Excavation and Survey in Arkhangai and Bulgan Aimaqs, Mongolia July 20-August 17, 2005

or the summer of 2005, the Silkroad Foundation, in conjunction with the Department of Archaeology at the Mongolian National University, will be sponsoring excavation and survey in Arkhangai and Bulgan aimaqs, Mongolia. You are invited to join in the first season of this collaborative project.

The field directors for this project are Dr. Mark Hall (Archaeological Research Facility, University of California, Berkeley) and Dr. Zagd Batsaihan (Department of Archaeology, Mongolian National University). Dr. Hall has excavated in Bulgan aimaq in 1996 and 1998, while Dr. Batsaihan has worked in these aimaqs since the early 1990s.

The main focus of the research will be looking at Xiongnu cemeteries and possible Xiongnu settlements in these two aimaqs. For the past several years, both Dr. Hall and Dr. Batsaihan have been working on Xiongnu material in an attempt to look at: 1) trade and exchange relationships within the Xiongnu confederacy; 2) trade and exchange between the Xiongnu and Han; and 3) developing an absolute chronology of the Xiongnu. Excavations are being done in order to gather more data to look at these issues.

This program is 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.” As the Han Dynasty histories emphasize, of particular importance was the Xiongnu

confederacy in the last centuries BCE and beginning of the Common Era (AD). Our understanding of the nomads themselves and their relations with sedentary centers has been transformed by the archaeological work of recent decades. A wealth of new material is being unearthed, and new methods are being applied to its analysis. In addition to enhancing your understanding of the origin of the Silk Roads and offering hands-on experience in archaeological field work, the program will be an excellent introduction to the broader cultural world of the steppe nomads and to the history and culture of Mongolia. The Xiongnu were only one of several important nomadic confederacies which were centered there, the best known being that of the empire which would encompass much of Eurasia under Chingis Khan and his successors in the 13th century. To spend significant time in the grasslands 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 one’s own.


The official language of the seminar is English. Lectures by local Mongolian scholars will be translated.


Part of the field season will be spent excavating at Tamaryn Ulaan Khoshuu, a Xiongnu cemetery containing over 300 burials and a series of banked and ditched enclosures believed to date to the Xiongnu era. The other part of the field season will be spent doing survey and test excavations of Bronze Age and later period sites and monuments.

Session 1

— July 20th- August 3rd, 2005

Session 2

— August 4th- August 18th, 2005

Program Fee

A tax deductible donation of $1000 for one session, or $1500 for both sessions. This donation does not include airfare, visas nor incidentals in Ulaan Bataar. We are currently investigating the possibility of a homestay with a Mongolian family upon arrival in Ulaan Bataar, but you should also considering budgeting for staying 2-3 days in a hotel in Ulaan Bataar.


Survey and excavation will run six days a week once we are out in the field. The typical day will probably be as follows:

8:30 AM — Everyone goes to his/her excavation or survey units.

12:30 PM — Return to camp for lunch.

2:30 PM — Everyone goes back out for survey and excavation.

6:30 PM — Return to camp for the evening meal.

In the evenings, we will have some group discussions about the finds from the excavation and/or we will be cleaning artifacts. Other evenings may involve inviting the local herders to the camp, or visiting them. Some evenings will be free with no organized activities.

List of Lectures

Several lectures will be given during the session. The tentative schedule is as follows:


Participants must bring their own camping gear. If you want to buy (possible range from $300-500) a ger in Ulaan Bataar and live in that while on expedition, we’ll help you do that.

Volunteers need no special training, but should be used to 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, without electricity and plumbing. Hot water will almost be a luxury. The diet will be heavy on sheep and rice, and, hopefully, cheese and yogurt. Vegetarians will not do very well with the diet.

Volunteers will be given training on how to do archaeological survey and excavation. If you have been on an excavation before, that is great; but if not, do not worry about it. The most important things you need for this project are: 1) a good sense of humor; 2) the ability to cope with rapidly changing conditions; 3) a sense of adventure; and 4) the ability to live without electricity, a cellphone, a television and a computer.

Academic credit is not provided for this project.


The online application (http://www.silkroadfoundation.org/excavation/excform005.html) should be submitted to the Silkroad Foundation by March 15, 2005. We will notify those accepted by early April. For more information, please contact program director Dr. Mark Hall (mhall@berkeley.edu) or contact the Silkroad Foundation via email (excavation@silkroadfoundation.org).

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