- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

TOKYO — Archaeologists have unearthed the site of Genghis Khan’s palace and think the long-sought grave of the 13th-century Mongolian warrior is somewhere nearby, the head of the excavation team said yesterday.

A Japanese and Mongolian research team found the complex on the steppes 150 miles east of the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, said Shinpei Kato, professor emeritus at Tokyo’s Kokugakuin University.

Genghis (c. 1162-1227) united warring tribes to become leader of the Mongols in 1206. After his death, his descendants expanded his empire until it stretched from China to Hungary.

He built the palace in the simple shape of a square tent attached to wooden columns on the site in about 1200, Mr. Kato said.

The researchers found porcelain buried among the ruins dated to the warrior’s era, helping identify the grounds, Mr. Kato said. A description of the scenery around the palace by a messenger from a minor Chinese dynasty, the Southern Tang, in 1232 also matched the area, he added.

Genghis’ tomb is thought to be nearby because ancient texts say court officials commuted daily from the mausoleum later built on the grounds to the burial site to conduct rituals for the dead.

Mr. Kato said his group was not aiming specifically to find the grave. Still, he said finding it would help uncover the secrets of Genghis’ power.

“Genghis Khan conquered Eurasia and built a massive empire. There had to have been a great deal of interaction between East and West at the time, in terms of culture and the exchange of goods,” Mr. Kato said. “If we find what items were buried with him, we could write a new page for world history.”

Genghis’ grave site is one of archaeology’s enduring mysteries. According to legend, in order to keep it secret, his huge burial party killed anyone who saw them en route to it. Then, servants and soldiers who attended the funeral were massacred.

Mr. Kato said an ancient Chinese text says a baby camel was buried at the grave in front of her mother so that the mother could lead

Genghis’ family to the tomb when necessary.

Archaeologists have been forced to abandon their searches for Genghis’ grave in the past, however, owing to protests that excavation would disturb the souls of the dead.

An American-financed expedition to find the tomb stopped work in 2002 after being accused by a prominent Mongolian politician of desecrating traditional rulers’ graves.

In 1993, Japanese archaeologists terminated a search for the tomb after a poll in Ulan Bator found that the project was unpopular.

According to Mongolian tradition, violating ancestral tombs destroys the soul that serves as protector.

If researchers do find the tomb, they also likely would discover the graves of Kubilai Khan — Genghis’ grandson, who spread the Mongol empire to China and Southeast Asia, and became the first emperor of China’s Mongol dynasty, the Yuan.

According to ancient texts, 13 or 14 warriors, including Genghis and Kubilai, are buried in the same place.

Mr. Kato said he would step aside and leave the matter of how to proceed up to his Mongolian colleagues, if the team discovered the tombs.

“We will consult our Mongolian colleagues and decide what the best next step would be. We may have to escape back to Japan,” Mr. Kato said, laughing. “Excavation should be done by Mongolians — not by those of us from other countries. It is up for Mongolians to decide.”

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