The remains of a medieval fortress, which were unearthed in southwestern Mongolia in 2001, are now confirmed to have belonged to Genghis Khan, a legendary Mongolian ruler of the 13th century.
A team of Japanese and Mongolian archaeologists who made this discovery think that it can shed some light on the history of the Mongol Empire in the 13th and 14th centuries and allow historians to learn more about the Mongolian expansion to the west.
“We hope the discovery will be useful in ascertaining the history of the Mongolian Plateau between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,” said team leader Koichi Matsuda of Osaka International University.
Genghis Khan, whose name means ‘Supreme Leader’, was born in 1162 and is known for founding and ruling the Mongol Empire, which at its heyday stretched from the Sea of Japan to Central Europe, occupying vast territories of today’s Russia, China, Central Asia and the Middle East, and was, in fact, the largest contiguous land empire in history.
The ruins of the fortress were discovered about 880 kilometers (547 miles) from Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital, by professor Matsuda’s team back in 2001. The researchers noticed that geographical features of the location were similar to a landscape described in a medieval Chinese travel book.
The items found in the archaeological site included ceramic pieces, wood chips and animal bones. Using carbon dating, the archaeologists concluded that the items dated back to the period between the 12th and 14th centuries.
The fortress is surrounded by a soil wall and measures 170 meters by 200 meters (557 by 655 feet). According to the estimates, it was constructed in 1212, and was probably commissioned by one of Genghis Khan’s close aides.
The archaeologists concluded that it was actually a castle, which was later turned into a military base that could be used by the Mongolian armies during their conquests towards the west. In fact, the location of the fortress was quite favorable, as it was situated near farmland and not far from silk trade routes, which means that the Mongolian warriors could easily find provisions and get necessary information from travelers.
It’s worth noting that many aspects of Genghis Khan’s life and death are shrouded in the mist of mystery. For example, his tomb was never found despite all the attempts of researchers to tag potential sites with the help of satellite imagery. One legend says the ruler asked to be buried in secrecy, with no signs or markings on his tomb. Moreover, all people involved in the funeral, along with those who crossed the path of the funeral escort, were killed in order to keep the secret of Genghis Khan’s tomb safe.
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