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Rice University

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

Mongolia: Nomadism, Geopolitics, and the Environment


Within our global understanding of the human story, nomadic pastoralists are often featured as marginal, or at best ancillary, to a narrative on sedentary civilizations of increasing complexity. Research on these groups has been limited by this conception, and by a minimal signature in the archeological record. However, revolutionary technological and methodological advances in the field have allowed for increased complexity in current research on the emergence of pastoralists in antiquity. As a region with an extensive nomadic pastoral history, and as a nation reviving its interest in the past, Mongolia is ideal for such studies. However, for large swaths of the country, we can only fathom at the intricacies of the archeological record, a record that is endangered by the proliferation of legal and illicit mining operations, infrastructural development, and looting.

This project addresses gaps in our understanding of the Mongolian past through archeological surface survey at Shatar Chuluu, Biiriin Khundii, and Khar Sairiin Am: three Bronze Age sites lying at the southern limits of the Khangai Mountains. Using aerial photography to expedite site mapping, the project adds to a regional and local comprehension of monumentality as it emerges in the Mongolian Bronze Age. This information reveals a monumental landscape that conceptually emphasizes deer stones as territorial, burial monuments as local and locative, and khirigsuur stone mound complexes as communal displays of social stability. The form and function of these lasting remains form distinctive patterns of monumentality within the region.


Archaeological Anthropology | Asian Studies | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Nature and Society Relations | Other History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


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