Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 January 2010
The three contributions in this section shift the attention to Eurasia's eastern steppes, specifically Mongolia's rich archaeological landscape during the Bronze and Iron Ages (second to first millennium bce). Already by the late nineteenth century, commentators had noted the region's many types of ancient stone-built structures, including slab burials, delineated by flat standing stones; structurally complex – and often massive – khirigsuurs; standing deer stones; and small mounded slope burials. This early archaeological record owes its enduring scholarly appeal not only to the high visibility of its numerous monumental sites, which stand out among Mongolia's treeless valley bottoms and hillsides, but also to the materials and information recovered from the sites themselves. Khirigsuurs and the other types of burials have yielded human and animal remains, while deer stones display enigmatic carved designs of uncertain symbolism. It is fair to say that research on this period of Mongolia's prehistory, including the three chapters in this part, has in some way or other remained tethered to these prominent sites and features.
Other aspects of Mongolia's early archaeological landscape have also generated interest among scholars. Some of the monumental structures seem to make an appearance at approximately the same time at the end of the second millennium bce, signaling the possibility of a significant cultural transformation. All three chapters address, in some way or other, the issue of the emergence and development of this monumental landscape.