Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 January 2010
Deer stones and khirigsuur mounds are the most visible features of the archaeological landscape in the steppe region of northern Mongolia. Standing as slender stelae silhouetted against the sky and dark mounds against contoured landforms, deer stones and khirigsuurs evoke a past that contrasts with as much as it conforms to the lightdrenched landscape of gers and herders today. One world we see and understand; the other is only faintly visible through the stony remains of spiritual and ceremonial life. This chapter explores a time when stone men walked and spirits plied the mountaintops; when shamans sang, and warriors rode deer spirits to heaven. Once considered a marginal late-Scythian derivative, Mongolia's deer stones and khirigsuurs have recently been dated several hundred years earlier than Arzhan, and their elaborate burial mound architecture and artistic stone monuments indicate a level of socio-political intensification and complexity previously unknown among Bronze Age societies of the eastern steppe.
The Deer Stone–Khirigsuur Complex
The archaeology of central and eastern Asia has seen dramatic change during the past two decades. Some areas like Kazakhstan, Inner Mongolia, and Mongolia, which have been long closed to Western scholars, have become accessible now, while others like Tibet are almost completely unexplored.