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The conjunction of the Orkhon River and Ordos Mountains in Mongolia's Arkhangai aimaq was once the center of four of the world's great nomadic cultures:
- The Xiongnu
- The Turks
- The Uyghurs
- The Mongols
Beginning in 209 BCE, the Xiongnu created a confederacy that would last more than 250 years and rival the Han Dynasty in its military prowess. The location and nature of the Xiongnu capital - Longcheng - remain a matter of debate, but it is thought to have been near Koshu Tsaidam in Arkhangai.
Under the direction of such famous leaders as Bumin, Kul Tigin, and Bilge Khagan, the Turks ruled a vast steppe empire from their home near the Orkhon and Ordos that lasted from the 6th to the mid-8th century CE. Kul Tigin and Bilge Khagan carved runic and Chinese inscriptions on massive stelae found near Koshu Tsaidam (see bottom picture).
Led by Bilge Kul Khagan, the Uyghurs felled the Turkic empire and established an empire from their capital at Kara Balgasun (see top picture) in Arkahngai in AD 751. The Uyghurs dominated Mongolia from 745-854 CE, when they were driven out by a loose confederation of Turkic groups.
Founded by Chinggis Khan in 1206, the Mongols established the largest contiguous empire in human history, stretching from Southeast Asia and southern Russia to Eastern Europe. The Mongol capital, built by Chinggis Khan at Karakorum, lies in the Orkhon Valley just south of Arkhangai aimaq in Ovorkhangai aimaq.