The National Museum of Korea said yesterday it has unearthed a 2,000-year-old skeleton of a Mongolian nomad at the Xiongnu Tombs of Duurlignars, about 500 kilometers northeast of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.
The skeleton of a man was identified as mortal remains of the Xiongnu, a confederation of nomadic tribes in Central Asia, a finding that archeologists and historians could use to advance the studies about the ancient tribe. The Xiongnu tribe is often linked with the Huns, a tribe which is better known in Europe, but identification of the two tribes has yet to be confirmed.
"The latest excavation project has produced a number of artifacts that might reveal more details about the Xiongnu, and additional evaluation will help us better understand the Xiongnu and their culture," said Song Eui-jeong, chief of archeology at the national museum.
During the excavation project at the Xiongnu Tombs of Duurlignars, the museum has worked jointly with its Mongolian counterparts, including the Mongolian Science Academy Archeology Center and the Mongolia National Museum.
The site has a cluster of 198 ancient tombs that belong to the Xiongnu period, according to the preliminary survey conducted in 2002 by a joint team of researchers from Korea and Mongolia.
This year, the archeologists discovered a number of artifacts such as bowls and a mirror at four different tombs at the excavation site. The skeleton, whose structure remains largely intact, was found in one of the tombs.
The National Museum of Korea had previously conducted a similar excavation at the site between 2006 and 2007 in partnership with the Mongolian partners. Some of the artifacts the museum discovered were on display at a special exhibition in Seoul last month.
The Xiongnu Tombs of Duurlignars is widely regarded as one of the three key sites that might help unlock the mystery about the ancient tribe. The other two sites are Noyon-Uul in northern Mongolia and Gol-Mod in the central region of the country.
The Xiongnu tribe defeated and displaced the then-dominant Yuezhi and secured control on the steppes north of China around 2nd century B.C. Their influence reached southern Siberia, western Manchuria and the modern Chinese provinces of Inner Mongolia, Gansu, and Xinjiang. Since the tribe was considered hostile and aggressive, the Qin Dynasty built the Great Wall to protect itself from Xiongnu attacks.
By Yang Sung-jin