Long-lost Nomad City of the Xiongnu Empire Found in Mongolia
In a desolate region of Mongolia, archaeologists have discovered the long-lost nomad city that was once the capital of an empire that played an important role in the history of Imperial China. Researchers believe that they have found the fabled long-lost ‘Dragon City’ which was the capital of the powerful mysterious Xiongnu Empire .
In 2017 a team of archaeologists from Ulaanbaatar State University made some amazing finds in the Ulziit district of Arkhangai province in central Mongolia. They made the discoveries near the banks of the River Orkhon. They knew that they had discovered something very important, but their work was cut short because of a lack of funds. This year, they returned to the area and renewed their work. This important discovery was kept secret, and only recently publicized by the Mongolian media.
Nomads ‘Dragon City’
Several finds were made by the archaeologist, and one in particular caught their attention. They unearthed a fragment of a roof decoration and it was inscribed with the phrase ‘Son of Heaven Chanyu.’ The title Son of Heaven is of Imperial Chinese origin and dates back to the Zhou dynasty . This imperial title was used to indicate that the ruler had the Mandate of Heaven, which legitimized his rule. The title Chanyu was the title of the ruler of the Xiongnu Empire. Archaeologist Tumur-Ochir Iderkhangai, who led the dig, is quoted as saying by Sputnik News ‘that this is the first time that an object with such an inscription has been discovered.’
The roof decoration that proves the location of long-lost nomad Dragon City. The inscription in ancient Chinese characters reads: "Son of Heaven Chanyu" ( Xinhua net )
The fragment with the title ‘Chanyu’ written on it provides strong evidence that the site was associated with the Xiongnu. The Xiongnu were a nomadic tribal confederation who created a huge empire in Central Asia (300 BC to 100 AD). The Xiongnu fought a series of wars with Chinese dynasties whom they often defeated, forcing them to pay tribute. The Heritage Daily reports that ‘Their relations with adjacent Chinese dynasties to the south-east were complex, with repeated periods of conflict and intrigue, alternating with exchanges of tribute, trade, and marriage treaties.’
Xiongnu Nomadic Tribal Confederation Were Hun Ancestors
After their defeat by the Han Dynasty at the Battle of Mobei (119 BC), the Xiongnu were weakened and eventually divided into a north and south branch. However, they remained powerful and after the fall of the Han, the Xiongnu settled in China. During the 4 th century AD in the Sixteen Kingdoms period , the Xiongnu nomads established a number of states such as Han Zhao.
The Xiongnu are somewhat mysterious and their ethnicity and origin are not known, although some believe that they were the ancestors of the feared Huns. According to Sputnik News ‘Various hypotheses suggest that they may have spoken Iranian, Mongolic, Turkic, Uralic, or Yeniseian languages.’ One of the greatest Xiongnu mysteries was the location of their capital Luut or Luncheng which was also known as the ‘Dragon City.’
The Xiongnu Empire and the long-lost nomad Dragon City near Luut (Khiruge / CC BY-SA 4.0 )
The archaeological team from Ulaanbaatar State University believe that they have finally solved the mystery of the location of the nomad’s city. The decoration unearthed at this site ‘is the first evidence found within the region to suggest the site is the Dragon City of Luncheng,’ Tumur-Ochir Iderkhangai told AKI Press . The fragment with the Chanyu inscription demonstrates that the site near the Orkhan River was the nomads’ capital. Its location had been lost for almost two thousand years but now researchers are confident that they have found the long-lost Dragon City. Iderkhangai is quoted by Aventuras na historia as saying ‘As a result of more than a decade of research on the political centre of the Xiongnu Empire, I am very happy that we have discovered and excavated the empire’s capital Dragon City or Luncheng City.’
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Iderkhangai told the Heritage Daily that ‘The city is believed to have originated in the Khangai Mountains of Mongolia, according to ancient sources.’ This would tally with the location of the Mongolian expert’s discoveries. The capital was once a massive city that was enclosed with a double wall and had a massive reservoir. Further investigations at the site will take place. This will help researchers to build up a better picture of the long-lost nomad Dragon City and the Xiongnu Empire.
Top image: The landscape of remote Mongolia where the long-lost nomad Dragon City of the Xiongnu Empire was recently discovered. Source: Iderkhangai Tumur-Ochir / Heritage Daily
By Ed Whelan