Dating the Tavan Tolgoi site, Mongolia: Burials of the nobility from Genghis Khan's era

M. Youn, J. C. Kim, H. K. Kim, D. Tumen, D. Navaan, M. Erdene

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    The Tavan Tolgoi (Five Holy Hills) site, located in Ongon sum, Sukhbaatar aimag, in southeastern Mongolia, consists of about 20 burials. During the preliminary 2004 excavations conducted by the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, National University of Mongolia, 7 graves were unearthed. In grave 1 (2004), the skeleton of a woman 40 yr old, wearing golden rings with the inscription of a Siberian falcon, was found together with other ornamental artifacts. In grave 2 (2004), a man with a gold-gilded saddle and a horse were buried. Adornments strongly indicate that these burials date to the Great Mongol Empire period and may relate to the Golden Horde lineage of Genghis Khan. Initial accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating of wood from a coffin at burial 2004-6 (Table 1) gave an age of 860 ± 60 BP, and the age of a human bone sample from burial 2004-1 was determined as 890 ± 40 BP. Subsequent excavations yielded 13 samples for 14C dating, and 7 of them have been dated thus far. The calibrated dates were in the range of AD 1130-1250, which is in agreement with Genghis Khan's life span. Artifacts strongly suggest that these burials belong to nobility or members of the royal family. Given that such burials are hard to find, the Tavan Tolgoi site is expected to yield important archaeological and historical information. In this paper, the historical importance of the artifacts recovered is discussed in light of 14C dating and the results of additional scientific analyses.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)685-691
    Number of pages7
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2007 Nov

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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