Mongolia gravesites were found in 1949, in a place called “Pazirik” (80 km from the Mongolian border, in the Altai mountains), Professor Rodenko discovered a knotted carpet in the frozen graves of a people who lived in tents in, what was at that time, an arid desert. The carpet dated back 2500 years and had 3600 knots tied into a 2 x 1.8 meter rectangle. Due to the conditions of the area, the carpet was well preserved and scientists saw that the knots were either a copper-brown or light green color. Images sewn into the carpet are very similar to common shapes from the Achamenian period. In the center of this carpet are four-winged star shapes, which are exactly the same as ones discovered on objects in Lorestan. There are different opinions about the historical record of this important carpet, which is kept in the Hermitage museum in Leningrad. Professor Rodenko believes that this carpet has been woven in the Medes or old Parthain’s time. Like Rodenko, Dimand also believes that since Assyrian, Achamenian and Sakai images are used in this carpet, that it may have originated in present-day Iran. A group of Mongolian archeologists have discovered a rare gravesite with a collection of intact artifacts related to this carpet. The archeologists, working with the Mongolian Archeologist Institute, were digging in the Altai Mountains in Bayan-Olgii aimag when they found the remains of the gravesite from the Pazirik people. The group of the archeologists included D.Batsukh, Ts.Torbat and P.Jaskir. Unen newspaper interviewed Batsukh about the cultural heritage of the Pazirik.
Could you explain the Pazirik cultural heritage?
The cultural heritage of the Pazirik is related to the period from B.C. VI-II in a region of the Mongol Altai and surrounding areas in Russian, Kazakhstan and China. Archeological excavations related to the Pazirik started in the 19th century, but the most significant scientific advances were made by Russian Professors C.CH.Rodenko and M.P.Gryaznov. They found many cultural artifacts of the Pazirik, most notably during an excavation that uncovered aristocratic gravesites. The artifacts in these graves were very well preserved and indicated a high level of artistic heritage among the Pazirik. These unique aspects of the gravesite helped encourage international interest in the research which lead to more excavation. Today, the Pazirik gravesite is the largest such site in the Russian Altai territory.
What else do we know about the Pazirik?
The Pazirik people were semi-nomadic and raised livestock. Research also suggests that they practiced fishing and limited agriculture and artifacts at the graves confirm they had a highly developed artistic culture. At present, over 600 small and large graves from over 120
burial locations of Pazirik have been excavated.
When did the Pazirik live?
Many aspects of Pazirik culture and lifestyle have not determined clearly. For example issues related to the exact period of the Pazirik people and the development level of their society are still disputed among scientists. Scholars have suggested a wide range of centuries to cover the Pazirik people including VII-V, VII-VI, VIII-VI, IX-VI and IX-VII. Currently, the most accepted position is championed by scholars Kirushkin, Pishkin and Surazakov who split the time into an early period from B.C. VI-V and a late period from B.C. III-II.
Why have Mongolian archeologists been so late to join the excavations of the Pazirik gravesites?
This is mostly related to financial problems. Russian archeologists have noted several times the need for more Mongolian involvement in the excavations. Since 1990, Pazirik archeological research has increased and attracted more international attention. Due to this opportunity, several important and interesting archeological finds have been excavated from the Pazirik permafrost graves on the border of Mongolia and China and in the south-eastern part of the Russian Altai. Some artifacts that were preserved in the cold, dry conditions included male and female mummies, numerous wooden, skin, felt, golden, bronze and stone objects, and many works of art. Even organic things, which would quickly deteriorate in normal graves, were preserved. These include wood, animal horn, skin, wool, hair, and silk. These frozen graves, which are at least 2,500 years old, have only been found in the Altai Mountains region, making it a unique example of humanity’s historical heritage. Several countries in the region including Russia, China and Kazakhstan have actively researched these sites, and the Kazakhs have found a similar location related to the Berel people.
What affect will global warming have on these frozen gravesites?
That is a very good question. Professor B.I.Molodin has said many times the global warming will eventually destroy the frozen graves, making it essential to study these sites now. Understanding this, Russian and Mongolian archeologists have started to conduct excavations to determine the Pazirik grave locations in the Mongol Altai area of Bayan-Olgii aimag.
Have there been any notable finds from the graves excavated by the Mongolian team?
We found some interesting things from the grave. First of all, the body in the grave was not placed in the same direction as the bodies in the other Pazirik graves. In most, the head of the body points to the east, but in this case, the head points west. They also found bodies of adults and children which were very well preserved. Hopefully these finds will encourage more funding and study in the area.