Turk burial mounds

Chenggis Khan and his Mongolian armies came out of Mongolia and made the largest empire the world had ever seen.  But, before the Mongolians came the Huns best known for their greatest leader Atilla who conquered all the way to (and including parts of) Europe.  The Huns were a Turkic people, the same group who eventually conquered Turkey, most of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Khergistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), and parts of Russia to include the Tatars (who came from the Bulgar branch of the Turks; some went to Tatarstan in current Russia, others went to Bulgaria and were latter assimilated into the Balkan populations).

When Mongolia opened the western province to settlement and the Kazakh tribes accepted, it was really, in essence, a homecoming for them.  All throughout Bayan Ulgi, there are thousands of Turkic burial mounds, monuments, and grave markers like this one here.  This marker dates to the 6th or 7th century AD making it about 1300 years old.  The detail was extraordinary; this warrior’s face, hands, weapon, and clothing details can be made out in the carving on the grave marker.  Baatar tells me that this man was likely a tribe leader, great warrior, or other nobleman as more common people had simple markers.  In the following photo, you can see a row of lesser markers in line with this beautiful stone monument.

Just across the river I could see a more current Buddhist oovo, or stone prayer mound.  The Buddhists come to pray at these rock mounds and follow a precise set of rites or rituals.  On the way to the mound, they bring a rock, artifact, food, money, or something of (personal) value; I often saw lighters and cigarettes left on the mounds – no doubt a great sacrifice to a nicotine addicted, yet pious Buddhist.  Approaching the mound, the practicing Buddhist walks around the mound from left to right (clockwise) mirroring the movement of the sun across the sky (in the northern hemisphere).  The rock or artifact is placed on the mound and the pilgrim says his prayers.  I would come across many of these mounds as I traveled all over Mongolia.


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