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Deer Stone Monuments, the Heart of Bronze Age Culture

Date of Submission: 19/12/2014
Criteria: (i)(iii)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO
Ref.: 5953

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


1.  Bronze Age complex site with deer stones at Uushgiin Uvur

Burentogtokh soum, Khuvsgul province

N49 40 22.3, E100 4128.1

2.  Bronze Age complex site with deer stones at Khoid Tamir valley

Ikh Tamir and Battsengel soums of Arkhangai province

N47 45 54.0, E101 23 21.0

3.  Bronze Age complex site with deer stones at Jargalantyn Am

Undur-Ulaan soum, Arkhangai province

N48 10 18.2, E101 0533.8

Mongolia is rich with monuments and complex heritage sites that belong to Bronze Age culture. The main Bronze Age monuments are khirgisuurs, petroglyphs, stone sculptures such as deer stones and burial sites.

The most exciting and elegant and valuable monument among Bronze Age complexes are deer stones. Deer stones will usually be found together with extraordinary monuments called khirgisuur, with slab burials or in some cases with petroglyphs forming a complex site.

Deer stones are unique monuments dating to the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age that are found mostly in Mongolia and in some Central Asian countries. The Bronze Age funeral practice, sacrificial ritual and ideology and animal style art, which were spread among ancient nomads, are all together represented through deer stones.

The term “deer stone” is derived from highly artistic illustrations of deer on stone. The deer stones are created from a long block of granite with four flat sides, on which deer and other images are engraved. Deer stones have three ornamented anthropomorphic sections: a “face”, “torso”, and “lower body” section. The face part contains human faces, symbol of sun and moon and earrings while stylized deer, elk – occasionally horses and ibexes – are engraved in the torso. In the lower body part there are images of weapons, belt and horse riders. The main decoration, deer images are classically depicted in superimposed extraordinary abstract style. However, in many cases deer image or other animals such as horses, ibexes and pig images are occasionally depicted in rough appearance.

The size of deer stones range between 1 – 4 meters in height and 20 – 40 cm in thickness and 30 – 80 cm in width. A combination of different art making techniques is applied on the deer stones statues. Researchers believe that these sophisticated statues, which require enormous effort and skill, were dedicated to leaders and great warriors of a tribe. Therefore on the bodies of the deer stones there are engravings of various types of weapons such as daggers, grindstones, mattocks, bows with cases, spears, shields and mirrors as well as belts with decorative patterns.  

The deer stone statues have their origin during the middle of the Bronze Age in the Central Mongolia and then the early Iron Age they were spread throughout Mongolia extending to some countries of Asia and Europe. The first research on the deer stone was conducted over 100 years ago. Thus far, about 1200 deer stones have been discovered.

The following three sites can represent the sites of the Bronze Age cultural complex in Mongolia in the Tentative List:

1. Bronze Age cultural complex site with deer stones at Uushgiin Uvur
This complex site is located south of the Uushig mountain of Burentogtokh soum, Khuvsgul province, occupying approximately 400 hectare area. It is fascinating and interesting to see a complex of 30 deer stones and big khirgisuurs and slab burials. In terms of statue number, skillful works and illustrations this complex site is a great representation of this culture. Especially, statues with images of human face draw attentions of many scientists and considered one of the rarest statues.

 2. Bronze Age cultural complex site with deer stones at Khoid Tamir valley
There are over 100 deer stones, numerous khirgisuurs, burials and petroglyphs are spread within 45,000 hectare area of Khoid Tamir river valley on territory of Battsengel and Ikh Tamir soums of Arkhangai province. This site is considered to be the biggest one that situated at one river valley. Besides the monuments, this place also keeps raw material (stones) exploitation sites, which shows that this river valley was the main area of the deer stone culture. There are also very interesting statues with engravings of fighting warriors and sling-like weapons.

3. Bronze Age cultural complex site with deer stones at Jargalantyn Am 
This site is located 1 km from Khanui River in Undur-Ulaan soum of Arkhangai province, occupying 17.9 hectares area. A group of 30 deer stone statutes and a number of khirgisuurs and slab burials constitute this complex site. From these statues, 20 had been fallen and, in 2009-2010, these were erected on their original places. This site is called “The museum of deer stones” because there is no other sites to contain such number of deer stones so close to each other.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Three serial tangible complex heritages are proposed for the Tentative List under the name “Deer stone monuments, the Heart of Bronze Age culture”. These three sites are extraordinary representatives of the Bronze Age culture (religion, funeral practice, tradition, burials, khirgisuurs, petroglyphs, arts) that developed in Mongolia and in its neighbouring countries. A perfect reflection of the culture and ritual that had developed and carried by nomads through the ages since 3000 years ago is shown by these three sites, which are captivating art works of the ancient nomads of the steppe.

Criterion (i): The proposed Bronze Age complex sites in Mongolia are some of the finest examples of deer stone statues with deer engravings that abstracted in animal style art. A style spread intensively during the Bronze Age in current Mongolian territory and Central Asia. It is fascinating to see how engravings of many deer with bent back antlers and long narrow nose are covering the entire statue.

Criterion (iii): The proposed property with deer stones is genuine and exceptional testimony to religion, sacrificial ritual, funeral practice and culture, which evolved and disappeared slowly from the 3rd to the 2nd millennium BCE, of the Central Asian Bronze Age nomads. These sites have international significance in the studying of the prehistory and ancient civilization of Central Asia and Northeastern Asia.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Authenticity: Numbers of scientific publications on these three serial sites have been published since the beginning of the 20th century. Scientifically rational and factual hypotheses on these sites were suggested by archaeologists through these publications.

By the examining one of interesting deer stone sites, at Khoid Tamir River, revealed that creators of deer stone statues used this site for exploitation of raw materials. Since 2006, The joint Monaco-Mongolian archaeological team has been investigating this area under the auspices of the UNESCO. This team has collected many new information along with solid evidences. Between 2009-2010, fallen 20 deer stones at Jargalantyn Am were erected on their original places.

Integrity: All of these complex sites are in their original settings, as are all the elements essential to describe Outstanding Universal Value of the property in its component parts including deer stones, khirgisuurs, sacrificial features and others. These Bronze Age cultural sites are well preserved and primary parts of the property have decent condition of integrity. All of the components of the property are under protection of the laws of Mongolia pertaining the protection and preservation of cultural heritage.

Comparison with other similar properties

Currently, neither of the World Heritage List and Tentative Lists have exact analogues of the Bronze Age complex site that consist of deer stones, khirgisuurs and slab burials. As being the distribution centre and origin place of the deer stone statues, Mongolia alone maintains about 90 percent of this kind. Only hundred deer stones have been found outside of Mongolian territory: over 20 in Tuva and Trsansbaikalia, over 80 in Sayan Altai, about 20 in Kazakhstan and Middle Asia and over 20 to west from Russian Orenburg, Northern Caucasus, Ukraine to Elba river of Germany.

Other types of enormous standing stones in height of 4-5 m (the biggest is 20 m high and weighs 300 tons) called megaliths or menhirs are found in Europe, Africa and Asia (mainly spread in Great Britain, Ireland, Brittany of France, Caucasus, Altai, Khakassia, Ukrainian Crimea, Korea and China). Some megalithic sites including “Heart of Neolithic Orkhey”, “Stonehenge”, “Avebury and Associated sites”, and Korean “Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen” are inscribed in the World Heritage List. Compared to the deer stones in Mongolia these megaliths do not have any engravings on their bodies. However, in terms of dedication both of these structures were built for similar purposes – ritual making, sacrificing and religious belief. In Minusinsk Pad, Khakassia of Russia, there are statues, dated back to the 3rd millennium BCE – 2nd millennium BCE, with images of predators, which is one of the representations of Scyth-Siberian animal style art, and sun with rays. Also these statues could have images of woman and sheep.

Even though the deer stones and above stated stone statues could be made for similar purpose, the deer stones are dominated by their abstract images of deer – the distinguished animal of the Bronze Age nomads.