Overlooked—Enigmatic—Underrated: The City Khar Khul Khaany Balgas in the Heartland of the Mongol World Empire
in: Journal of Field Archaeology (2022)
Cities in the Eurasian steppes, a core of nomadic empires, are rare. Erecting a city from scratch is even less typical. However, Khar Khul Khaany Balgas, situated north of the Khangai Mountains in central Mongolia, is such an exceptional example, never built over by subsequent settlements. Overlooked until now because researchers dated its latest settlement phase into the 17th century A.D., the first radiocarbon dates and material culture prove its existence during the Mongol empire only. During the past years, we conducted comprehensive geophysical and topographic mapping of the site, as well as a pedestrian survey, including its hinterland, and excavated a kiln. The layout of the city resembles that of the capital, Karakorum. Both cities together reveal that the Mongol Khans had a specific idea about the organization of a city. They were dependent on Chinese craftsmen to erect the buildings but not on Chinese city planning and ideology.