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The Mysterious Steles of Mongolia


Nearly a thousand ornamented steles dot the Mongolian steppes. These “deer stones” were erected between 1200 and 800 BC, and are part of large funerary complexes built by nomads from the Karasuk culture or Deer stone civilisation.

The Mysterious Steles of Mongolia
The Tsatsyn Ereg necropolis, located in Arkhangai Province, is being studied by an international team
as partof a joint archaeological mission between Monaco and Mongolia, under the direction of the
Musée d’Anthropologie préhistorique de Monaco and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.
113 deer stones have been found on this site measuring 200 square kilometers
[Credit: Fabrice Monna/MAP-MC/Traces/ARTeHIS/CNRS Photothèque]


The Mysterious Steles of Mongolia
The “deer stones” of Mongolia are part of multi-hectare funerary complexes, and are surrounded by hundreds
of stone grave mounds. A horsehead was left beneath each mound. Here we see the remains of a skull
[Credit: Fabrice Monna/MAP-MC/Traces/ARTeHIS/CNRS Photothèque]
The Mysterious Steles of Mongolia
The anthropologist Jérôme Magail, who is leading the mission, used ground-based and drone
photogrammetry to accurately document the steles and associated archeological structures
 in order to create a 3D reconstruction. This was done by taking dozens of pictures of the
object from various angles, which are then assembled by specialized software
[Credit: Fabrice Monna/MAP-MC/Traces/ARTeHIS/CNRS Photothèque]


The Mysterious Steles of Mongolia
The “deer stones” of Mongolia are part of multi-hectare funerary complexes, and are surrounded by hundreds
of stone grave mounds. A horsehead was left beneath each mound. Here we see the remains of a skull
[Credit: Fabrice Monna/MAP-MC/Traces/ARTeHIS/CNRS Photothèque]
The Mysterious Steles of Mongolia
The representation of deer follows the same graphic codes from one site to another: elongated muzzle, disproportionate
 antlers, bodies stretched toward the sky. Deer were probably tasked with leading the souls of the dead toward
the afterlife [Credit: Fabrice Monna/MAP-MC/Traces/ARTeHIS/CNRS Photothèque]


The Mysterious Steles of Mongolia
Photogrammetry is complemented by a method called estampage: a white sheet is attached to the stele,
a sheet of carbon paper is placed on top, and gentle rubbing reveals the roughness of the surface
[Credit: Fabrice Monna/MAP-MC/Traces/ARTeHIS/CNRS Photothèque]
The Mysterious Steles of Mongolia
Three thousand years later, Mongol nomads continue to crisscross the plains of Tsatsyn Ereg
and breed horses. The scientific team is also exploring their ancient know-how
[Credit: Fabrice Monna/MAP-MC/Traces/ARTeHIS/CNRS Photothèque]
Author: Laure Cailloce | Source: CNRS News [January 17, 2019]

TANN

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