ordinary people keep finding religious monuments on the territory of Kazakhstan to this day. For example, it was only in 2014 that a large burial of Nestorian Christians was discovered by a farmer in Usharal. This led to the discovery of an entire Nestorian cemetery in 2016 in Ilibalyk, which suggests that Christian communities existed on the territory of Kazakhstan even during the Mongol invasion.

One of the expected events of the two-day conference will be the presentation of the results of a three-year research project of religious scholars to create an interactive map of sacred places in Kazakhstan. It contains over 1,500 objects, which makes it the most complete map of the country's sacred geography available to the general public. Moreover, the map is designed in such a way that anyone can participate in its replenishment through the feedback system. In order to create passports of sacred objects of the interactive map, the project participants organized a number of expeditions to different regions of Kazakhstan, collected rich material, discovered and described valuable collections of unique manuscripts in Turkic, Arabic, Persian, Oirat and Church Slavonic languages.