Prehistory and antiquity
Traces of the early inhabitants Archaeological finds have confirmed that almost the entire territory of Mongolia was settled in prehistoric times. From the 1920s, archaeological excavations around Mongolia unearthed many interesting and important sites, a large number of them prehistoric. Of particular interest are settlements with graves and semi-subterranean dwellings near the town of Choibalsan, Dornod Aimag, the eastern province of Mongolia, and finds in the area around Bayanzag, Omnogobi Aimag, the southern province. These were discovered in the 1920s by the third Central Asiatic Expedition led by American Roy Chapman Andrews. Excavations of these settlements and graves showed that the bodies were interred in a seated position in narrow pits, with bone knives and pearl beads. Human traces from the middle and later Paleolithic periods have also been found in many regions of Mongolia, particularly in the Moiltyn valley, on the river Orkhon near Kharkhorin, the ancient capital, as well as in the valleys of the Selenge, Tuul and Kherlen rivers, deep in the Gobi and on the steppes of the Mongol Altai. A wonderful monument of primitive culture–cave paintings of Khoit Tsenkher, in Khovd Aimag, 1,200km west of Ulaanbaatar, bear witness to the high level of intellectual development of people in Mongolia of that period. A large number of bronze implements, decorations and household utensils found in these places are on display at the Natural History Museum, evidence that this country was a cradle of Asian civilization. About the same time that iron weapons began to appear, in the third century BC, inhabitants of Mongolia began to form tribal alliances and to threaten China. The archaeological evidence indicates that the area that is now Mongolia was populated as early as 500,000 years ago.