The University of Chicago News Office
Aug. 16, 2001 Press Contact: William Harms
(773) 702-8356

American-Mongolian team finds tombs near birthplace of Genghis Khan

An American-Mongolian research team has discovered an enclave of tombs, apparently associated with persons of high status, on a hill near Genghis Khan’s probable birthplace and near the site where he was proclaimed emperor of all the Mongols in 1206, according to an announcement made jointly in Chicago and Ulaanbaatar on Thursday.

No fewer than 20 unopened tombs have been discovered on a 600-foot elevation that is part of a walled burial ground known locally by a variety of names such as "the Almsgivers Castle," "Chinggis’ Castle" and "Red Rock." Additionally, there are roughly 40 unopened graves in lower area of the burial enclave. The site is near the town of Batshireet in the northern area of Hentii Province, about 200 miles northeast of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.

"The location of this site is intriguing," said John Woods, Professor of History at the University of Chicago and U.S. Academic Director for the Genghis Khan Geo-Historical Expedition. "We plan to explore this site further with additional experts from the U.S. and Mongolia, along with international specialists in Central Asian history. This is an unprecedented discovery; however, we need to investigate the area archaeologically before we can confirm this exciting finding."

Professor Sh. Bira, the chief Mongolian academic for the expedition and Secretary General of the International Association for Mongolian Studies, has expressed great enthusiasm about this discovery.

The tombs were discovered this summer, during the expedition’s second season of surveying sites associated with the life and activities of Genghis Khan, whose exact burial place has never been established. The tombs are encircled by a two-mile wall varying in height from 9 to 12 feet. The wall is constructed without mortar of stones of various sizes and diverse geological composition.

Established in 1995 by Chicago attorney Maury A. Kravitz, the Genghis Khan Geo-Historical Expedition was created to enhance general awareness of and stimulate academic interest in the history of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire.

Expedition members have produced a preliminary plan of the site and photographed portions of the structure. They have also traced an ancient roadway passing from the southern wall of the enclave to its western wall, giving access to the higher levels.

Pottery shards found in the burial ground provide ambiguous evidence about the date of the cemetery. The shards were on the surface and may pre-date the era of Genghis Khan, who was born in 1162.

A crew from award-winning news journalist Bill Kurtis’ new, High Definition video production company, KURTIS HD, has traveled to Mongolia to document the Genghis Khan Expedition for the past two years. Currently in production is a High Definition television special that will showcase these discoveries.

Genghis Khan, whose original name was Temüjin, succeeded his father at age 13 as head of his family. His early years were marked by an intense struggle to secure his leadership in the face of overwhelming difficulties, but the Mongol leader soon demonstrated his military genius, subjugating both Mongol tribes and hostile neighbors. By 1206, Temüjin was master of almost all of Mongolia. In that year, a convocation of the subjugated tribes proclaimed him Genghis Khan ("Oceanic Lord"), leader of the united Mongol nation.

Genghis Khan invaded northern China and completed a successful campaign in 1215 with the capture of Beijing. He then turned west and conquered parts of the eastern Islamic world. At the time of his death in 1227, his armies controlled a landmass reaching from Beijing to the Caspian Sea. His generals raided Persia and Russia, and his successors continued to push by extending their power over China, Central Asia, and most of the Middle East and Russia to create the largest contiguous land empire in human history and one of its longest lived notions of dynastic rule.

Journalists: Please contact the University of Chicago News Office for print-quality versions; 773-702-8360

mongolia 2
A wall around the cemetery.
mongolia 1
Team members at a burial site in Mongolia near the birthplace of Genghis Khan.
mongolia 3
An apparently unused grave in an elevated section of the burial ground.
Last modified at 04:28 PM CST on Thursday, February 27, 2003.

University of Chicago News Office
5801 South Ellis Avenue - Room 200
Chicago, Illinois 60637-1473
(773) 702-8360
Fax: (773) 702-8324
Contact Us