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A History of Land Use in Mongolia: The Thirteenth Century to the Present

The key to the mysteries surrounding the rise of the great empire Genghis Khan was the founder of the vast Mongol Empire, which emerged in the early thirteenth century and dominated vast areas of the Eurasian continent. The remains of Avraga, known as the first capital of the Mongol Empire, are located in the grasslands of Delgerkhaan village, in Khentii Province, approximately km southeast of the present capital, Ulaanbaatar.

The site is considered important for understanding the rise to power of Genghis Khan and the development of his empire, yet very few studies have been carried out to date. The living standard of people in Mongolia is improving, but the gap between the rich and poor is wide, and infrastructure is insufficient, so there is little room in government budgets for cultural projects.

Furthermore, not only is protection of cultural heritage always last on the list for funding, but mining and road construction are given priority, with the result that valuable cultural heritage is being demolished every year. Avraga is no exception, and development plans are now under discussion to exploit the potential of coal and petroleum reserves in the area. Detailed research and a conservation plan for Avraga are now urgently needed.


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International research team The objective of the current project is to unravel the history of Genghis Khan and the emergence of the Mongol Empire. Given the scarcity of written artifacts, we proceed by applying an empirical approach based on archeological evidence. Researchers from Niigata University and the Institute of Archaeology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences form the core members of the project, with participants from ten universities in Japan, as well as researchers from the United States and China.

Integration of research, conservation and dissemination Excavation forms the major part of the project, but efforts are also made toward conservation and dissemination. After researching the site, and carrying out exhaustive documentation of the ruins, we rebury everything as it was, to protect it from harm.

This is very important in Mongolia, where severe weather conditions may cause serious damage to the remains. In , we were able to build a steel fence around the site, which covers an area of m by m, thanks to financial support from the Grant Assistance for Cultural Grassroots Projects administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The fence protects the site from unrestricted car traffic.


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  • A History of Land Use in Mongolia examines conceptual and practical issues of land use during eight centuries of Mongolian history. The topic encompasses an analysis of how Mongolia's pastoral nomadic herding population historically has dealt with secular and religious forms of authority in the ongoing struggle for control over pastureland and water resources. The book is based upon a number of field trips to the Mongolian countryside as well as a diverse array of written sources including Russian geographic treatises, historical texts, Mongolian press accounts, and Western economic analyses of the present-day herding sector.

    Accompanied by over 50 color photographs, the book will appeal to both a general readership people who would enjoy an illustrated popular history of Mongolia as well as academics who specialize in Asian history, particularly Central Asian history; environmental studies; political science; and developmental studies.

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