D.Erdenebaatar: Xiongnu finds start stunning the worldSociety
Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ The Archaeology magazine, published by the Archaeological Institute of America, named the Tomb of the Silver Dragons found in the Gol mod-2 Cemetery on the Balgasiin Tal in Hanui bag, Undur-Ulaan soum, Arkhangai aimag as one of the top 10 discoveries of 2019. MONTSAME interviewed head of the research team that made the discovery, honored scientific worker, lecturer of the Ulaanbaatar University, archaeologist D.Erdenebaatar about the finds.
First of all, congratulations, the find unearthed by a team you led has been selected as one of the top ten discoveries of the year. Could you tell us about your research team?
- Thank you. This is the result of over 20 years of hard work of the researchers of Ulaanbaatar University’s department of archaeology. This year’s expedition was a collaboration between the university and the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology. The finds we discovered from the 189th and 10th tombs ranks 9th in the top 10 list. Our research team was comprised of archaeologists B.Galbadrakh, E.Mijiddorj, and J.Erdene, restorer B.Batchimeg, archaeologists and researchers of the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology Li Gang, Wang Li, and Liu Bin. We are now enjoying the results of our five-month research. But of course, the work has yet to be fully completed.
What are the features of the silver dragons?
- The pair of dragons were artistically cast from silver and their crests, fins, and wings were gilded. We are currently trying to find out what they were used for. Our hypothesis for now is that they once symbolized the power of the Xiongnu Empire. In-depth studies are being conducted. I hope we can give you more detailed information once the research is completed.
What other valuable finds did you discover from the tombs for nobles in Gol mod-2?
- We explored the 189th tomb three years ago and have completed to unearth that ancient tomb this year. It is fortunate that we still found the silver dragons even after the tomb had been seriously robbed. It is safe to say those are the very first complete dragon shaped find found in Mongolia, even in Asia. Moreover, the pair of silver dragons demonstrates our ancestors’ mental image of the mythical creature.
It is intriguing that they have portrayed the dragon with a body akin to that of a dog even though the creature itself is mythical. The 10th tomb that was initially thought to belong to a child had been untouched. There were the remains of a 70-year-old man buried with a wooden carriage and silver equestrian ornaments depicting a unicorn deity. The research is of great value as it proves and provides source to many things about the funeral rites for the Xiongnu nobles, tangible and intangible cultures, and anthropology. As I said earlier, it is just the beginning.
How does the Archaeology magazine select the top discoveries?
- The magazine traditionally takes into account the thoughts of its employees and world renowned archaeologists on the results of the archaeological studies conducted in various sites around the world when choosing the top 10. We sent the results of the research conducted on the first tomb we examined in 2011 but did not make it to the top list. Therefore, I think this unexpected achievement of us could not help but show the discovery’s worth.
Has any other Mongolian archaeological find been named as a top discovery before?
- In 2008, from what I remember, a Mongolia-Russia joint expedition team sent the results of their studies at Noyon Uul Burial Mounds. However, it was named as the best archaeological research of Russia and Russian researcher Natalia Polosmak received a state prize from her country.
Is it true that the Hu Band’s logo was inspired by the finds of your research?
- I saw the band’s logo. State Honored Artist, Chinggis Khaan Order laureate B.Dashdondog gifted me the band’s first vinyl album. The logo seemed to have been inspired by the silver ornaments we found during our research in 2011. Nonetheless, it is certain that the Xiongnu finds have started stunning the world.