National History Museum researchers studying rare artifacts from Khovd

Trans. by B.Dulguun

A team from the Research Center of the National History Museum of Mongolia set off to Myangad soum in Khovd Province on May 1, 2015, to study some artifacts discovered by a group of looters in April 2015.
The looters found a number of artifacts from an ancient rock burial site of Urd Ulaan Uneet Mountain in Myangad soum, and were caught by the Khovd Province Police Department when trying to sell their findings. The police confiscated a bow and an arrow, a quiver knit of leather strips, a wooden vase, a metal knife with a horn handle, a red wooden saddle, and a metal bridle.
After seeing the artifacts, a research team consisting of chief of the Natural History Museum’s research center J.Bayarsaikhan and researchers T.Tuvshinjargal and Ch.Bayandelger asked the local authority to allow them to take the artifacts to Ulaanbaatar so that they could restore and conduct detailed studies of them. The team discovered a cave six meters deep at Urd Ulaan Uneet Mountain, where the rock burial site was found. The cave had two entrances, one facing southwest and the other facing northeast.  The remains of a horse’s head, neck, hooves, and tail, as well as ripped hunting attire made from leather and some wooden coffins, had been scattered near the southwest mouth of the cave. Not only that, a mummified human head and torso and the remains of a deel had been piled up inside the cave. The research team noted that they were disappointed with the way human remains and important and significant artifacts had been handled.
While documenting the artifacts and examining soil near the northeast mouth of the cave, the team discovered a thin leather bag, which contained 10 round and oval shaped wooden items. Another small leather bag was found during the excavation. The corners of the bag were sealed tightly, and the bag itself had dried up with deep wrinkles, as described by the team. They assumed that the bag was used to carry powder or liquid items, as it reportedly didn’t show signs of having an object inside.
J.Bayarsaikhan, T.Tuvshin, and Ch.Bayandelger excavated near a coffin inside the cave and discovered a human leg at the foot of the coffin, along with locks of black hair that appeared to be human hair at the head of the coffin. They also found two cervical vertebrae from a horse and strands of blond hair that were likely to belong to a horse. The research team believes that a horse was buried northwest of the coffin based on the coffin’s original location. The excavation report notes that the coffin had a unique framework made by weaving strips of wood.
The researchers believe that the site was the tomb of a nomad who lived between the sixth and tenth century, taking into account the structure, framework and special features of the saddle, bridle, vase, coffin, and other artifacts that were found. Currently, the Cultural Heritage Center is conducting restoration and preservation work on the artifacts, while organizing research and promotional activities.
J.Bayarsaikhan noted that rock burials preserve organic items very well, as they are located in a cool and dry environment, where neither direct sunlight nor excessive moisture can reach them. He said that researchers work especially hard to find answers related to the lifestyles, customs, and traditions of Mongolian ancestors from these types of burials.
He noted that while some people dig up sacred tombs for profit, others try to learn more from the artifacts found and hope to understand their significance. He cited the example of Ts.Samdan, a herder in Bumbugur soum of Bayankhongor Province, who discovered several tombs and reported them to a professional research team without touching the artifacts. J.Bayarsaikhan emphasized that the state will pay attention to rewarding people like Ts.Samdan in the future.

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