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PRE-HUMAN HISTORY

The climate of Central Asia became dry after the large tectonic collision between the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. This impact threw up the massive chain of mountains known as the Himalayas. The Himalayas, Greater Khingan and Lesser Khingan mountains act like a high wall, blocking the warm and wet climate from penetrating into Central Asia. Many of the mountains of Mongolia were formed during the Late Neogene and Early Quaternary periods. The Mongolian climate was more humid hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Mongolia is known to be the source of priceless paleontological discoveries (Mongolian Dinosaurs). The first scientifically confirmed dinosaur eggs were found in Mongolia during the 1923 expedition of the American Museum of Natural History, led by Roy Chapman Andrews. During the middle to late Eocene Epoch, Mongolia was the home of many Paleogene mammals with Sarkastodon and Andrewsarchus being the most prominent of them.

STONE AGE

Modern humans reached Mongolia approximately 40,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic. The Khoid Tsenkher Cave in Khovd Province in western Mongolia shows lively pink, brown, and red ochre paintings (dated to 20,000 years ago) of mammoths, lynx, Bactrian camel, and ostriches, earning it the nickname "the Lascaux of Mongolia".

At the site of Northern Tsenkher cave at Mankhan in the province of Khovd, there are rare rock paintings dating from the Upper Paleolithic period (40 000-12 000 years ago). The cave walls and ceiling are painted with many animals including bison, stags, buffalo, oxen, ibex, lions, Argali sheep, deer, antelopes, camels, mammoths and ostriches. The paintings have been made using natural pigments of dark and light-red ochre. The picture above shows some of the animals painted in the cave as well as a line of small dots above on ostrich which researchers believe could be an early form of counting. The cave paintings have been dated to the upper Paleolithic period as several of the animals painted here, such as the mammoth, ostrich, and bison became extinct after this time. The content and form of the paintings in this cave makes it an important addition to the study of the art of this period across the world.

The paintings are stylistically similar to other Paleolithic rock art from around the world but are unlike any other examples in Mongolia. This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on August 1, 1996, in the Cultural category.

Known as mankind's Great Migration, this period of human history saw people move northwards across the continent. People created bows and arrows and began to domesticate plants and animals. Mesolithic archaeological remains and relics are generally very rare, in Mongolia and throughout the world.

Although the cultivation of crops has continued since the Neolithic, agriculture has always remained small in scale compared to pastoral nomadism. Agriculture may have first been introduced from the west or arose independently in the region. The population during the Copper Age has been described as mongoloid in the east of what is now Mongolia, and as europoid in the west. The mummy of a Scythian warrior, which is believed to be about 2,500 years old, was a 30- to a 40-year-old man with blond hair; it was found in the Altai, Mongolia. As horse nomadism was introduced into Mongolia, the political center of the Eurasian Steppe also shifted to Mongolia, where it remained until the 18th century CE. 

During the Neolithic period, people began to build and live in pit houses, and to bury their dead by placing them in a seated position in special underground holes, reflecting a belief in an afterlife. Burial sites such as this have been found in the eastern areas of Mongolia. Some tribes began to settle for longer periods of time inconvenient places during the Neolithic period. Some great evidence of this is located at the Tamsagbulag site in Dornod province. Here researchers discovered an ancient settlement with several pit houses. One of the pithouses was much better preserved than the others according to the study, this house was 7.6 m long and 5.6 m wide. Interestingly, the remains of burial were found underneath the house floor as well as many other bone and stone artifacts discovered during the excavation. The individual was about 15 years old, female and was buried with a necklace made of deer canines, a bone needle with a bone case and micro blades with a bone body or handle. The body was buried in a hunkered-down position. There are several other similar graves that have been unearthed in the Dornod province.  

BRONZE AGE

Before the bronze man first used copper tools but it was so soft then they discovered bronze. During the Bronze Age, artifacts with animal designs became widespread throughout Eurasia. The handle of this dagger-terminating in the shape of a wild mountain sheep's head-is an example of the classic "animal style" art found in Bronze Age Mongolia. Similar representation depicting rams, ibex, argal wild sheep, and other animals, can be traced as far back as Stone Age rock paintings. This exquisite artifact is registered on the list of Mongolian National Treasures.

Mongolia is rich with monuments and complex heritage sites that belong to Bronze Age culture. The main Bronze Age monuments are khirgisuurs, petroglyphs, stone sculptures such as deer stones and burial sites. The most exciting and elegant and valuable monument among Bronze Age complexes is deer stones. Deer stones will usually be found together with extraordinary monuments called khirgisuur, with slab burials or in some cases with petroglyphs forming a complex site. 

Deer stone

Deer stones are unique monuments dating to the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age that are found mostly in Mongolia and in some Central Asian countries. The Bronze Age funeral practice, sacrificial ritual and ideology and animal style art, which were spread among ancient nomads, are all together represented through deer stones. 

Out of 900 of these deer stones found in Central Asia and Siberia, around 700 are located in Mongolia. Their true purpose and creators are still unknown. Some researchers claim that deer stones are rooted in shamanism and are thought to have been set up during the Bronze Age around 1000 BC, and may mark the graves of important people. Later inhabitants of the area likely reused them to mark their own burial mounds, and perhaps for other purposes. 

The term “deer stone” is derived from highly artistic illustrations of deer on stone. The deer stones are created from a long block of granite with four flat sides, on which deer and other images are engraved. Deer stones have three ornamented anthropomorphic sections: a “face”, “torso”, and “lower-body” section. The face part contains human faces, a symbol of sun and moon and earrings while stylized deer, elk – occasionally horses and ibexes – are engraved in the torso. In the lower body part, there are images of weapons, belts, and horse riders. The main decoration, deer images are classically depicted in a superimposed extraordinary abstract style. However, in many cases, deer images or other animals such as horses, ibexes and pig images are occasionally depicted in rough appearance.

The size of deer stones ranges between 1 – 4 meters in height and 20 – 40 cm in thickness and 30 – 80 cm in width. A combination of different art-making techniques is applied to the deer stones statues. Researchers believe that these sophisticated statues, which require enormous effort and skill, were dedicated to leaders and great warriors of a tribe. Therefore on the bodies of the deer stones, there are engravings of various types of weapons such as daggers, grindstones, mattocks, bows with cases, spears, shields, and mirrors as well as belts with decorative patterns.

The deer stone statues have their origin during the middle of the Bronze Age in Central Mongolia and then the early Iron Age they were spread throughout Mongolia extending to some countries of Asia and Europe. The first research on the deer stone was conducted over 100 years ago. Thus far, about 1200 deer stones have been discovered.

Petroglyphs or Rock paintings

The Petroglyphs or Rock Painting monuments found on the territory of Mongolia and survived to date from the early iron age bring us the message of our ancestors who lived 5000-3000 years ago in the territory of Mongolia. This massive collection of pictorials primarily depicts livestock and big game both individual and in large herds. These rock paintings are rich not only in their numbers, but also in meanings, expressiveness, subject, and compositions and allow us to read the ancient history of Mongolia. The capable depiction of Horse-Cart, Ox-Cart attracts the attention of researchers even today. While the earliest Rock Paintings depict wild beasts and birds, with the passage of time the ability to depict gets improved, the paintings show people’s life to a greater extent alongside with beasts. These works illustrate hunting scenes, sowing of crops, domestication of animals, ox-cart carriage, and even the intimate relations of men and women.

Petroglyphs of the Khoit Tsenkher’s Cave

At the site of Northern Tsenkher cave at Mankhan in the province of Khovd in western Mongolia, there are rare rock paintings dating from the Upper Paleolithic period (40 000-12 000 years ago). The cave walls and ceiling are painted with many animals including bison, stags, buffalo, oxen, ibex, lions, Argali sheep, deer, antelopes, camels, mammoths and ostriches. The paintings have been made using natural pigments of dark and light-red ochre. The picture above shows some of the animals painted in the cave as well as a line of small dots above on ostrich which researchers believe could be an early form of counting. The cave paintings have been dated to the Upper Paleolithic period as several of the animals painted here, such as the mammoth, ostrich, and bison became extinct after this time. The content and form of the paintings in this cave makes it an important addition to the study of the art of this period across the world.

The paintings are stylistically similar to other Paleolithic rock art from around the world but are unlike any other examples in Mongolia. This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on August 1, 1996, in the Cultural category. 

Petroglyphs of Rashaan khad

Rashaan Khad is situated near the southeast end of Mount Binder in Batshireet Soum, Khentii province. Here there are many rock art symbols and scripts dating from the Paleolithic period through to the Middle Ages. The symbols belonging to the Upper Paleolithic period can be recognized by their subject matter form such as extinct mammoth and rhino which are only depicted in the outline.

Many rock-cut figures found at Rashaan Khad and other rocks nearby have been dated to the end of the Paleolithic period and the beginning of the Mesolithic period by the level of their complexity. The painting of symbols and stamps on the rock could be evidence that humankind began to live as tribes since that period.

Archeologists signify this complex, which belongs to the period between Stone Age and the 16th century, as an important representative of memorials in eastern Mongolia. The surrounding area is full of cave paintings, various kinds of inscriptions, stone tools and graves of the Bronze Age, the Iron Age as well as the Hun period. Besides them, there are also historical memorials belong to the Bronze Age, the Khitan period and the Mongol Empire. In this cave there are stencil paintings of games and a human figure, hundreds of seal imprints of tribes and over 20 inscriptions in Khitan, Arabian, Persian, Tibetan, Chinese as well as Mongolian script.

Hundreds of animal figures, seal imprints and inscriptions in various scripts all of which belong to the Paleolithic period or the Mesolithic period are found on Rashaan Khad. During his expeditions in 1943 and 1968, Kh. Perlee discovered 180 images on the foreside, over 40 on the backside and about 50 on the crest of a granite stone facing east. On the rock west of Rashaan Khad, a high finned, a short fat legged and a long trunked mammoth was depicted. This figure was much the same as that of the Kapovoi cave in Ural and caves in Europe. On another flat rock rhinos flocked in 3 were depicted in huge with a high fin, short legs, and special attention was put on a tusk and horns over its nose.

Petroglyphs of Moojoo Rock

By the Tsagaan River at Sagil in Uvs province, in western Mongolia, there is an area called Mojoo where hundreds of prehistoric rock carving have been found. This rock art belongs to a number of periods. Some of the most impressive carvings are situated on a wide flat rock, which faces to the west. Here there are around then male big-horned cattle. A man is hunting the cattle with a bow and arrow whilst another is leading one along. Another interesting thing about rock art is the first time marked a difference in animal gender by using dots. These details allow the rock art to be dated to the Mesolithic period (15000 -8000 B.C) a time when bows and arrows were being used and cattle were first being domesticated.

"KHIRIGSUUR"

"Khirigsuur" is defined as a Bronze Age mound structure including a central burial mound, one burial chamber with capstones, and a circular or squared fence surrounding the central burial mound. Khirigsuurs may also include any of the following: a ring wall surrounding the central burial mound, small mound and stone ring features external to the fences, and a pathway between the fence and the central burial mound. Khirigsuurs are burials, each including one human individual of either sex and with ages at death between newborn and old age. Burials are single and primary.

The population is traditionally Asiatic and appears to include similar anatomical expressions as later and more contemporary Mongolian populations. Burials are not associated with any burial artifacts. It is believed that no burial artifacts were included in the burial chambers by the khirigsuur builders.

A khirigsuur is a structure including a central mound and a round or square surrounding frame. When the mound extends to the surrounding wall in a kind of pavement, the khirigsuur is described as a platform khirigsuur. Usually, however, the area between mound and frame is left open and within it may be rays (radial) aligned with the cardinal directions or their subdivisions. A boulder khirigsuur is one in which the central mound is replaced by a large boulder, Small circular altars (small circles) are usually found outside the frame on the north, west, and south sides, rarely on the east side. Some khirigsuur have entrances on the east side; many are accompanied by mounds of unknown function. In other parts of Mongolia, khirigsuur appear to have sometimes functioned as burials. Within the Altai–Sayan region, their function is uncertain––either funerary or memorial or related to other ceremonies. The Khirigsuurs are dated to the Bronze Age (second––early first millennium BCE).

MOUND

Mounds are large piles of rough mountain stones or smooth river stones or a combination of the two types. Most mounds are probably funerary in function; that is, they were raised at the time of an individual’s death and to mark that person’s burial. Whether, however, the body was actually placed under the mound or in a burial chamber sunk into the ground, varies according to period and culture. Single mounds may be simple or collared: that is, ringed with a contrastingly colored stone or with vertical stones of a tooth-like appearance tilted toward the center of the structure. Four-cornered mounds are a variation on the structure type and have been definitively identified as Bronze Age burials. Rows of mounds arranged roughly from north to south are usually understood as burial mounds of the Early Nomadic period (Late Bronze–Early Iron Ages). Some low mounds found in association with "khirigsuur" may have functioned as altars.

MOUND

SQUARE TOMB

The Slab Grave culture is an archaeological culture of the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age Mongols. According to various sources, it is dated from 1,300 to 300 BC. The ornamentation and shape of various bronze objects and especially the technology and stylistic methods used in the making of artistic bronzes found in the slab graves have led scholars to attribute at least some of them to the Karasuk period.

Slab Grave cultural monuments are found in northern, central and eastern Mongolia. The name of the culture is derived from the main typology of the graves, its graves have rectangular fences (checksums) of vertically set slabs of gneiss or granite, with stone kurgans inside the fence. Were found settlements, burial and ritual structures, rock paintings, deer stones, and other remains of that culture.

The most recent graves date from the 6th century BC and the earliest monuments of the next in time Hunnu culture belong to the 2nd century BC. The gap is not less than three centuries, and the monuments that would fill this chronological gap are almost unknown.

SQUARE TOMB



A NATION WITH A RICH TRADITIONS IS RESPECTABLE AND WORTH TO VISIT