Skip to comments.Celebrating Genghis Khan's Big Year
Posted on 10/13/2006 3:52:54 PM PDT by blam
Celebrating Genghis Khan's Big Year
September 29, 2006
by Eric Powell
Eight centuries on, the Mongolian conqueror continues to influence culture worldwide.
Mongolians love their Khan.
Before I traveled to Mongolia last year to report a story on Bronze Age nomads, I'd read about the country's devotion to a man known throughout the rest of the world as the most ruthless and bloodthirsty conqueror in the planet's history. But I was still surprised by the ubiquity of his presence in the capital city Ulaanbaatar (sometimes spelled Ulan Bator, or "Red Hero" in Mongolian). Not only is his visage (sometimes benevolent, sometimes fearsome) found in the usual places like stamps, money, and public squares, but it's also emblazoned on restaurant menus, cigarettes, and toiletries that bear the name Genghis, or even Temuujin, his given name.
Instead of the scourge of civilization, Mongolians see Genghis as not just the founder of the Mongolian state, but as a force for progress and development during the Middle Ages, a leader whose legacy still has profound implications today, especially now that Mongolia is a democracy. The Khan was even the consensus vote for "Man of the Millennium" in surveys of historians a few years ago, a development that the Mongolian government still trumpets proudly in promotional material.
This was a big year for the Man of the Millennium. Mongolians celebrated the 800th anniversary of the formation of the Mongolian Empire. The somewhat arbitrary date of 1206 is the year that Genghis unified all the Mongolian tribes, his first step toward establishing the vast empire that eventually stretched from China to the Caspian Sea.
How to celebrate the anniversary? In addition to a number of academic conferences and other events marking the occasion, there is some talk about changing the capital's name to Genghis City. Some 30 miles from Ulaanbaatar, the government has a 130-foot-tall statue of the Khan in the works at the spot where, in 1177, young Temuujin found a horsewhip lying on a hilltop as he rode past. Horsewhips being lucky, he took it as an auspicious sign for his plan to re-unite the Mongols.
At ARCHAEOLOGY, we can mark the occasion easily. Few historical figures have invaded popular culture as successfully as Genghis. Caesar and Cleopatra come to mind, but that's about it. The Khan has appeared in museum exhibitions, of course, but also books (scholarly, popular, and pulp fiction) and film (including The Conqueror, a 1956 movie with John Wayne improbably cast as Genghis).
Genghis Khan casts a long shadow in the archaeological record, too. And it turns out quite a few of us are even carrying the conqueror's DNA around. A genetic study done by Oxford geneticist Brian Sykes shows that 16 million people worldwide, eight percent of Asian men, are descended from the prolific Khan, who it turns out did more than put whole cities to the sword. The Khan had four legitimate sons, but it seems he had many, many more progeny than history records. And his four sons were known to be prolific as well. This year there was a great deal of publicity surrounding one purported descendant, Tom Robinson, a middle-aged accounting professor at the University of Miami who submitted his DNA to Sykes's Oxford Ancestors company. An initial analysis linked Robinson to Genghis. "I'm not sure we have too many similarities," he told the London Times. "I obviously haven't conquered any countries, and though I've headed up accounting groups, I've done nothing as big as Genghis Khan." However, Robinson, like any good accountant, asked for a second test to be performed once the publicity spiraled out of control and a movie company offered to fly him to Mongolia. The second analysis showed that he was in fact not related to the Khan. (For an amusing summary of the whole Genghis-Robinson DNA affair see Tom "Ex-Khan" Robinson's blog.)
Some of the Khan's more merciless moments are stamped indelibly in the archaeological ruins of cities scattered across Central Asia. Two of the biggest sites that suffered the most at the hands of the Khan's warriors are Merv, in Turkmenistan and Otrar in Kazakhstan. Both cities were virtually wiped out by during Genghis's campaigns, their populations put to sword. Their mud-brick remains today are the focus of preservation efforts by UNESCO and other organizations.
And though he was a nomadic emperor, Genghis left his fair share of archaeological sites in Mongolia. The most important of these is Karakorum, the Khan's capital city. Once the capital of the Khan's fierce rivals, the Naiman tribe, Karakorum served as Genghis's military headquarters during his conquest of China. Though the Khan rarely spent much time in the city, and the "capital" of the empire was in fact wherever the Khan's palatial yurt happened to be, Karakorum during the Khan's day was the site of a fixed garrison that marked the heart of the empire. Genghis's son Ögedei built Karakorum into a true city. Destroyed in 1380 by a Chinese army, the city's ruins eventually became the site of the Buddhist monastery of Erdene Zuu, which is still active today.
Karakorum excavation site (German Archaeological Institute)
A joint Mongolian-German archaeological team has been excavating at Karakorum since 1999. They've found evidence that shows the city was once a cosmopolitan center that drew people from across the Mongolian empire, from Persia to China. The team has also discovered the remains of the Palace of Eternal Peace, Ögedei's once sumptuous, and perhaps ironically named, residence.
Karakorum is the marquee site associated with Genghis that archaeologists can actually survey and dig. But it's the long sought final resting place of the great Khan that keeps archaeologists and adventurers across the world up late at night.
Legend has it that all the soldiers and laborers who built the tomb were killed to keep its location secret. And it's no stretch to say that the site remains one of archaeology's greatest mysteries. Dozens of expeditions have been launched to find the tomb and millions of dollars have been spent, much of it by Chicago attorney and commodities trader Maury Kravitz, whose Genghis Khan Geo-Historical Expedition made headlines a few years ago with their well-publicized but ultimately fruitless search for the Khan's tomb.
In 2001, a Mongolian-Japanese team found the foundations of a site they believed to be Genghis's mausoleum, raising hopes that the tomb would be found nearby. Five years later, the tomb remains undiscovered, a fact that pleases Mongolians I spoke with last summer. Even some Mongolian archaeologists I discussed the subject with feel that the great Khan is better off resting in peace.
That won't keep future generations of romantically inclined scholars from dreaming about finding the tomb. I still remember the catch in my college advisor's voice when he talked about Genghis. Normally a gruff and no-nonsense sort who had spent some of his earliest years in the field working on sites in the Gobi desert, he once spoke to me about returning to Mongolia and finishing his work there. He then surprised me by saying he had a theory about where the Khan is buried. But he wasn't about to tell it to me.
Eric Powell, senior editor at ARCHAEOLOGY, is not to his knowledge descended from Genghis Khan.
© 2006 by the Archaeological Institute of America www.archaeology.org/online/features/genghiskhan/
Ancient warriors cemetery discovered in C. China
www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-13 15:48:55
ZHENGZHOU, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists have discovered a warriors cemetery dating back to the Warring State (475-221 B.C.) in central China's Henan Province.
The graveyard was found during implementation of a culture relics protection project at Wuligang Hill of Tangyin County.
The warriors cemetery covers an area of 200,000 square meters where more than 200 tombs had already been unearthed. There is an estimation of 500 tombs in the cemetery, according to the archaeologists.
"No funeral objects were unearthed. The tomb owners were all young male people, " said Kong Demin, an official with local archaeology department, adding the clues proves that the tombs were warriors tombs.
"The tombs, all in same construction form, are lining up in order," he said. This also indicates the area was used as warriors cemetery.
Archaeologists had discovered some tombs near the area in 1982,the expert said.
During the excavations in 1982, many skeletons with wound marks from knife-cuts or arrow-hits were unearthed from the tombs, he added.
"A famous war between ancient Chinese kingdoms, involved over 100,000 warriors, occurred at a battlefield, where Tangyin county lies, in 257 B.C.," said Hao Benxing, researcher with the Henan Provincial Institute of Culture Relics and Archaeology. Enditem
Editor: Wang Yan
www.chinaview.cn 2006-10-13 16:43:42
SHIJIAZHUANG, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists have unearthed seven large tombs, including a grave of aristocrats, dating back 2,000 years in North China's Hebei Province.
The seven tombs, six belonging to the Warring State (475-221 B.C.) and one belonging to the Eastern Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), were found at a construction site in the Xuanhua District of Zhangjiakou City.
According to archaeologists from local archaeology research institute, more than 20 pieces of jade articles, bronze items, lacquer work and pottery objects were unearthed from the tombs.
All the tombs were well formed with chamber size ranging from two to five square meters. The owners of the Han tomb were a couple and owners of other tombs were buried individually.
The owner of the No. 2 tomb, the largest, was found in a coffin with outside cover, indicating his high social status of noble during the time, the archaeologists said.
Grave robbers had broken into the tomb, stealing many funerary objects and causing serious damage. Fortunately, the coffin remained intact, they said.
The tomb was of great value in the study of the culture, social development and funeral customs of Warring State and the Han Dynasty, the experts said.
Measures have been taken to protect the tombs. Enditem
Editor: Wang Yan
Early photograph of modern-day moron.
We need someone bent more toward Genghis' war philosophy for the war on terror than the spineless fools we have now.
Obviously there is no tomb. George Bush invented it as an excuse for his archaeologist buddies to invade Mongolia.
I was deployed to Uzbekistan 2003-04. I listened to beautiful English-speaking Uzbek girls tell me what a great man `Temujin' was. Genghis Khan, they said, was only a title. An older Uzbek woman observed, sadly, "That's our problem here in Central Asia: the only people we truly admire are poets and conquerors."
These young women spoke several languages, were Western oriented (and clothed), hated and feared Taliban-style Islam. But if I noticed an Uzbek with blond hair, that according to them was a legacy of `Alexander the Macedonian'. Another conqueror.
No sign of the Uzbek Adams or Jefferson or Madison.
12 replies and no picture of William Shatner yelling "KHAN!!!"??????
Yeah, what's up with that?
Instead of the scourge of civilization, Mongolians see Genghis as not just the founder of the Mongolian state, but as a force for progress and development during the Middle Ages, a leader whose legacy still has profound implications today, especially now that Mongolia is a democracy.Oh, yeah, right, force for progress and development...
By 1226, Khan ruled an empire that stretched from Poland in the west to Korea in the east and from Vietnam in the south to Russia's Arctic Ocean shores in the north. Yet it was not complacency that slowed the Mongol leader; it was age. Over sixty and in failing health, Khan attempted to return to Mongolia from a campaign to put down a revolt in China but died during his journey. Shortly before his death, he placed one of his sons in charge of the army and directed hi[m] to slaughter the Chinese rebels after their defeat.
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Mongols showed them how eradication is done. They "erased" the whole Baghdad.
"pretending it [blond hair] came from a dead Macedonian king is cooler."
I believe Russia occupied Central Asia long before communism. In my master's thesis I made mention of the 1916 draft riots in Karshi, Uzbekistan (14,000 killed in a single day!). Never dreamed that years later I'd be stationed just down the street, so to speak.
Anyway, my last haircut in country was provided by a blond girl. When I asked her if she was Russian, she replied, "Nyet! Ya Uzbyechka!" Seems one parent (I forget which) was Russian, but she was born and raised in Karshi, and that meant, by golly, that she was Uzbek.
Genghiz Khan mega BUMP