Altai Region : General Discussion

Dividing North from Central Asia, desert from grassland, taiga from mountain steppe, the Altai Mountains have functioned for thousands of years as a homeland for the emergence of hunting, herding, and nomadic cultures of Eurasia. Archaeology in the Altai thus reflects the evolution of human culture from the Paleolithic Period through to the present.

The archaeology and landscape considered in this project are located within Bayan Ölgiy, a mountainous aimag in the far northwest of Mongolia. To its northwest, the region shares a boundary with the Altai Republic of Russia; to the southwest, it abuts northern China’s Xinjiang province. The long eastern side of the resulting triangle can be drawn along the right bank of the north-flowing river, Sagsay Gol and continued up through the dry valleys north of the administrative centers (sum) of Sagsay and Ulaan Khus to the Tsagaan Nuur basin.

This landscape, the highest in Mongolia, has been home to hunters and herders beginning early in the Bronze Age. By the Late Bronze Age, horse-dependent semi-nomadic cultures began to appear, eventually spreading west from the Altai to dominate the Eurasian steppe. This region of the Altai is, also, the probable homeland of the iron-working Türks, who dominated Eurasia in the late first millennium of our era.