Found in: Turkish culture
A tamga, or tamgha is an abstract seal or device used by Eurasian nomadic peoples and by cultures influenced by them. The tamga was normally the emblem of a particular tribe, clan or family. They were common among the Scythians, Sarmatians, all Turkic peoples, including Khazars and Uigurs, and Alans. Neighboring sedentary people sometimes adopted tamga-like symbols; for example, the stylized trident tamga, or seal were used by various peoples of Eastern Europe and Asia: Kushans, Rus', Khazars, Kipchaks, Mongols, Tatars, Hungarians, Lithuanians and Poles.Ottfried Neubecker. Heraldik. Orbis, 2002; Brook 154; Franklin and Shepard 120-121; Pritsak 78-79. Archaeologists prize tamgas as a first-rate source for the study of present and extinct cultures.
Tamga used by Turkic peoples
Among modern Turkic people, tamga is a design ascending to identification of property or cattle to belong to a specific Turkic clan, usually as a cattle brand or stamp.
When Turkish clans took over more urban or rural areas, tamgas dropped out of use as pastoral ways of life became forgotten. This is most evident in the Turkish clans who took over western and eastern Anatolia following the Battle of Manzikert. The Turks who took over western Anatolia founded the Sultanate of Rum became Roman-style aristocrats, and most of them adopted the (at the time) moslem symbol of the Seal of Suleyman after the sultanate disintegrated into a mass of feuding Ghazi states . Only the Ottoman ghazi state (later to become the Ottoman Empire) kept their tamga, and this was highly stylized, so much so that the bow was stylized down eventually to a crescent moon.
The Turks who remained pastoral nomad kings in eastern Anatolia and Iran however, continued to use their clan tamgas, and in fact they became high-strung nationalistic imagery. The Ak Koyunlu, like many other royal dynasties in Eurasia, put their tamga on their flags and stamped their coinage with it.
For those Turks who never left their homeland of Turkestan in the first place, it remained, and still is, what it was originally: A cattle brand and clan identifier.
Tamga and Uran
Traditionally, each tribe and clan has its tamga and uran battle cry, and the identity of such ethnic group is defined by both attributes. While tamgas are more conservative, and some are traced back for 2 millennia, the battle cries are more fluid, and the present urans are frequently associated with tribal divisions, migrations, and relatively late religious symbols. The urans survived until present among most of the Turkic people, being a necessary components of their ethnological description, and among Germanic and Slavic peoples in the form of the famous battle cries, the English "Hurray" and Slavic "Urra".
Brook, Kevin Alan. The Jews of Khazaria. 2d ed. Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.
Christian, David. A History of Russia, Mongolia and Central Asia. Blackwell, 1999.
Franklin, Simon and Jonathan Shepard. The Emergence of Rus 750-1200. London: Longman, 1996.
Pritsak, Omeljan. ''The Origins of the Old Rus' Weights and Monetary Systems.Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 1998.
Yatsenko, S. A., "Tamgas of Iranolingual Antique and Early Middle Ages people". Russian Academy of Science, Moscow Press "Eastern Literature", 2001 (in Russian)