Cretaceous Dinosaur Fossil Sites in the Mongolian Gobi

Date of Submission: 19/12/2014
Criteria: (vii)(viii)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Zuunbayan, and Ulaanbadrakh soums of Dornogovi province; Khanbogd, Manlai, Bulgan and Gurvantes soums of Umnugovi province; and Bayangovi soum of Bayankhongor province
Ref.: 5944

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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



N44-16-1320;  E109-54-4864; A-730m

Khongil Tsav

N44-26-1904;  E109-51-2928; A-744m


N44-20-2382; E109-51-3286; A-721m

Baishin Tsav

N43-30-0064; E107-45-5120; A-905m

Khuurai Tsav

N43-28-51   E107-44-37;   A-904m

Urulbu Khudag

N43-27-29;  E107-24-36;   A-970m

Shar Tsav

N43-34-2845 E107-46-4231; A-896m


N43-33-5057; E107-54-4247; A-857m


N44-08-4251; E103-43-1741; A-1275m

Tugrugiin Shiree

N44-13-4228; E103-18-0970; A-1043m


N43-30-0581; E101-02-5971; A-1521m

Khermen Tsav

N43-28-2896; E99-49-5871; A-991m

Bugiin Tsav

N43-51-5909; E100-00-3976; A-982m

Palaeontologists still continue to discover fossils that prove the current territory of Gobi Desert had a very different climate and environment before 120 to 70 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. 120 million years ago the vast desert basins and valleys contained freshwater rivers and lakes with abundant water resources. And the prevailing humid climate was paradise for plants and animals, including dinosaurs. The fossil evidence of the origin, evolution, migration and extinction of prehistoric creatures are preserved in the sedimentary rocks of the Gobi desert. These evidences give knowledge and understanding of our mother land – the earth, and its history.

Over a history of almost 100 years of dinosaur research, more than 80 genera of dinosaurs have been found in the Mongolian Gobi Desert and identified in science as individual groups, and over 60 fossil sites of dinosaurs and other vertebrates are being discovered by their spato-temporal distribution (from the earlier ages until late) across the Gobi Desert.

The Mongolian Gobi Desert is the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world. The region is especially important as regards dinosaur fossils from the later Cretaceous period, which is the last of main three periods of the dinosaur age, representing the final phase of dinosaur evolution.

This serial proposal consists of the following three clusters of fossil sites, which differ in spatio-temporal distribution as follows:

  1. Fossil sites of Early Late Cretaceous period- Bayan Shirenian age (Cenomanian-Turonian) or Lower Upper Cretaceous,  “Bayanshiree Formation” (90 million years ago);
  2. Fossil sites of Middle Late Cretaceous period-Djadokhtian age (Campanian) or Middle Upper Cretaceous,  “Djadokhta Formation” (80 million years ago);
  3. Fossil sites of Late Late Cretaceous period – Nemegtian age (Maastrichtian) or  Upper Upper Cretaceous,  “Nemegt Formation” (70 million years from now).

The richest dinosaur fossil sites are frequently found in areas, such as Bayanshiree, Khongil Tsav, Amtgai, Baishin Tsav, Urulbu khudag, Shar Tsav in the Eastern part of Gobi Desert; Bayanzag, Tugrugiin Shiree, Zamiin Khond and Uuden Sair in the Central part of Gobi region; and Ukhaa Tolgod, Nemegt, Altan Uul, Khermen Tsav, Bugiin Tsav and Guriliin Tsav in the Western part of Gobi region. Nominating dinosaur fossil sites as follows:

I. Paleontological heritage sites of Bayanshirenian (Cenomanian-Santonian) age

Component 1: Bayanshiree - Late Cretaceous (Bayanshirenian age) - (international correlation: Cenomanian-Santonian, 97.5-88.5 mya).

Component 2: Khongil Tsav - Late Cretaceous (Bayanshirenian age) - (international correlation: Cenomanian-Santonian, 97.5-88.5 mya).

Component 3: Burkhant - Late Cretaceous (Bayanshirenian age) - (international name: Cenomanian-Santonian, 130-100 mya).

Component 4: Baishin Tsav – Late Cretaceous (Bayanshirenian age) - (international name: Cenomanian-Santonian, 130-100 mya).

Component 5: Khuurai Tsav - Late Cretaceous (Bayanshirenian age) - (international name: Cenomanian-Santonian, 130-100 mya).

Component 6: Urulbu Khudag - Late Cretaceous (Bayanshirenian age) - (international name: Cenomanian-Santonian, 130-100 mya).

Component 7: Shar Tsav - Late Cretaceous (Period of Nemegt Formation) - (international name: Maastricht era, 71-65 mya).

Component 8: Amtgai – Late Cretaceous (Period of Bayanshiree Formation) - (international name: Cenomanian-Santonian, 130-100 mya).

II. Paleontological heritage sites of Djadokhta (Campanian

Component 9: Bayanzag - Upper Cretaceous (Period of Djadokhtian) - (international name: Campanian; 84-71 mya).

Component 10: Tugrugiin Shiree - Upper Cretaceous (Period of Djadokhtian) - (international name: Campanian; 84-71 mya).

III. Paleontological heritage sites of Nemegt (Maastricht)

Component 11: Nemegt – Upper Cretaceous (period of Nemegtian formation) - (international name: Maastrichtian; 71-65 mya).

Component 12: Khermen Tsav - Upper Cretaceous (period of Nemegtian Formation) - (international name: Maastrichtian; 71-65 mya).

Component 13 : Bugiin Tsav - Upper Cretaceous (period of Nemegtian formation) – (international name: Maastrichtian; 71-65 mya).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

While the study of dinosaurs began in the mid-1800s, initial surveys in Mongolia began in the early 20th century. In 1922 the Central Asiatic Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History, which discovered the first nest of dinosaur eggs at Bayanzag or Shabarak Usu (muddy water), located in the territory of Bulgan soum of Umnugovi Province. This discovery served as a turning point in the paleontological history of the world, establishing the fact that dinosaurs laid and hatched from eggs. Since then, many exceptional fossils in the world were found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. World famous fossils from this region include: the “Two fighting dinosaurs (Velociraptor and Protoceratops)”, “Crowded infant dinosaurs - Protoceratops", “Oviraptorosaur laying its eggs”, "Giant carnivorous Tarbosaur and its baby” and “Egg fossils of many different dinosaur species, and an embryo in egg.” Moreover, tracks and traces containing overlapping footprints of different dinosaur species are being found in large numbers.

Criterion (vii): The interbedded sediments contain fossilized remains of prehistoric plants and animals as a proof of the history of Earth. The landscape, worn by natural factors, create and form strange shapes in the cliffs, which resemble walls, gates, benches and monadnocks, making these landscapes some of the most magnificent, beautiful and unique in the world. Those landscapes interbedded and formed as cliffs or exposures can be compared to a ‘sutra,’ every page of which contains thousands of secrets of ancient life’s significance. Back in the early 1920's, foreign researchers and specialists who worked in the Mongolian Gobi Desert wondered at the beauty of its landscapes and gave the names like “Flaming Cliffs.” Some fossil sites have oases and lakes, and serve as a refuge and grazing land for wild animals, which makes this landscape even more beautiful. One fair example of this is Khermen Tsav. The ancient natural formations and structures of the Khermen Tsav fossil site vary in shapes and form an image reminiscent of castles.

Criterion (viii): Mongolian Gobi desert fossil sites are an outstanding example of the chronological history of the earth, including the evolution of nature and wildlife, geological processes of the continental formations, Cretaceous Dinosaur Fossil Cradle Sites in the Mongolian Gobi contain dinosaur fossils, tracks and footprints which belong to the period of 70 to 99 million years ago. Among the many unique fossils found in Mongolian Gobi desert, one of the most significant discoveries was the dinosaur egg nest found at the Djadokhta formation in 1922. This discovery played a pivotal role in the science and history of palaeontology at the global scale, representing the first solid evidence that dinosaurs laid eggs. Nearly 80 genera, or 1/5 (one fifth) of the over 400 dinosaur genera known to science, are found in the Mongolian Gobi Desert.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Fossil sites found and identified as a result of surveys are included in the proposed heritage site and the fossil sites having outstanding universal values and other elements are also included comprehensively in the framework of the heritage site.

“Cretaceous Dinosaur Fossil Sites in the Mongolian Gobi” does not include areas with special licenses for the mining and infrastructure development. The activities were carried out for research purposes only. Local herdsmen inhabit the nearby territories and graze their animals around the sites. The initial research works and discoveries of dinosaur fossil sites and their tracks in Mongolia started in the 1920s - over 90 years ago. Throughout this time, there have been many national and international field expeditions conducted in the country. Fossil sites are isolated from settlements, located in remote and sparsely populated areas, which plays an important role in maintaining and preserving the integrity of the heritage site. In cases where fossil remains of ancient animals and plants are exposed in the sediments due to natural weathering, the events are reported immediately and surveyed accordingly.

Comparison with other similar properties

The proposed serial property containing dinosaur fossils have equal importance with Dinosaur Provincial Park in the Province of Alberta, Canada. This heritage site is distinguished from others with dinosaur fossils by representing the final phase of dinosaur development, being recognized as an important territorial zone for the development of the universal ancestors of many groups of ancient organisms and for containing much historic and prehistoric evidence pertaining to nature, wildlife and the history of palaeontology. Fossil sites in the Mongolian Gobi Desert, attest to an ancient fertile homeland for many modern species, within one of the world's few remaining intact large-scale landscapes, distinguished by its wealth of fossils with great taphonomic integrity, and sample scientific and cognitive value. The sediments and structures containing these fossils remain well-exposed, and recently discovered fossils of new dinosaur species continue to confirm the importance of these sites.