Mongolia’s Frozen Heritage

A Summary of the Archaeology of the Cultural Cryosphere

Authors

  • Julia Clark Flinders University/Utah State University
  • Jamsranjav Bayarsaikhan National Museum of Mongolia
  • Alicia Ventresca Miller University of Michigan
  • Sandra Vanderwarf NOMAD Science
  • Isaac Hart University of Utah
  • Gino Caspari University of Bern
  • William Timothy Treal Taylor University of Colorado Boulder

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jga.19784

Keywords:

Permafrost archaeology, ice-patch archaeology, salvage archaeology, climate change

Abstract

While pastoral cultures from Mongolia and the dry steppes of eastern Eurasia have had an outsized impact on Eurasian history, the region’s geomorphology, reliance on organic materials, and a nomadic culture that lacks long-lasting architecture on the landscape have conspired to limit our knowledge of important anthropological processes in the deep past. Frozen archaeological sites, including permafrost and finds from glaciers and ice patches, serve as a key exception to this rule, providing detailed snapshots into the ancient lifeways of Mongolia’s mountain zones. However, these sites pose unique challenges for archaeological conservation, and rapid climate warming, paired with other issues like looting, threatens to degrade them faster than they can be identified, studied, or preserved. Here we summarize the known frozen heritage of Mongolia and highlight a recent to-date unpublished case study on salvaging and studying frozen archaeological sites.

Author Biographies

Julia Clark, Flinders University/Utah State University

Julia Clark (Ph.D) is the founding director of NOMAD Science, a nonprofit dedicated to the research and preservation of Mongolian cultural heritage, and holds positions at Utah State University and Flinders University as well. Her research primarily focuses on early pastoral adaptations in the region and the development of site prediction models. She is passionate about protecting cultural heritage resources and the implementation of salvage archaeology in the region.

Jamsranjav Bayarsaikhan, National Museum of Mongolia

J. Bayarsaikhan received a PhD on Mongolia’s Bronze Age “Deer Stone” Culture at the National University of Mongolia, in 2016. Since 2003, he has worked at the National Museum of Mongolia as Curator and Head of the museum’s Research Center. With international colleagues, he seeks to understand the broad range of Mongolia’s nomadic culture using archaeological evidence and material culture. He specializes in understanding Bronze Age cultures, pastoral societies, and monumental archaeology in Mongolia.

Alicia Ventresca Miller, University of Michigan

Alicia Ventresca Miller (Ph.D) is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Assistant Curator in the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology at the University of Michigan. She is a bioarchaeologist and isotope analyst with research interests in diet, mobility, dairying, and domestication. Her work explores how food production intersects with the emergence of complex societies in Central and Inner Asia. She is a co-founder of Steppe Sisters.

Sandra Vanderwarf, NOMAD Science

Sandra Vanderwarf is a cultural heritage conservator specializing in textile preservation and analysis.

Isaac Hart, University of Utah

Isaac Hart (Ph.D.) is a postdoctoral research associate in the geography and anthropology departments of the University of Utah. He focuses on using paleoenvironmental reconstruction to understand the behavioral ecology of past humans.

Gino Caspari, University of Bern

Gino Caspari (Ph.D.) is a Postdoc Mobility Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation and an Honorary Research Associate at Sydney University and University of Bern. He focuses on field archaeology, human environmental interaction, as well as remote sensing and geospatial analysis.

William Timothy Treal Taylor, University of Colorado Boulder

William Taylor (Ph.D.) is Assistant Professor and Curator of Archaeology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in Boulder, CO.

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Published

2021-08-15

How to Cite

Clark, J., Bayarsaikhan, J., Ventresca Miller, A., Vanderwarf, S. ., Hart, I., Caspari, G., & Taylor, W. T. T. (2021). Mongolia’s Frozen Heritage: A Summary of the Archaeology of the Cultural Cryosphere. Journal of Glacial Archaeology, 5, 103–120. https://doi.org/10.1558/jga.19784

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