Archaeological and anthropological expedition to Mongolia in 2019
Author: Oula Seitsonen
An archaeologist and geographer working with varying things in various places, e.g. Mongolia, Tanzania, and Russia (basically with whatever pays my bills). I like for example Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Stone Age, contemporary and conflict archaeology, and lithics.
We carried out our expedition in May and June this summer. Trip was done under varying weather conditions, but with excellent results! We found most of the sites Pälsi and Ramstedt visited, as well as finding scores of new ones.
We experienced everything from snow and ice to extreme heat, sometimes even on the same day, as is quite common in Mongolia. Snow obviously hindered the visibility of archaeology at times, but luckily we had enough time to revisit the important sites when there was no snow anymore.
Now as we are settling down for the winter after a full field season, it is time to start thinking about reports and publications from the trip. We will be updating news in the blog as we get further on with the studies.
At the top of the Hulsajaiin dawaa, nearly 3000 m asl, where Pälsi and Ramstedt took their famous photos posing on horseback in 1909. Our work horse (named Mitsubishi Delica) can be seen on the right (Photo Oula Seitsonen).
Now all preparations are done and it’s time to head on the steppe! Bags are packed, horse-powers are ready and cart is oiled (well, a Toyota) and all batteries are loaded (archaeological fieldwork nowadays seems to often consist to a big part of loading batteries).
Weather is also nicely on our side. Last week it still snowed in Ulaanbaatar and there is snow on the mountains, but the last two days have been getting summer-like, and the rivers should not be running too high.
Sakari Pälsi, G.J. Ramstedt and J.G. Granö during a chance meeting on the steppe (Photo: Tapani Unkuri 1909; coloured).
The planning phase of the expedition is well underway, and we have established to a large extent the list of locations and sites to visit. All of these were visited and documented by Pälsi and Ramstedt 110 years ago. Our aim is to document these places and study the changes in the preservation of sites and their surroundings, as well as assess the cultural heritage value and future preservation potential of these places.
Most of the pit stops on the 1909 expedition were Buddhist monasteries, the centers on the steppe at that time. However, in the Socialist times nearly thousand Mongolian monasteries were destroyed and nearly 20 000 monks killed in the purges, “the Great Repression” (Их Хэлмэгдүүлэлт). This eradicated a considerable part of Mongolia’s cultural heritage, which is still in the process of being restored. After the end of Socialist rule in 1990 many groups have been restoring the destroyed temples. Changes in the built environment of monasteries and their continuing heritage value is one of the themes we will be assessing along the way.