The Lost Tomb of Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was a Mongol warrior from the vast steppes of Central Asia, who amalgamated the disparate tribes and nations of his native lands into a potent army, and used it to conquer an empire that stretched from the Pacific to the Caspian. The peoples of Europe quailed at the mention of his name, while the inhabitants of the Middle East, Central Asia and China knew the full force of his wrath and might. The location of the tomb of Genghis Khan (died 1227) has been the object of much speculation and research. As of 2009, the site remains undiscovered. This is the legend of the lost tomb of Genghis Khan, the precise whereabouts of which remain one of history’s great mysteries.

When he died on 18 August 1227, on campaign in Western China, he was taken back to his native land to be buried. According to one legend, his tomb was built into the bed of a diverted river, which was then allowed to resume its course; another tells of how hundreds of horses were stampeded across the grave to utterly flatten the mound and render the site invisible, and an impenetrable forest was planted atop it. In both versions, the slaves who built the tomb were then massacred, as were the soldiers who killed them, so that no one should know where the great Khan was buried and to keep safe the secret of the vast hoard of spoil and tribute believed to have been interred with him. A curse was placed on those who should try to disturb his eternal slumber, so that in Mongolia the tomb of Genghis Khan became known as Ikh Khoring, the Great Taboo.

For many years the area of Genghis’ homeland was largely inaccessible to Western scientists since Outer Mongolia was a client state of the Soviets, while Inner Mongolia remains a jealously guarded part of China. The impoverished local governments did not have the resources to undertake archaeological explorations of their own. With the fall of the Soviet Union, however, Outer Mongolia became much more accessible, triggering a new wave of interest in the tomb of the great conqueror. This interest is twofold. Firstly, remarkably little is known about the era of early imperial Mongolia, owing in part to the lack of direct sources of information. The Mongols of Genghis Khan were largely illiterate and did not go in much for keeping records or writing histories. Almost everything we know about this period comes from foreign sources or from histories written after the time of Genghis.

There is also little archaeological evidence, partly because of a lack of exploration, and possibly also because Genghis and his hordes were nomadic, used perishable materials and were relatively light on massive construction projects. The second reason is the romance of the potential discovery, or, as Indiana Jones might put it, ‘fortune and glory’. Apart from being the final resting place of one of the great figures of world history, Genghis’ tomb could also hold a hoard of loot that might, as would-be tomb-raider Maury Kravitz puts it, ‘eat the Tut [Tutankhamun] exhibit for breakfast.’ In the course of his conquests, Genghis and his generals looted and despoiled empires and kingdoms in China, Central Asia, Persia and well into Eastern Europe, bringing back huge quantities of tribute and loot to Mongolia. Academics are divided over whether Genghis would have been buried with grave goods but legend says that he was – and, if so, it could be the greatest collection of grave goods in history.

Kravitz, the sponsor and leader of a long-running project to investigate early imperial Mongolian sites and search for the tomb, points out that none of the Mongols’ accumulated loot from around Eurasia has ever been recovered or even rumoured, suggesting that a large quantity of it may still be out there somewhere in the steppes or mountains. Locating Genghis’ tomb might also solve a related but subordinate mystery – the whereabouts of the tombs of the emperors of the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368), founded by his descendants (who included the great Kublai Khan).

According to legend, the Yuan emperors wanted to follow Genghis’ example and be buried in the same secret location. In other words Genghis and his burial trove might be only the tip of the iceberg. Many scholars do not believe the tomb of Genghis Khan exists at all. According to Morris Rossabi, professor of Mongol and Chinese history at Columbia University, New York, ‘There was no tomb culture among them [the Mongols] at the time of his death.’ Instead it was traditional to leave the body to the wild animals and to nature, by tying it to a horse and sending it into the wilderness or leaving it in the desert.

Whether they would have applied such brusque treatment to the corpse of their greatest leader, a godlike figure, is unclear, but two factors suggest they might have. Firstly, Genghis Khan made a virtue of his simplicity, his espousal of the traditional Mongol lifestyle and his closeness to the common warriors who served him. In a letter probably written for him, addressed to a Taoist monk, Genghis says, ‘I, living in the northern wilderness, have not inordinate passions. I hate luxury and practise moderation. I have only one coat and one food. I eat the same food and am dressed in the same tatters as my humble herdsmen.’ Secondly, Mongolian tradition holds that after death the body is not important, only the soul, so that it might not have seemed disrespectful to Genghis’ men to dispose of his mortal remains in such an unceremonious fashion. If there was no burial, how do we explain the legends about his tomb? One approach is to look at the parallels between these stories and other folklore.

Great figures like Genghis Khan can quickly become more than historical personages and achieve mythic status. Alexander the Great’s exploits, for instance, gave rise to a rich heritage of legend and folklore about him in all the lands he touched. The same is true of Genghis. The story of his burial bears a strong resemblance to that of the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh, who was interred in the bed of a temporarily diverted river. Folklore speaks of early Iron Age Celtic kings being similarly entombed. In this context it is more difficult to take Genghis’ burial legend seriously. Plenty of people, however, disagree, and since the 1990s there have been a number of serious attempts to find the lost tomb.

Between 1993 and 1996 an extensive Japanese operation employed everything from satellite imagery and magnetometers to helicopter spotting, but came away empty-handed. Then in 2000 the ongoing Chinggis Khan Geo-Historical Expedition began (Chinggis is the spelling of Genghis preferred in Mongolia). This was a joint American–Mongolian venture, instigated and driven by a remarkable American character, Chicago gold-trader Maury Kravitz. He has dedicated 40 years to the search of the tomb. In a 15th-century account of a French Jesuit, he found a reference to an early battle where Genghis Khan, at the time still known as Temüjin, won a decisive victory. According to this source, he selected the confluence of the Kherlen and "Bruchi" rivers, with Burkhan Khaldun over his right shoulder, and after his victory, Temüjin said that this place would be forever his favourite. Kravitz, convinced that Temüjin's grave would be near that battlefield attempted to find the "Bruchi" river, which turned out to be unknown to cartographers.

Kravitz has been obsessed with Genghis Khan since reading about him during his national service days. During the late 1990s he put together a board of academics and experts and struck an agreement with the Mongolian government to allow them to start excavations at sites linked to the early imperial era. The expedition’s first discovery was the site of the Kurultai, or Great Convention, where Genghis was acclaimed Khan in 1206. Later they explored one of the mountains called Burkhan Khaldun, where some academics believe the tomb might be hidden (although it is uncertain which mountain).

In 2001 they made their most exciting discovery: the Ölögchiin Kherem, or Almsgivers’ Wall – also known as the Ulaan Khad (Red Rock), and, most suggestively, Chinggis’Wall. At present the main focus of the hunt for Genghis’ tomb remains the Kherem site. Kravitz’s expedition returned again in the summer of 2006 for another season of exploration – at the time of going to press what they’ve found is unknown. But is this really the best place to look? While the Kherem burial ground may well be an important site, it does not tally with the legends of Genghis’ entombment. The presence of at least 39 other graves would suggest that the site was far from secret, while the fact that none of the graves stands out as being of particular magnificence does not fit with expectations.

Kravitz himself has spoken of his personal belief that Genghis was buried on Burkhan Khaldun, his youthful mountain redoubt. Those who would beat the driven American to his life’s goal might do well to identify which Burkhan Khaldun is the real one, and explore there. But be warned – this is difficult territory: dangerous mountains set in an isolated wilderness, plagued with maddening swarms of flies and, perhaps, protected by the curse of the Khan.

(Sources : Lost Histories : “Exploring the World’s Most Famous Mysteries” by Joel Levy; and Wikipedia)

(Pic source : http://www.logoi.com/notes/img/genghis-khan.jpg)



Written By Tripzibit on Oct 12, 2009 | 07:27

Related Posts with Thumbnails

5 komentar:

Con Artist Trickster said...

Well, I guess it suits Mongol's history as wanderers and pilgrims only too well. They never stick in a single permanent place while they lived and reigned. So, after they died, it seems like their bodies just won't stick to any place either and impossible to track down.

Crazy Canton Cuts said...

awesome story

love reading this blog and learning

MegaMan The Madman said...

The Mongols were an amazing empire, brutal. Very Brutal and they amassed a great fortune.

Rais Karauchy said...

It is very likely, not there looking for the tomb of Genghis Khan - that's it, and cannot find it. Very likely, it is in other part of Eurasia. As a matter of fact, most of the descendants of Genghis Khan and his native nation now living among Bashkirs, Kazakhs,Tatars, Uighurs and other Turkic peoples. Read a book "Forgotten Heritage of Tatars" (by Galy Yenikeyev) about the hidden real history of Tatars and their fraternal Turkic peoples.This book you can easily find on Smashwords company site: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/175211
There are a lot of previously little-known historical facts, as well as 16 maps and illustrations in this book, and well-grounded rebuttal of the chinese-persian myths about "incredible cruelty of nomadic mongol-tatar conquerors", and about "a war between the Tatars and Genghis Khan” etc.

This book presents a new, or rather "well-forgotten old" information about the true history of the medieval Tatars – the native nation of Genghis-Khan.

On the cover of this book you can see genuine appearance of Genghis Khan. It is his lifetime portrait, which is very little known. Notes to the portrait from the book say: \"...In the ancient Tatar historical source «About the clan of Genghis-Khan» the author gives the words of the mother of Genghis-Khan: «My son Genghis looks like this: he has a golden bushy beard, he wears a white fur coat and goes on a white horse...» [34, p. 14].

Tripzibit said...

@Rais Karauchy: Hi, Rais. I haven't read the book that you mentioned. It seems it has very detail history about Gengis Khan.

Thanks for share this information :)