For the summer of 2007, the Silkroad Foundation, in conjunction with the National Museum of Mongolian History and the University of Pennsylvania, will be sponsoring excavations and survey in the Altai Mountians of Khovd aimag, Mongolia.
This program provides an exciting opportunity for participants with a wide range of interests. The early nomadic societies of Eurasia played a critical role in the development of economic and cultural exchange along the "Silk Roads." The Chinese historical documents particularly emphasize the emergence of a strong nomadic confederacy, called the Xiongnu, in the late first millennium BCE which held sway over the steppe and mountain regions north of the Chinese realm for several centuries and well into the Common Era (AD). Our understanding between the nomads and their relations with sedentary neighbors has relied heavily on historical narratives, yet within the past few decades this perspective has been transformed by archaeological discoveries not only of royal tombs but of standard- burial graveyards, regional analyses and settlement studies. A wealth of new material is being unearthed, and new methods are being applied to its analysis.
The Mongol-American Khovd Archaeology Project aims to advance archaeological investigations of the Altai Mountains, a significant area of cross-cultural interaction during all periods of Inner Asian history. Within the goals of enhancing understanding of this region, the project endeavors to collaborate and communicate with archaeologists beyond the Mongolian borders of the Altai, hence networking scholarly exchanges with and inviting the participation of archaeologists who work in the neighboring countries into which the greater Altai region and its surroundings extend. The project offers all participants a focused training in all aspects of archaeology from survey to excavation, preservation to analysis - including more advanced methods of mapping with a total station, digital illustration, ArcGIS, database management, and in-field approaches to conservation. The project also seeks to raise awareness of archaeological work in Mongolia and promote the preservation of cultural relics and national history through regular presentations of results to locals in the areas we survey and excavate as well as reports and poster displays given to local institutions. Lastly, website reports, followed by publications, will facilitate the dissemination of knowledge regarding present work to both Mongolian and international audiences alike.
The focus of the Khovd Archaeology Project lies in the crucial region between the nomads of the Mongolian steppes and the oasis states of the Silk Road in present-day Xinjiang. In addition to enhancing our understanding of the nomads who dominated the early routes of traffic across Eurasia, the project offers hands-on experience in archaeological field work and will be an excellent introduction to the broader cultural world of the steppe nomads. The Xiongnu were only one of several important nomadic confederacies which were centered in Mongolia, the best known being that of the empire which would encompass much of Eurasia under Chingis Khan and his successors in the 13th century. A tour of monuments during the expedition will allow participants to see a large collection of sites across varied geographic zones from different periods of Mongolian history and culture, from the Paleolithic to the Mongol Hordes. To spend significant time in the broad expanses of Mongolia's spectacular landscapes, where many aspects of traditional herding culture are still alive (although by no means uninfluenced by the modern world), can greatly enhance one's understanding of this region's importance in world history. This is a program which should appeal to anyone eager to learn about Eurasian history and experience first-hand rich cultural traditions which are very different from the settled world.
More details on Takhilt Xiongnu Cemetery.
Read Bryan Miller's 2006 survey report (funded through American Center for Mongolian Studies)
The project team will consist of our staff team, Mongolian archaeologists from the National Museum of Mongolian History, Mongolian students from local universities in Khovd and the participants accepted in this program.
Co-Director: Ayuudain Ochir, ScD, Prof. Director, National Museum of Mongolian History
A. Ochir specializes in Medieval History and Archaeology of East Asia. He is also the director of several other projects through the National Museum, including excavations at Chintolgoi Khitan city and surveys of Uihgur monuments in the vicinity of the capital of Khar Balgas, including excavations of a Uighur royal burial.
Co-Director: Bryan K. Miller, Ph.D. Candidate,
East Asian Langages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania.
Miller specializes in Archaeology and History with focus areas on Early Empires of East Asia,
and the integration of history and archaeology. His research projects
(a) Qin local officials and imperial expansion into the Yangzi river area;
(b) Early Iron Age nomad cultures of Xinjiang; (c) nationalism, politics
the changing views of the First Emperor of China; (d) management and
labor force in the iron industry of Han Dynasty China and (e) mapping
material definitions of the Xiongnu empire
Archaeologist: Professor Wang Binghua, Xinjiang Institute for Cultural Relics and Archaeology, PRC. Professor Wang Binghua is one of China's most distinguished archaeologists and the emeritus Director of the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology. He is an authority on the early history of the peoples of Xinjiang.
Archaeologist: Jamsranjav Bayarsaikhan, National Museum of Mongolian History in Mongolia. J. Bayarsaikhan is an archaeologist at the National Museum who also works for the Smithsonian Deer Stone Project. He specializes in Bronze Age archaeology and is presently pursuing his PhD through the National Museum and National University.
Historian: Professor Daniel Waugh, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Washington in Seattle. Professor Waugh is a specialist on early Russian history, he has also taught a wide range of courses on the history of Central Eurasia, including the Silk Road. He edits _The Silk Road_, the Foundation's journal, and maintains the website Silk Road Seattle. He participated in the Foundation's Tamir excavation in Mongolia in 2005 and has traveled extensively in the mountains of Central Asia.
Physical anthropologist: Christine Lee, Ph.D. candidate,
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University.
Christine Lee's field specializations include bioarchaeology, paleopathology, dental anthropology,
East Asian archaeology, nonmetric traits, and developmental defects. She is expected to
complete her PhD program in Spring 2007
Physical anthropologist: Zhang Linhu, Center for Frontier Archaeology, Jilin University, Changchun, China. Zhang Linhu's Research interests focus on archaeological excavations in Xinjiang province and Sichuan province China, paleopathology, musculoskeletal stress markers, dental anthropology.
Language: The official language of the excavation is English. Lectures by local Mongolian and Chinese scholars will be translated.
Schedule and Itinerary:
We will spend three weeks in the field at the Takhilt Xiongnu Cemetery and spend one week to travel and visit some of archaeologic sites on the way back to Ulaan Baatar. We will spend last two days in the laboratory at National Museum for cataloguing.
14 July - arrive Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia
15 July - visit National Museum of Mongolian History
16 July - Fly to Khovd city and meet the team. Museum visit. Drive to Takhilt camp site.
17 July-8 Aug - Excavations at Takhilt: Tomb Complexes #64 and #25
24 July - Trip to Tsenkher Cave and survey sites further up Khoit Tsenkher River
1 Aug - Trip to Uyench Pass, visit Shbuuz Belchir in mountain passes
9 Aug - Wrap up and presentation of excavation results. Dinner party with the locals
10 Aug - Pack up camp. Travel to Khovd and overnight hotel in Khovd
11 Aug - visit Turk and Xiongnu sites near Darvi sum in Khovd (Baishin Uzuur and Doloot). camp near Uliastai and Otgon Tenger (hot springs).
12 Aug - visit Khangai Mountains and camp in Khanuy Valley. Dinner with the archaeologist Jean-Luc Houle and his team
13 Aug - visit Urt Bulagyn khirigsuur site and other Bronze Age monuments in the valley, including deer stones; accompany Houle and his team on settlement archaeology excavations. Visit Gol Mod 2 Xiongnu cemetery (in mountains of Khanuy Valley)
14 Aug - Drive to Tsetserleg for lunch. Drive on to visit Khar Balgas city site and camp for the night.
15 Aug - tour Uighur ritual sites around Khar Balgas, and visit Uighur royal tomb. Drive to visit Khar Khorin and Erdene-zuu monestary. See Orkhon inscriptions and camp in Orkhon valley.
16 Aug - Drive back to Ulaanbaatar and stop at Ongot site outside of city. Arrive in Ulaanbaatar.
17-18 Aug - Laboratory work and cataloguing at National Museum
18 Aug - Farewell Dinner
Tsenkher Cave (Paeleolithic)
Tsenkher cave lies a few kilometers further up the Khoit Tsenkher river valley from the site of Takhilt cemetery. Here can be found some of the earliest cave paintings in Mongolia and in the world. Animals are painted on the walls of the cave in an array of red, black and white.
Uyench Pass (Bronze and Iron Age)
The Uyench river valley at the southern end of this mountain pass through the Altai has numerous sections of rock wall carved with animals, chariots and hunting scenes from the Bronze Age through Turk period. Some of the most famous rock-cut art in Mongolia, for example the often depicted Xiongnu chariot with escorts, can be found on the walls of this canyon.
Shömbuuz Belchir (Xiongnu)
new Xiongnu cemeteries documented during surveys in September 2006. There are a handful of sites in the mountains pass area of Mönkhkhairkhan (between 2100 and 2500m elevation), but this is by far the most unique. These medium sized circular burials (6-8m diameter) are tucked in a niche away from the mountaintop thoroughfare that follows the Dund-Tsenkher river, and several of them have adjacent stone lines or satellite burials.
Baishin Uzuur and Doloot (Bronze Age, Xiongnu and Turk)
These two sites, also newly documented in 2006, are found in the low foothills of Bumbag Khairkhan Mountain nearby the oasis-like green pocket of valleys stretching from Darvi sum to Khar Us Lake and Khovd city. Doloot contains a group of Xiongnu burials and a group of Turk burials next to two large stone enclosures which may be the remnants of a nomad winter camps. Numerous Bronze Age and Iron Age ceramic sherds can be found on the ground surface around both these sites. Baishin Uzuur Hill is topped with rock crags carved with Turkish runes, and flanked on one side by dozens of Xiongnu circular burials and on the other side by two Bronze Age graves.
Otgon Tenger Mountain
This snow-capped peak overlooking Blue Lake reaches 4100m and is found within a natural preserve area bearing the same name as the mountain. The area is popular for skilled climbers as well as those who wish to enjoy the natural hot springs.
Khanuy Valley (Bronze Age, Xiongnu and Turk)
The Khanuy Valley Project on Early Nomadic Pastoralism (Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA and the Institute of History, Mongolian Academy of Sciences) has worked here since 2001 on the mapping and excavation of monuments from the Bronze and Iron Age of Mongolia. Careful test excavations carried out by Jean-Luc Houle (PhD candidate, University of Pittsburgh), as part of the greater project’s endeavors, have discovered remnants of nomad habitation in the valley. The sizeable dimensions and large number of sites from these early periods, coupled with the presence of later Turkish remains, mark the valley as a center of activity for nomads which continued across many centuries.
Urt Bulagyn (Bronze Age)
This is one of the two largest stone mound complexes (khirigsuurs) in the valley, measuring 390m and containing thousands of stone circles with burnt crushed bone and stone mounds with horse remains, usually skulls and vertebrae, all surrounding a large central mound enclosed by a stone fence. The valley is dotted with similar khirigsuurs, stone slab burials, as well as deer stones of the Bronze Age. (Allard and Erdenebaatar 2005)
Gol Mod 2 (Xiongnu)
One of the few Xiongnu cemeteries with ramped square tombs, this site was just recently found by chance during the first season of the Khanuy Valley Project, tucked up in the forested hills overlooking the valley. Excavations have been conducted since 2002 on Tomb 1 Complex, which is not only the largest Xiongnu tomb found to date (84m long) but it also boasts the presence of twenty-seven small satellite burials flanking the east in an arc shape, a large circular burial between the main mound and the arc, and a deep horse burial to the north of the tomb mound. (Miller et al. 2006)
Khar Balgas (Uighur)
Named Ordobalik in the Uighur language, the remains of this capital are situated at the confluence of the Orkhon and Jirmentei rivers in Arkhangai aimagand measures approximately 25 km2. Within the walls are the remnants of market places, workshops, temples and a royal residence enclosure with guard towers measuring 12m high and 600m2. Recent surveys and excavations of the joint Mongol-Chinese project headed by the National Museum of Mongolian History and the Inner Mongolia Archaeological Research Institute of China have mapped numerous Uighur square ritual and burial sites throughout the area (Ochir et al. 2005) and uncovered a ramped, round brick chamber tomb beneath one of these monuments during summer 2006.
Khar Khorin (Mongol)
The remains of this capital of the Mongol Empire, established in 1220, lie just north of the present-day Erdene-Zuu monestary in the Orkhon Valley. Recent excavations of this site by the Bonn University and Institute of Archaeology joint project have continued work at the palace structure of Ogedei Khaan as well as investigations of paved roads, kilns for ceramics production, and temples.
Close to the city of Ulaanbaatar lies a sacrificial site in the vicinity of a Turkish royal burial. A four-sided cyst of stone slabs carved with lattice decoration stands at the head of a long line of more than 550 standing stones stretching eastward, including 30 human and animal statuettes placed close to the cyst.
Program Fee: A tax deductible donation of $1500. This donation does not include airfare, visas nor incidentals in Ulaan Bataar and Khovd.
Prerequisite: Participants must bring their own camping gear.
Volunteers need no special training, but should be prepared for physical activity and wilderness camping for extended periods of time. We are going out on the Mongolian steppe and will be anywhere from 50 km to 150 km from any sizable towns. We will live in tents and “gers” (Mongolian traditional tent houses), without electricity and plumbing. Access to water, for bathing and drinking, will be a river nearby the campsite, so participants will need to bring water filters (or share with other participants). The diet will be heavy on sheep and rice, and hopefully cheese and yogurt. Vegetarians will have a difficult time with such a diet, and thus will need to come prepared with some of their own additional food options.
Volunteers will be given training on archaeological survey and excavation, including proper methods of unearthing, documenting and (using a total station) mapping the materials. If you have excavation experience, we welcome your assistance, and if you have not, we look forward to the learning process! The most important things you need for this project are: 1) patience and a good sense of humor; 2) the ability to adapt to radically different cultures and climates and environments (without electricity and all the trappings that go with it); and 3) a sense of adventure, for we will be traveling to and seeing some fantastic places!
Application/Deadline: The online application should be submitted
to the Silkroad Foundation by 2/15/2007. We will notify those accepted
by the end of February. Please contact Silkroad Foundation via email for any questions.