Monday, 14 November 2011

A Piece of Xiongnu History on Display

UB Post, November 15, 2011 by Tilovalo
Time changes everything. It’s known that time leaves its traces on all things, as they begin to fade or are broken.
However, if you go far enough back in time, there reaches a point when archeological findings tell us not only about history, but are also considered as art.
The Treasures of Xiongnu exhibition, which opens at the National Museum of Mongolia is one such example.
The exhibition runs from July 2011 to December 2011 and in it you can see more than 100 findings related to the Xiongnu, such as vases, horsewhips, cauldrons, and teapots.

Xiongnu is a multi-ethnic nomadic grouping from Central Asia, which existed between about 300 B.C. and 450 A.D. The Xiongnu were based in what is now Mongolia, and frequently raided south into China. They were such a threat that the first Qin Dynasty emperor, Qin Shi Huang, ordered the construction of huge fortifications along the northern border of China - fortifications that later were expanded into the Great Wall of China.
Scholars have long debated the ethnic identity of the Xiongnu: Were they a Turkic people? Mongolian? Persian? Or some mixture?
But more than 5000 archeological findings have been found in Mongolia, especially from Arkhangai, Khovd aimag. The name Xiongnu may be cognate to the name Huns(in Mongolian “People”), but the evidence for this is controversial.
The first modern excavations of Xiongnu sites were undertaken by Iu. D. Tal'ko-Gryntsevich between 1896 and 1902 in the south of Buryat, near the border with Mongolia.
He identified and drew at schematic maps of many of the important Xiongnu cemeteries, which have subsequently been the focus of work by Russian and Buryatian archaeologists.
His tomb excavations, while far from meeting any modern standards, uncovered numerous artifacts, and he provided the earliest drawing of the surface structure of a square ramped Xiongnu tomb.
Perhaps most famous Xiongnu tombs are those at Noyon uul (Noin Ula), the mountain in north central Mongolia, a site first identified in 1912 and then first excavated beginning in 1924 under the supervision of S. A. Kondrat'ev and S. A. Teploukhov, who were part of the Tibeto-Mongolian expedition led by the famous Russian explorer Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov.
The remarkable achievement of the first excavations at Noyon uul was the retrieval of a wide range of organic materials, which had been preserved thanks to the tombs having been flooded.
The Noyon uul burials of Xiongnu elite were nested in wooden chambers, hung with textiles. Many items of clothing were preserved.
A Chinese lacquer ware cup with a date of 4 CE provided a terminus post quem for one of the graves.
Excavations at Noyon uul were resumed by Mongolian expeditions led by Kh. Perlee and Ts Dorjsuren in the mid-1950s.
A joint project involving the well-known Siberian archaeologist Natalya Polos'mak has continued work at Noyon uul in recent years.
A selection of the Noyon uul finds may be viewed today in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and in the National Museum of Mongolian History in Ulaanbaatar.
In 2007 and 2008, the Silkroad Foundation and National Museum of Mongolian History worked in the Khovd region of western Mongolia. The excavation in 2007 focused on one major elite grave in at Takhiltin-khotgor, a cemetery a flat area between two river valleys: the Khoit (North) Tsenkher River and the Dund (Middle) Tsenkher River in Manhan sum, the site had earlier been studied by Ts. Dorjsuren and D. Navaan, and a number of satellite burials and ritual features, which shed new light on the nature of tomb complexes.
National Museum of Mongolia, Juulchin Street -1, POB 332

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