Archaeological Site at Khuduu Aral and Surrounding Cultural Landscape

Date of Submission: 19/12/2014
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(vi)
Submitted by:
Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Delgerkhaan soum, Khentii Province
Coordinates: N47 10 50.6 E109 03 34.8
Ref.: 5952


Khuduu Aral of Kherlen river and surrounding cultural landscape covers the most part of Delgerkhaan soum of Khentii province and lays between Kherlen river (from west and south), and Tsenkher river (from east) and covers over 100.000 hectare area.

The cultural landscape of Khuduu Aral draws boundary between mountainous zone and dry steppe zone. This area is very famous with its pleasant pasture land, verified therapeutical mineral water of Avarga spring and Toson Lake, and rare animals and endemic plants and beautiful natural landscape.

The Mt. Kherlenbayan-Ulaan (elongates 30-40 km) is situated at the north of Khuduu Aral and has a considerable number of historical and archaeological sites from the Stone Age to the 18th century CE. The valuable findings discovered from the sites associated with the period of the Mongolian Empire are considered very important for study. The Mountain bears a testimony of the traditional sacrificial and ritual practices, nomadic culture, and pasture use and protection. It is also famous with its, rare in the world, stipa steppe.

Proposed property Archaeological Site at Khuduu Aral and Surrounding Cultural Landscape is the cradle land of the Mongolian Empire. The Avargiin Balgas (Ruins of Avarga) – ancient ruins, formely called Ikh Aurug Ordo  (Great Aurug Palace) was a main palace, built during the Chinggis Khaan time, is located at the Khuduu Aral. It was not only the palace of Chinggis Khaan, but also the place where some of his successors were enthroned, and was political and economic centre of the Great Mongolian Empire during its first stage. 

At Khuduu Aral Mongolian kings – Chinggis, Ugudei, Munkh, Esuntumur and so on – took their thrones and state affairs were negotiated and settled by the Supreme Counsel (Ikh Khuraldai). Also an outstanding historical and literary work the “Secret History of Mongols” was finished writing and the Eight Ceremonial White Gers (traditional Mongolian dwelling) stayed and worshipped until the 15th century.

All of these statements have been verified by written historical sources and archaeological materials and findings. The Ikh Aurug Ordo was initially a seasonal encampment but over time it grew and became a city. The palace was a dignified one from other palaces of Chingis khaan and was controlled by Queen Burte of Chinggis Khaan. The word Aurug latter became Avarga.

The Ruins of Avarga covers approximately 60 hectare area that measures 1200m from west to east and 500m from north to south. There are the remains of semi-circular earthen wall in the northern part. Two sides of the main street that went through the eastern and western parts are occupied with several building ruins of which some are hardly recognized with small earth mounds on the surface while over 10 (buildings with and without walls) are clearly recognizable. Big palace, forges, reservoirs, agricultural areas and other small manufacture places have been brought to light through archaeological excavations. Geophysical and radiolocation analyses showed that there are many sacrificial pits around palaces. Moreover, thorough investigations are being conducted on recently found semi-concealed burials at the Kherlenbayan-Ulaan mountain (part of the proposed property) are dated back to the period of Mongolian Empire.

Also, from the region, researchers have registered hundreds of monuments and archeological sites starting from prehistoric settlements: from the Bronze and Iron Age, Xiongnu, Turk, Kidan and Great Mongolian Empire.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Proposed property is located on the border line of rare feather grass steppe zone and forest steppe zone. Nomadic way of pasture use, way of life, culture and traditions are inherited in this land for centuries thanks to wide grassland and pleasant weather conditions. Hundreds of archaeological sites dating back from the Stone Age to the 17-18th century CE are kept in this region. And there are many invaluable archaeological sites associated with the history of the Great Mongolian Empire. Historical events that had happened in this specific area during that time are recorded in the written sources and proven by archaeological findings.

Criterion (iii): There is a saying among the people “Khuduu Aral has hundreds of winter camps and springs for herders”. Which means that the area is very convenient place to live and raise livestock. It is an outstanding representative of traditional nomadic culture which has been continually developed and transmitted to successive generations. Khuduu Aral and its surrounding landscape is a classic example of how nomads accomplished the traditional ways of land use practice of nomadic pastoralism for thousands of years. In this area there are many rare and endemic species of plants and animals, and beautiful landscape including forests, high mountains, steppes, rivers and lakes which are fully kept their natural integrity.

Criterion (iv): There are hundreds of archaeological sites from different historical periods within the cultural landscape of Khuduu Aral and the evidences of human habitation about 40.000 years ago. Specially, the Ruins of Avarga archaeological site represents exceptional testimony to historical places where Chinggis Khaan has established the foundation of the Great Mongolian Empire. And from there his successors operated important historical events, closely associated with the history of Eurasia during 12th-13th century CE. 

Criterion (vi): Historical activities and archaeological sites within this proposed heritage site is directly linked with two outstanding documentary heritages of the humanity, the “Secret History of the Mongols” (1240) and “Compendium of Chronicles” (Rashid-al-Din, 1312).

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Authenticity: Historical events of Khuduu Aral of Kherlen river are recorded in several historical sources but “Secret History of Mongols” (1240) and “Compendium of Chronicles” (Rashid-al-Din, 1312) are the main ones mentioned in details.

Outstanding values and authenticity of this property are verified from excavations that have been carried out over a long period of time. Archaeological evidence is rich and predominantly takes the form of building remains, animal bones, stone and iron tools, coarse pottery and other artifacts. Since the mid-1940s, Mongolian famous scientists Ts.Damdinsuren, B.Rinchen and Kh.Perlee started their comprehensive studies on Khuduu Aral where Chinggis Khaan’s Great Aurug Palace was located. Then in 1950s, an ancient city ruin was found on the northern terrace of Avarga Rashaant river and in 1961, 1966, 1967 and 1976, Kh.Perlee carried out small scale excavations. In 1992, joint Mongolian-Japanese “Gurvan Gol” project team discovered buried building ruins that spread in a vast area and carried out archaeological and geophysical surveys. This team was first to make the general site map of the ruins. More precise investigations and programs on conservation and preservation have been successfully accomplished by the Mongolian-Japanese “New Century” project team since 2001. Many academic publications on Khuduu Aral and its surrounding cultural areas have been made to the public thanks to these research works.

Integrity: All the features and processes of the property that convey the Outstanding Universal Value are included into the boundary of the proposed area. Almost all of the areas that are associated with Archaeological Site at Khuduu Aral and Surrounding Cultural Landscape are under protection of state, province and soum, in accordance with national laws.

For centuries nomads have been engaged in animal husbandry developing their own economic system and nomadic culture. During the last 50 years this region entirely applied as the special pasture reserve for herdsman for winter season and for this over 100.000 hectare land is protected by the state.

The protection zone of the Ruins of Avarga, which covers 1230 hectare area, was set by the 190th decree of the Government of Mongolia in 2003. And dozens of burial sites from different time periods and Stone Age settlement sites and other immovable cultural sites at Ikh Khailant and Khanangyn Enger are protected by the state.

In 2014, the protection zone of Kherlen Toono Mountain was assigned by the Government. In 2011, Delgerkhaan soum became the first soum to have no mining licenses on its territory – this is accomplished by the enormous efforts of soum citizens and it is a good example of how people can protect their historical and natural heritage. The “Khuduu Aral” research center and museum building was opened in 2007, and approximately 3 km fence around the Ruins of Avarga was built. 

Comparison with other similar properties

There are no exact analogies which are inscribed in both Tentative List and World Heritage List. Archaeological sites and artifacts that associated with the beginning of the Great Mongolian Empire and especially with Chinggis Khaan’s time period are found rarely. There are many cities and places related to Chinggis Khaan but most of them lack in real archaeological evidence and documentary sources, while some of them associated with his successor kings. The Ruins of the Avarga at Khuduu Aral of Kherlen river and burials, vaults and other archaeological sites contain the most actual and outstanding information about the history of Eurasia and the World.

The written sources and archaeological studies and laboratory analysis results indicate that Chinggis Khaan’s Great Aurug Palace (Ikh Aurug Ordo) was at Khuduu Aral and after his death his son Tolui declared the Great Aurug Palace as a sacred worshiping place and political center for the Mongolian Empire. The worship rituals have been performed by Chinggis Khaan’s successors until the 15th century.

In Mongolia the proposed heritage site can be compared with Kharkhorum city ruin that is a part of Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape, which inscribed in the World Heritage List in 2004, and in abroad it can be compared with the capital city ruin Xanadu of Yuan dynasty, which was inscribed in the WHL as Site of Xanadu in 2012, and locates in Shiliin Gol province of Inner Mongolia, People’s Republic of China.

Laboratory dating analyses on artifacts and cultural layers uncovered by excavations on the ruins of the Great Aurug Palace demonstrate that the foundation of this city was built before 1190s, whereas the city of Kharkhorum was built after hundred years. The site of Xanadu (1263)  represents the interchange between nomadic Mongolian and agricultural people of the Han in terms of capital design, historical layout and building materials, but the settled culture was prevailing.