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Rock Art

Rock Art Overview

Mongolia map showing the location of BiluutThe Biluut Petroglyph Complex is one of the most important rock art and archaeological localities in Inner Asia. Situated at sweet-water Khoton Lake on the Altai Mountain flanks bordering China, Kazakhstan, and Russia, Biluut has been an historic crossroads rich in game, domesticated animals, art, and history since glacial retreat released its glistening, polished rock surfaces 10,000 years ago. Biluut rock art is associated with a dense concentration and wide array of archaeological sites that offer opportunities to integrate art and history in ways rarely accomplished elsewhere. As integral components of this international and multidisciplinary project, radiocarbon dating and RTI imaging are combined with advanced GIS mapping, ancient settlement surveys, excavations, and geological and paleoecological studies. Special focus will be given to Bronze- and Iron Age periods where linkages between deer stones, khirigsuur and Pazyryk burials, and petroglyphs can be established. Among expected outcomes are new ideas concerning relationships among rock art, stone monuments, and ancient habitation patterns and functions, the character of ritualized landscapes, the origins and spread of deer stones and deer stone culture, and Mongolia's little-known role in pre-Genghis Asian history.

Bayan Olgiy mapAltai Tavan Bogd mapBiluut Map

The chief purposes of this project are to:

  1. document Biluut comprehensively by a variety of cross-disciplinary methods;

  2. study its cultural links with other sites in Bayan Olgii aimag as well as the rest of Mongolia and the broader Altai region (e.g., Russia, China, and Kazakhstan);

  3.  catalogue systematically its ca. 11,000 petroglyphs according to 20+ data points, including subject, chronology and cultural period, elevation and spatial orientations, dimensions, technique and style, rock type, quality and deterioration, and other attributes, paying particular attention to variations in deer imagery related to deer stones and to early nomadic or "animal style" art, as well as to depictions of wheeled vehicles, combat and domestic scenes, and imagery related to shamanism, spirituality, cosmology, and/or ritual;

  4. explore ties between the rock art and the archaeological features of the study area;

  5. develop chronological and spatial controls by excavating and mapping a significant sample of the hundreds of mounds and other stone features –– Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Turkic, and Medieval –– giving special attention to Bronze and early Iron Age cultures;

  6. support analysis, modeling, and interpretation of the character of this complex as a whole, particularly its socio-economic, political, and cultural character, its layout and functions;

  7.  formulate and test hypotheses concerning the origins and spread of deer stone and khirigsuur culture across Mongolia, Siberia, and Eurasia, and the spread and influence on and of Bronze- and early Iron Age cultures and their art –– Andronovo, Karasuk, Pazyryk, Saka-Scythian, and others;

  8. develop and disseminate materials and initiate educational outreach geared to promote the preservation and conservation of this and neighboring sites.

Biluut from north

Biluut 3, Biluut 2, and Biluut 1 from the north

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