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Karakorum, the first capital of the Mongol world empire: an imperial city in a non-urban society

Karakorum, the first capital of the Mongol world empire: an imperial city in a non-urban society Cities within a steppe environment and in societies based on pastoral nomadism are an often overlooked theme in the anthro- pological literature. Yet, with Karakorum, the first capital of the Mongol Empire (AD 1206–1368), we have a supreme example of such a city in the central landscape of the Orkhon valley in Mongolia. In this paper, we ask, what is the city in the steppes? Taking Karakorum as our starting point and case of reference and to attain a better comprehension of the characteristics of urbanism in the steppe, we apply a list of urban attributes compiled by Michael E. Smith (2016) to provide a thick description of Karakorum. The discussion not only comprises comparisons to other contemporary sites in Russia and Mongolia, but also addresses in detail the question of city–hinterland relations as a fundamental necessity for the survival of the city in an anti- urban environment. The analysis shows that during the Mongol period we can identify urbanism but no urbanization: there is no process of independent, natural growth of cities carried out by the population, but cities are “political” in the sense that they are deeply intertwined with the authority and have therefore much to tell about the relation between power and authority on the one hand and the ruled on the other. . . . . Keywords Mongol empire Urbanism Imperial city Urban planning Nomads 1 Introduction (2018) on urban sites in Mongolia, Transbaikalia, and the Russian Far East. The Eurasian Society and the University “The concept of ‘city’ is notoriously hard to define” (Childe of Bern in 2016 hosted a conference on “Urban Culture in 1950: 3). This initial statement by V. Gordon Childe in his Central Asia.” The proceedings of this conference, however, seminal paper on the so-called Urban Revolution is all the include only lectures about the former Soviet republics in more true if we look at urban settings within the steppe envi- Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Qara Khanids ronment of eastern Asia. Comparative archaeological debates (Baumer and Novák 2019). of urban settings (Cowgill 2004;Smith 2011) and handbooks There may be two explanations for this shortcoming. First, on early cities (Marcus and Sabloff 2008b;Clark 2013; many scholars focus on the so-called ancient civilizations, Yoffee 2015) more or less neglect the constructed centers of which is an unsuitable term as it perpetuates the dichotomy nomadic empires in the Eurasian Steppes. As far as we know between civilized and barbarians. Cities are, in the opinion of there is no book, no special volume of a journal, no conference many scholars, strongly connected with the rise of early states. proceeding that focuses on urban sites in the Eastern Eurasian In his recent book, Killing Civilization, Justin Jennings not steppes. There are only a monograph with collected studies by only explains why we should refrain from using this term Kyzlasov (2006) on permanent settlements and urban sites but also why the two concepts of emerging statehood and mainly in Tuva, a book by Tkachev (2009) on the history of urbanism need to be disentangled (Jennings 2016). A second Mongolian architecture, and an edited volume by Kradin reason lies within geopolitics of the twentieth century. The Eurasian steppe zone, which includes the former Soviet Union and its satellite states as well as parts of China, was * Jan Bemmann jan.bemmann@uni-bonn.de inaccessible for researchers from Western industrial states for most part of the twentieth century. The inaccessibility of the literature from these regions and Department of Pre- and Early Historical Archaeology, Bonn University, Brühler Straße 7, 53119 Bonn, Germany the inability to perform field research led the scholarly 122 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 community to miss out on valuable comparative case studies. existence of large, fixed settlements with a wide variety of One in particular, concerning the steppes of present-day functions and social groups in a qualitative difference to the Mongolia, offers a remarkable diversity of settlement types hinterland (with urban denoting this difference), while urban- over time, and most of them were never reoccupied after their ization means the process of dispersing this way of life decline. There are residences, fortresses, large urban sites, through society in a longer perspective, and sustainable linear fortification walls, walled enclosures, monasteries, and growth and endurance of these cities irrespective of political, permanent settlements with pit houses. Many of them were ecological, social, or other upheavals. Do the particular eco- already discovered at the end of the nineteenth century nomic configurations of our working area command a differ- (Radloff 1892), and the Mongolian scholar and founding fa- ent trajectory in urbanization as compared to urbanization in ther of Mongolian archaeology, Kh. Pėrlėė,listed more than sedentary subsistence economies? Faced with the transient 200 in a comprehensive study in 1961. These works, however, nature of Mongolian urbanism, can we talk about urbanization are of an empirical character, and questions concerning the at all or should we rather refrain from using the term? To why and how of urban foundations and the underlying societal elucidate and explore such questions, we feel it first implications are seldom addressed. necessary to develop a better comprehension of the Taking the famous city of Karakorum (Fig. 1), the first characteristics of urbanism in the steppe. Therefore, we capital of the Mongol World Empire, as a starting point, we apply a list of urban attributes compiled by Smith (2016)to ask, what is a city in the steppe? We test whether the theories provide a thick description of Karakorum (sensu Geertz 1973: and definitions developed for cities in sedentary societies, ex- 3–30). This description follows along structural characteris- emplified by Michael E. Smith (2011), are applicable to sites tics. What we do not intend to do is write yet another outline of in pastoral nomadic societies. For the sake of clarity, we need Karakorum’s history based on the few written sources avail- to underline a necessary differentiation: urban, urbanism, and able in translation into western European languages (cf. urbanization are not interchangeable terms but have specific Sagaster 1999; Barkmann 2002; Gießauf 2003;Hüttel semantic meanings (see Gaydarska 2017: 181–182; M. L. 2004). We concentrate on Karakorum because compared to Smith 2003:12–13). Within this paper, urbanism means the other sites in Mongolia, many studies and a variety of source Fig. 1 Mongolia and the Orkhon Valley, inset showing Karakorum marked in red (graphic by Tobias Pfaff, Bonn) asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 123 materials are available, including excavation reports and writ- The ready adaptation in archaeology might be due to the cha- ten sources, survey data, and very precise maps. The only risma evoked by the terms “central place,”“centrality,” and other city with a similarly advanced state of research is Chin “functions of settlement” popularized by Christaller: rather Tolgoĭ, which is, however, of earlier date (Kradin 2011). This than applying the model with its problematic theoretical as- comparatively rich trove allows us to apply several methods sumptions, archaeological studies merely refer to these con- from a variety of disciplines to describe these characteristics, cepts. At the same time, these terms – or rather the application ranging from archaeology, through history, and to urban plan- thereof – often produce rather static glimpses of what must ning. In the following, we will first lay out the theoretical and have been dynamic processes in the past. methodological foundation, after which we analyze Kara- Another critique one can put forward vis-à-vis functional korum. Comparisons to contemporaneous sites contextualize definitions of cities stems from application of functions too Karakorum within the wider characteristics of Mongol period lavishly and imprecisely defined: which functions were iden- urbanism. Ensuing from this discussion, the nature of urban- tified and how was their impact measured beyond the site ism in the Mongolian steppes reveals further insights into itself? A point already raised critically by Smith (2016). This power and authority since the emergence of these cities that practice can lead to the attribution of any built environment as is inherently linked to empire. Karakorum functions thus as a city or town, no matter if they even served as habitation site classic example of the “political city” as opposed to the “eco- (e.g. Rogers 2017). In this case, the definition as a city loses nomic city” as discussed by Smith (2016). While the latter are heuristic meaning and, alongside this, its usefulness to differ- “cities in which growth feeds on itself,” the former’sgrowth is entiate variety in human behavior. mostly dependent on political or ritual impetuses (Smith 2016: But let us return to the question at hand: from the plethora 165). of different approaches to urbanism, a certain unity among scholars emerges on the simple conclusion that there are no universal criteria fitting every case. Instead, we have to choose 2 Theoretical framing: What is the city criteria that fit the question at hand; and we need to set cities in the steppe? and central places into relation to other forms of habitation within the region and period under study. For this reason, To start with, we should ask if Karakorum is a city at all. Does we adopted Michael E. Smith’s list of attributes which incor- it comply with common criteria of urbanism (here in the porates all critical features except for the juridical definition of meaning of being a city)? Since Childe published his trait list cities (Table 1). This last concept of a juridical definition is in 1950 there has been an ongoing debate over which criteria a based on emic perspectives of a legal status, such as a town site needs to fulfill in order to be ranked as a city (cf. Marcus charter or the right to serve a market. One rapidly encounters methodological obstacles in the application of this criterion: and Sabloff 2008a:12–20). Size, area, and high population density were commonly held as deciding factors (Wirth not only do these concepts derive from medieval Europe, but 1938), but theories of “low density urbanism” (Fletcher they are also only evident in written sources, as they are de- 2012) clearly show that there is no such thing as one category fined by distinct laws. of population density for an urban site. Apart from our daily For societal systems that did not operate with such binding experience of cities as compact, nucleated aggregations of institutions, one has to come up with different criteria. Smith people, many modern cities and premodern cities are compar- provides exactly such criteria or attributes based on two prin- atively loosely settled (Fletcher 2012). Such demographic or ciples: first, they were part of earlier theoretical schemes, and sociological criteria are but only one way of defining cities. second, they can be analyzed by means of archaeological data Another angle to this task looks into the functions that (Smith 2016: 158). The first group of attributes deals with city settlements perform. Based on the seminal study by Walter size and demography. Although as explained above, these Christaller (1933), functional criteria gained higher influence attributes are insufficient taken by themselves, size still mat- in historical geography. In this theory, the existence of spe- ters. Taking functions irrespective of settlement size as only cialized functions serves to identify central places, which sup- criteria leads to misleading attribution as shown above. plied critical services for a hinterland with lower ranking Smith’s second group, subsumed under “social impact (urban places. Depending on the quantity and reach of functions of functions),” contains political and economic functions and each site, a hierarchical settlement pattern can be reconstruct- their impact on the hinterland. Administrative (civic architec- ed. Although the theoretical foundations of the model have ture), productive (crafts), and distributive (markets) functions long been refuted in geographical scholarship and Walter are scaled dependent on their impact from low to high. The Christaller’s entanglement with the Third Reich is widely attributes of “built environment” can beeasilydeductedfrom known (e.g. Kegler 2015), this concept found adaptation in cities’ maps. Theyprovideadescription of thecity’sinfra- archaeological studies and is still being widely used structure. Last, “social and economic features” explore the (Gringmuth-Dallmer 1999;Müller 2012;Nakoinz 2012). social makeup of the city’s population (for further 124 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 Table 1 List of attributes of Attributes Type of Variable urbanism, after Michael E. Smith Settlement Size population M area M density M Social Impact (urban functions) royal palace P/A royal or high aristocratic burials P/A large (high-order) temples P/A civic architecture S craft production S market or shops S Built Environment fortifications P/A gates P/A connective infrastructure P/A intermediate-order temples P/A residences, lower elite P/A formal public space P/A planning of epicenter P/A Social & Economic Features burials, lower elite P/A social diversity (nonclass) P/A neighborhoods P/A agriculture within settlement P/A imports S M: quantitative measurement P/A: presense/absence S: measurement scale (1: low, 2: moderate, 3: high) discussion, see Smith 2016). Smith’s list provides a systematic 160). Thus, these 21 attributes or traits need not be ticked off approach that allows for easy transference to any cultural and at the end we will know, Karakorum was a city or not, but complex. we will know how Karakorum was a city. Urbanism is highly The criteria are not bound geographically or temporally varied across time and space; these traits help to understand and thus facilitate transcultural comparisons. Furthermore, as the particular configuration of urbanism in a steppe environ- Smith himself points out, the scheme is open to addition if ment during the Mongol Empire. Consequently, there are no needed for specific environments. While the attributes within clear-cut boundaries, but a high degree of flexibility to erudite the group of “social impact” elucidate the relation to the hin- “the inherent complexity of ancient urbanism” (Smith 2016: terland up to a certain degree from the perspective of the city, 158). Some scholars who see the goal of archaeology in the we feel it necessary to enhance the discussion with regard to production of exact science of empirical, testable data might the hinterland. What kind of sites are located within the vicin- be concerned with this level of fuzziness. This level of fuzz- ity of the site in question and which functions might they have iness, however, can be seen as a chance and unique feature of performed for the city? The establishment of a functioning an archaeology that is nearer to the humanities: we discuss supply is crucial for the survival of a city especially during these sites not with respect to how they differ but how they the early days of its existence. A change of perspective is are similar, in order to identify essential attributes of urbanism needed and the discussion of city–hinterland relations de- in the Mongolian steppes. This endeavor echoes Dorothee serves broader space. We will therefore discuss this aspect Kimmich’s manifest on the concept of similarity in cultural separately. studies from 2017. Thinking in similarities allows for a flex- To make one last point before we dive into the analysis of ible construction of lifeworlds, where the supposed exactness Karakorum: it is not Smith’s aim to provide yet another def- of difference and identification – in our case: is it a city or not inition of the city. His scheme has a different goal: “In the – produces mistakes or inadequate representations of ancient societies. Kimmich finds fault in arbitrarily set lines where realm of cities, instead of asking whether a site was a city, we will learn more by asking which attributes of urbanism were there are none and highlights similarity as “fundamentale present at what level or concentration at a site” (Smith 2016: Erkenntniskategorie und handlungsleitende Orientierung zu asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 125 den wichtigsten ‘tools’ kulturtheoretischer Reflexion” deep history of steppe empires, which invested high political (Kimmich 2017: 12). She traces the concept of thinking in and ideological meaning in this valley, the Great Khans had similarities in philosophical and cultural studies and through ample reason to choose this site as the location for their first this exploration describes what is at the heart of Smith’sap- capital (Allsen 1996;Di Cosmo 2014/15). In the Mongols’ proach of 21 attributes: “Grenzen müssen fließend sein, weil cultural memory of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Kategorien sonst die notwendigen Anpassungsleistungen an Chinggis Khan is named as the founder of the city and 1220 semantische aber eben auch an soziale, kulturelle, historische is given as its founding year (Cleaves 1952; Pelliot 1925). und politische Veränderungen nicht leisten könnten” However, as Klaus Sagaster underlines, a philologically exact (Kimmich 2017: 29). In this way, the openness and vagueness translation of the text shows that Chinggis Khan designated of the approach are rather to be seen as strengths, which is in Karakorum as capital or residence – in his opinion, the accord with the partial nature of archaeological remains. And Chinese word “du 都” can signify both, while the Mongol in answer to the question introducing this paragraph: yes, we version of the inscription indicates a clear preference for res- will refer to Karakorum as a city throughout the text by the idence (Sagaster 2005: 151). Accordingly, Chinggis Khan simple argument that it was the capital of a world empire. In chose a place for a camp, and this decision did not comprise the next sections, we explore what a city in the steppe actually the construction of permanent and locally fixed architecture. means. Construction work began under the second Khan, Ögödei, from 1235 (Abramowski 1976), and the city was presumably occupied into the early decades of the fifteenth century 3 Closing in on Karakorum: The city (Reichert 2019). in the steppe 3.1 Settlement size The 21 traits as compiled by Michael E. Smith (2016) are presented in the following for the case study of Karakorum, Karakorum’s size is not easily determined, as the built lived enhanced by the discussion of hinterland–city relations. The area extends beyond the bounding city wall. The area inside past 20 years has witnessed an intensification of archaeologi- the city wall without Erdene Zuu covers 135 ha. If one in- cal research in and around the site (Bemmann 2014:14–18). cludes the several suburban sites and the buildings along the Many of the attributes addressed below were in some form or road that stretch from the eastern main gate to the southeast, combination the subject of earlier works. While we deem the area extends over about 1300 ha. At the same time, the Karakorum to be the most thoroughly researched fixed settle- density of building constructions and size of plots varies with- ment in Mongolia, our knowledge is – not surprisingly within in as well as outside of the outer city wall immensely (Fig. 2). the field of archaeology – imperfect. Especially the critique of Furthermore, certain environmental constraints need to be stasis as put forward with regard to Christaller’s theory of mentioned: the growth of the city was naturally bounded to central places, we, too, cannot escape, since we take Kara- the west by the inundation area of the Orkhon River. korum in its latest appearance as representative for its com- Concerning the demography of Karakorum, the number plete time of use. The same is true for all other sites discussed of inhabitants is not exactly mentioned in the sources. within this text. In most cases, we cannot even clearly identify Because of William of Rubruck’s comparison of the times of foundation, use, and abandoning of the sites due Karakorum to Saint Denis we can calculate the number to a lack of precise and detailed chronological systems and of inhabitants to roughly 7000 to 12,000 people for the having to work with insufficient excavation data. In the face of year of the monk’s visit to Karakorum in 1254 (Reichert these challenges, we still think it worthwhile to discuss our 2020). Another number stems from written accounts of material as scant as it may be within the context of urbanism. population movements ordered by the Great Khans. Apart from making progress in understanding and explaining Commanded by Ögödei Khan, the palace area was urban phenomena in the steppe, the discussion will crystallize enclosed by a wall or an earth rampart already in 1235 as fields in which we need to focus future efforts. The present described in the Yuan shi 元史 (History of Yuan)(Yuan shi: paper is the first to draw these scattered data together in a chapter 2; Abramowski 1976: 130). No exact numbers of concise form. workers are given for this episode. However, the fourth Karakorum lies within Central Mongolia in the valley of Khan, Möngke, stopped the development of Karakorum the Orkhon River (Fig. 1). To the south backed by hills, the and disbanded 1500 Chinese workers who worked on the city lies on top of a gravel fan at the mouth of the valley that enclosing city wall in 1251 (Yuan shi: chapter 3; opens here to a width of 24 km and stretches 70 km to the Abramowski 1979: 20). Whether these people were the north before it restricts again (Mackens et al. 2017). The near- same workers who were moved to Karakorum in 1235 by Orkhon supplied year-round fresh water, and the region is cannot be decided, but one should keep in mind that the known for its comparatively fertile soils. Combined with a palace had been completed and inaugurated during the 126 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 Fig. 2 Map of Karakorum and its surroundings (© Sven Linzen, IPHT Jena 2019, used with permission) spring of 1236 (Abramowski 1976: 131). Be that as it may, habitation at the site and differing intensities in occupation in 1252, Möngke again resettled 500 families of varying across the city area. The Khan’s court did not reside con- craftsmen to Karakorum to fulfill work on the palace (Yuan stantly at Karakorum, but rather migrated between several shi: chapter 3; Abramowski 1979: 21). 9500 soldiers were camps during the cycle of the year (Boyle 1974a;Shiraishi ordered to Karakorum in 1309 (Yuan shi: 23, 510). Two 2004). William of Rubruck observed that Möngke went years prior the emperor entrusted 10,000 Han soldiers sta- twice a year to Karakorum, once during spring (“at tioned there with fields to cultivate (Yuan shi: 22, 492), Easter”), and another time in summer (Rubruck and which indicates a permanently stationed garrison troop of Jackson 1990: 209). Merchants and their personnel surely such size at Karakorum (Dardess 1972/73). The total num- were likewise on the move as their trade demanded, pre- ber of troops in Mongolia is estimated at 150,000 men sumablyfrom springtofallinmostcases. (Hsiao 1978: 59). Considering the population estimates, As one can discern on the city map, the density of build- however, we must bear in mind the seasonality of ing constructions and the thickness of occupation layers asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 127 fluctuates enormously within the walled area (Fig. 2). “Pavilion of the Rising Yuan” mentioned in written sources While the area around the central street crossroads com- (Cleaves 1952: 23; Franken 2015:161–162). The grandeur of prises cultural layers of up to 5 m thickness with at least the reconstructed architecture, which unites religious ideas nine phases of use (Reichert 2019), the northern parts and from Tibet and architectural know-how from China, high- presumably southern areas are only slightly elevated com- lights the ranking of this structure as a large temple of a higher pared to the original topography and might provide only order (Franken 2015: 157; Muping 2015). The Buddhist one or two use phases. Thus, the density of population sculpture in the temple was up to 7 m high (Hüttel 2009: varied from season to season, from quarter to quarter, and 542), and, following Franken (2015: 140), the building can of course along the timeline. The shifting of the court to only be hypothetically reconstructed to a minimum height of Dadu, the reduction to the tasks of a regional town, fight- 9 m and a probable height of perhaps 35 to 38 m. The inscrip- ing within the area between Khubilai and Arigh Böke, and tion of 1346 describes a five story building of 300 chi height later with Qaidu, along with the sacking of the city (Cleaves 1952), presumably ca. 90 m. Taking into consider- (Dardess 1972/73), all probably left their mark on the de- ation that the inscription was placed on the back of a turtle mographic development. As William of Rubruck experi- more or less in front of the temple, the mentioned height enced Karakorum during one of Möngke’s rare visits, his should not differ significantly from its actual height. comparison probably accounts for a moment of increased Temples of this size presumably attracted a larger community population. Bearing these restrictions in mind and ground- and must have operated almost as a magnet for the entire ingour numbersonRubruck’s observations, we can as- region. The temple must have been visible from far away sume a general population density of about 44 to 75 inhab- and was without doubt constructed as a landmark building. itants per hectare for Karakorum if taking only the walled The presumable temple complex in the other city of the perimeter, and a much looser population of five to nine Mongol empire period, Khar Khul Khaany Balgas, lies at a persons per hectare if we include the outlying, dispersed similar spot in relation to the palace compared to the one at compounds. The former ratio corresponds well with pub- Karakorum and with its accompanying buildings takes up the lished data of population densities from Mesoamerican largest area of the city after the palace area, as is the case at Aztec sites (Smith 2016: 162 Table 10.2). Although we Karakorum (Moriyasu and Ochir 1999: pl. 19a–b; Shiraishi should keep in mind that Rubruck visited Karakorum only 2002: 278,fig.3–61) (Fig. 5). The digressing orientation of 19 years after the construction begun. both temples might be explained with religious reasons, to align the corners of the buildings approximately with the car- 3.2 Social impact dinals following the Mandala principle (see Franken 2015: 145). The aforementioned inscription of 1346 (Cleaves The existence of an imperial palace at Karakorum is known 1952) associated with Karakorum’s landmark, the stone turtle, from several written sources: William of Rubruck, for exam- also bears witness to the eventful building history of the tem- ple, provides a detailed description of the residence (Rubruck ple. The latter is also inscribed into the course and sequence of and Jackson 1990:209–212). The identification of the phys- the enclosing walls. Four kilns, used for the firing of building ical remains of the building on the actual site, however, took materials needed for the redevelopment of the temple, sat on archaeologists a good part of the twentieth century and the an older wall and ditch structure (Franken 2005: 147). The beginning of the twenty-first century. Still, it must be admitted inscription stone itself is a rarity in Mongolia. Only three more that the question is not yet entirely resolved. As a possible sites with free standing stones are known from the Mongol candidate for the Khan’s palace, Soviet archaeologists focused Empire period: one from Khirkhira in Transbaikalia (the ear- on a large building complex within the southwest of the liest, the so-called Chinggis Stone; Elichina 2005;de enclosing wall, the orientation of which lay at odds with the Rachewiltz and Rybatzki 2010:160–165), one from the so- overall orientation of the city and features within the city called Möngke’s palace west of Mörön, Khuvsgul aimag (Figs. 3 and 4). Sergei V. Kiselev, who conducted the first (Moriyasu and Ochir 1999: 254–260; Poppe 1961; Rinčen larger excavation of this complex in 1947 and 1948, thought 1959), and a third one from Khubilai Khan city (Moriyasu they had discovered the palace (Kiselev 1965). Conspicuous and Ochir 1999: 261–265; de Rachewiltz 1987). The only finds of Buddhist nature he attributed to post-settlement use. stone turtles we know of from the Mongol period are all lo- His interpretation of the complex as the Khan’spalace found cated at or nearby Karakorum, which underlines its special ready reception in the publications of historians, art historians, position as former capital of the united Mongol empire and architects, science journalists, and other archaeologists later capital of the province Lingbei. (Phillips 1969; Shatzman Steinhardt 1988; Shiraishi 2002; The location of the palace, however, has to be looked for Dmitriev 2011). Renewed and large-scale exposure, as well underneath the Buddhist monastery from the end of the six- as meticulous interpretation of the remains, led to the identi- teenth century, Erdene Zuu, which is still active today. Six fication of this complex as a Buddhist temple, probably the trenches along the walls of Erdene Zuu and one south of the 128 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 Fig. 3 Geomagnetic map of the Buddhist temple in Karakorum measured by a team from Bonn University in 1999, at that time this area was thought to be the palace area of the capital. Greyscale displays a dynamic range of 14nT (−7nT to +7nT) (after Mommsen et al. 2001:74 Fig. 2) Fig. 4 Map of the Buddhist temple in Karakorum as drawn by Radloff and his topographer I.I. Shchegolev in 1891 (detail after Radloff 1892: pl. 36.2) asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 129 Fig. 5 Map of Khar Khul Khaany with presumable temple (after Shiraishi 2002:278, Fig.3–61) eastern gate of this fence showed earlier wall structures under- palace, but we can be fairly certain about its location. neath that have been dated to the early thirteenth century via Furthermore, William of Rubruck provides a description of thermoluminescence and radiocarbon analyses (Erdenebat the palace itself: “The palace resembles a church, with a mid- 2011). These partially exposed walls presumably enclosed dle nave and two sides beyond two rows of pillars and three the actual palace area of Karakorum (Franken 2012/2013: doors on the south side. The tree [i.e., a silver well 366–368; Franken et al. 2014:368–372; Hüttel 2007). Out manufactured by the French artisan Guillaume Boucher] of respect for the current occupants, no further excavations stands inside, opposite the middle door, and the Chan sits at within the walls of the monastery are yet planned, and the the northern end, in an elevated position so that he is visible to location of the palace remains hypothetical. The hypothesis, all” (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: 210). Although we do not however, gains further weight if we reconsider William of have any material evidence of the palace itself, we do have Rubruck’s description of the palace’s location relative to the buildings excavated elsewhere that are interpreted as palaces city itself: “At Caracorum Mangu [Möngke Khan] has a large of the upper elite. Again, it was Sergei Kiselev who conducted encampment, near [emphasis by authors] the city walls and excavations at the site of Kondui, located in Siberia in the enclosed by a brick wall (…)” (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: Transbaikalian region (Fig. 6). This site is interpreted as an 209). This depiction matches the relative location of Erdene imperial residence of the Mongol period. Its central complex, Zuu with regard to the main body of the city. Thus, we do not with rows of column bases oriented north–south, formed a dispose over the actual physical remains of the former Khan’s wider middle nave and two naves to the sides (Kiselev 1965: 130 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 Fig. 6 Map of the palace of Kondui (after Kiselev 1965) Fig. 171; Kradin and Baksheeva 2018: 311 Fig. 9.11). The to Rubruck’s description. Rashīd al-Dīn also mentions the hall that had been supported by these column bases alone must construction of the palace area carried out by Chinese crafts- have been of impressive size, notwithstanding outer architec- men: “Each side was an arrow shot in length, and in the mid- tural components as can be discerned on the published map. dle was raised a pavilion of great height. The buildings were Following the extent of the stone bases as depicted by Kiselev, decorated as elaborately as possible and ornamented with the the area of the upstanding structure covered about 24 × 21 m skills of painters and artists.” (Thackston 1998/1999 II: 670). (504 m ). The structural components emit a striking similarity The length probably refers to the side length of the walled asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 131 palace area. The ground plan of the buildings is reminiscent of era underlines the fact that Karakorum kept wide-reaching a Christian cross, which gives further weight to this impres- administrative function (Pohl 2005). sion. However, it goes without saying that a similar building A part of the city which is probably identical with the as palace of Karakorum is highly hypothetical. The so-called artisans’ quarter mentioned by Rubruck was excavated from palace building in Avraga, a Mongol-period settlement near 2000 to 2005 (Reichert 2020). Large kilns were erected close the Kherlen River, is much smaller and differs completely in to the Buddhist temple, and further away, in the inundation its layout (see Shiraishi and Tsogtbaatar 2009:553–556). If area of the Orkhon, a whole line of kilns was excavated monumentality and size are related to meaning, it is evident (Hüttel 2012a; Franken 2005). While these kilns presumably that the palace area, and that also means the ruler, is placed at produced building materials intended for use in Karakorum number one and the Buddhist temple is at second place. itself, the impact of craft production in the middle of the city Until now, no burials of the ruling elite have been identi- extends probably beyond the constraints of the city: Apart fied in the Orkhon valley. Going back to an anecdote told by from the manufacture of items for elite consumption, bone Rashīdal-Dīn about how Chinggis Khan chose his own buri- cutting and services like mending of vessels might have al place, it is assumed that the burials of the khans took place served a larger hinterland of Karakorum (Reichert 2020). in the three-river region of Kherlen, Onon, and Tuul in the The data concerning markets at Karakorum remain heartland of the Mongol tribe (Thackston 1998/1999:261;de unsatisfying: Rubruck describes different markets at all four Rachewiltz 2004/SHM §179, 102; Yuan shi: 1, 11; but see main gates, each specializing in a certain commodity. “At the Boyle 1970). The self-chosen place of burial around the east gate are sold millet and other kinds of grain, though they mountain Burkhan Khaldun was even declared under are seldom imported; at the western, sheep and goats are on UNCESO World Heritage Protection (https://whc.unesco. sale; at the southern, cattle and wagons; and at the northern, org/en/list/1440). In this way the different ideological horses” (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: 221). Furthermore, he position of Karakorum in comparison to the Kherlen region mentions “a bazaar and fair” within the so-called Saracen is expressed. According to Christopher Atwood (2015), quarter, which might have functioned as shops (Rubruck and varying ideological and legitimatory preferences found their Jackson 1990: 211). Rashīdal-Dīn cursorily mentions a mar- expression in the choice of residences of the respective ket and storehouses at Karakorum (Thackston 1998/1999 I: khans. Literary accounts suggest a varied burial practice ac- 955; see also Allsen 2019: 44). None of these activities, which cording to social rank, in which the burial grounds of the must have left some material remains, have been identified so highest social members were kept secret and did not display far in the archaeological record. Neither can they be observed any major above ground markers (Boyle 1974b; see also by outer appearance alone on the city map. Though the exis- Allsen 1996). The most elaborate burials known so far are tence of markets is reliably witnessed, we do not know who those from Tavan Tolgoĭ, Sukhbaatar aimag. One even had access to them. Did they only serve the population of contained a seal, another one a folding chair (Turbat and Karakorum proper or a larger audience? In analogy to craft Batsukh 2015;Törbat 2015). production, one can presume a wider circle of customers Smith does not provide a clear idea of what he meant by his enjoying the offered wares, although we do not yet have the attribute of civic architecture (Smith 2016). As its social im- data to support this claim. According to the written sources, a pact and reach, ranging from intra-site to wider region or hin- clear distinction can be made between a local trade at the terland, need to be evaluated, we assume it to mean commu- gates, with local products, and a long-distance trade with its nally used buildings such as assembly halls or other adminis- products in the Muslim neighborhood. This observation might trative buildings. Archaeological works did not reveal any reflect a different clientele and participation and perhaps also structures that might be attributed to any such function. efforts to keep the nomads and their animals out of the walled According to Rubruck, the Great Khan’s separated palace part of the city. compound comprised storage buildings which were also men- Another attribute not clearly listed by Smith is the function of tioned by Rashīd al-Dīn. Nobles within a distance of two- the city as a military base. After the establishment of the prov- months-journey gathered here when the khan resided at ince Lingbei with Karakorum as its administrative center, the Karakorum to receive gifts (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: city became the station of a military garrison with accompany- 209). Ögödei encouraged them to build residences nearby ing storehouses for provisions (Lech 1968: 112; Dardess 1972/ his palace at Karakorum as is told by Rashīdal-Dīn 73). The military garrison is mentioned several times in the (Thackston 1998/1999 I: 670–671). Although we lack physi- Yuan shi since 1283 (Yuan shi: chapter 58; Cleaves 1952: 26). cal remains, we can still assume a far-reaching impact of Karakorum during its time as capital. Court secretaries like- 3.3 Built environment wise had palaces separated from the Muslim and Chinese communities of Karakorum (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: A city wall with gates is mentioned in the written sources – 221). The find of an administrative seal from the post-Yuan erected on behalf of Ögödei in 1235 – and was partly 132 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 excavated (Kiselev 1965). Because of its relatively small effortsonthe eastern maingate asthe gatewaytoChina height and built, the defensive function of the outer wall had (Kiselev and Merpert 1965:174–175). Unfortunately, the been rightfully questioned (Kiselev and Merpert 1965:173; publication of his results posthumously does not allow for Dardess 1972/73: 118). The construction of the wall of a clear picture of the gate (Kiselev and Merpert 1965: rammed earth layers (hang tu夯土) but without brick cladding Fig. 100). could be exemplified by recent excavations of a Mongolian- Connective infrastructure within the city is dominated by a Israeli-German team in the northern extremity of the city (see central intersection of two streets running N–Sand E–Wand Fig. 7). A radiocarbon date from charcoal that was uncovered leading towards the four main gates. These large main roads outside the actual wall and which probably stemmed from a divide the city into four quarters, lead beyond the city limits, wooden parapet yields a time frame of 1291 to 1401 cal AD create a connection to the hinterland, connect to the important (95.4%, calibrated with OxCal v. 4.2.3 and IntCal13; Bronk overland routes, and cut deeply into the landscape. The small- Ramsey 2013; Reimer et al. 2013; laboratory number: er inner-city traffic routes, the construction of which was prob- COL2896.1.1). Walls with brick cladding are commonly ably less complex, are a visual contrast. The roughly north– found in contemporary Chinese cities, and apart from aesthet- south running main road, which was carefully paved during ic considerations, they provided protection from erosion as one of the first settlement phases, was revealed during exca- well as defensive functions (Turnbull 2009). The outer wall vations within the middle of the city (Pohl 2010). Stone plates of Karakorum might thus be more of a demarcation line, os- of slate were carefully placed on the levelled ground and sep- tentatiously showing the extent of the Great Khan’sposses- arated by wooden beams into rectangular fields of roughly 3 × sion and controlling access to the city proper. After all, 2.8 m on average, thus forming a 5.6 m wide street (see Karakorum is still the only Mongol period city in Mongolia Fig. 8). The beams probably functioned as a buffer for the with an extended outer wall. The wall units at Avraga are so considerable variations in temperature. At some point during inconspicuous that they are barely discernible on site the use phase of this street, ditches lined with wood were (Shiraishi 2002; Tsogtbaatar et al. 2017). Walls also structure constructed alongside the pavement. The paved street, how- the inner city area of Karakorum, including specific building ever, served for only about one generation, after which new complexes, which are separated, and larger neighborhoods. street surfaces were placed on top of the old road by using The palace area was surrounded by a mighty rampart veneered settlement refuse, as is discernible by massive animal bone with fired bricks – 8 m thick and much wider than the current waste within the street levels topped by gravel as new road rampart of the Erdene Zuu monastery (Hüttel 2009:546–547). surface. From about the turn of the thirteenth to fourteenth The same can be observed in the city of Khar Khul Khaany: century until the latest clearly established settlement phase The residence of the ruler is protected by impressive walls and after the demise of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in 1368, this procedure had been repeated at least four times, now and then access to it is regulated by four gates (Moriyasu and Ochir 1999: Pl. 19a). in connection with maintenance works on the accompanying Access to the city area of Karakorum proper was like- ditches. These endeavors speak for a continued interest and wise channeled through four gates, as mentioned by investment in the infrastructure, even though at a lower rate Rubruck (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: 221). Old map- than during the earliest street construction. Further connective pings of the ruins at Karakorum show several openings infrastructure is observable on the city map, which shows within the wall to which streets lead (Kato 1997). Thus, several linear structures, most likely streets. Recent geomag- we reckon with a multitude of gates and apertures of netic measurements demonstrate the continuation of roads varying sizes and construction on top of the mere four outside the city, extending from the eastern main gate to the gates mentioned by Rubruck. Kiselev concentrated his southeast, northeast, northwest, and west (Fig. 2). Whether Fig. 7 Section through the northern part of the outer city wall of Karakorum. The section is located nearby the assumed northern main gate to the northwest, taken in 2014 (photo © Bonn University, used with permission) asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 133 Fig. 8 Excavation photograph of the exposed main street in the city center of Karakorum, taken in 2003 (photo © Bonn University, used with permission) these traces are the result of heavy use of the same path or are A Persian inscription on a stele erected in 1342 draws our an actual built road needs to be verified by targeted attention to a Sufi assembly: “… akhānqāh for followers of excavation. the way of Sufi …” (Isogai and Yajima 2013b). Another As of yet, there are no indications for the existence of water Persian inscription stone mentions for 1332 “…a waqf [en- management, as clear remains of wells, water pipes, or other dowment under Islamic law] of three houses for the benefit of conduits are missing. The only measure taken with regard to the masjid [mosque] …” (Isogai and Yajima 2013a). In addi- water management are the ditches observed alongside the tion, inscriptions name a shrine for the Three Sovereigns – road, which captured and allowed for the movement of super- mythological rulers in ancient northern China – aConfucius fluous surface water. A track that is discernible on the topo- Shrine, and a San ling hou miao三靈侯廟 shrine (Matsuda and graphic map leads from the western main gate to a meander of Ochir 2013). The written sources thus paint a vivid picture of a the Orkhon River; probably the place to fetch fresh water multitude of different persuasions and belief systems all with (Fig. 2). It is not known whether the Orkhon was also used their own assembly places or places of worship at Karakorum. for transport purposes, e.g., to bring building materials from As already mentioned, Ögödei encouraged the Mongol no- the quarries in the upper part of the valley to the city center. bility to construct houses near his residence (Rashīdal-Dīn Rubruck mentioned twelve heathen temples, two mosques, and Boyle 1971:61–62). None of the excavated areas have and one church (Rubruck and Jackson 1990:221). Theexca- yet yielded sufficient evidence for an elite attribution to any of vator Hans-Georg Hüttel thinks that a building in the northeast these structures. Maybe we need to search the residences in sector of the city was erected for religious services (Hüttel the compounds dispersed outside the main body of 2012b). Judging by its comparative size to the aforementioned Karakorum, which were already partially mapped by Buddhist temple, this complex would presumably belong to Radloff (1892: pl. 36). intermediate-order temples. The interpretation as a possible The political center of the whole city and its surroundings Nestorian church, later remodeled as Buddhist temple, sug- was probably the court of the Khan, but we do not know if there gested by the excavator (Hüttel 2012b), cannot be verified, as was a formal public place within Karakorum. The city map full publication of these excavations is still awaited. shows seemingly empty spaces within the northern parts of Rubruck’s description has proved rather reliable so far, so the walled area, the purpose of which remains open to specu- we can therefore assume that there was a variety of minor lation. The written accounts, however, stay conspicuously si- religious places of congregation in Karakorum. Until now, lent on this point. Some scholars assume that yurts (Mongolian however, we were unable to identify any other complexes ger) stood within these areas without permanent building con- with any certainty. There are, for example, no other buildings structions. As of yet, there has been no evidence brought for- with a deviant layout such as that of the large Buddhist temple. ward to support this claim. On the contrary, written sources do Inscriptions from the first half of the fourteenth century not even mention pastoralists as inhabitants of the city. (Matsuda and Ochir 2013), however, witness several religious In the case of Karakorum, we have strong reasons to as- institutions and serve to corroborate Rubruck’sobservations. sume that Karakorum had been planned from the beginning as 134 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 epicenter: the site was founded as the capital of the Mongol Mongolian steppe. The same is true for Avraga, which has been empire, and in answer to differing opinions, we do not have studied much more intensively. The nearest funerary com- any data that would suggest a prior settlement on the location plexes typical of the time lie at adistanceofmorethan 25km or evidence for an independent development from the bottom (Shiraishi and Tsogtbaatar 2013:7). up. Pottery from beneath Erdene Zuu and from surface collec- With the site of Okoshki, it is alone Khirkhira, in Siberia, tions north and west of Erdene Zuu indicates the existence of a for which our Russian colleagues successfully identified a Uyghur period settlement in this area (Shiraishi 2011). Our small necropolis of a high-ranking community nearby and most recent survey’s surface finds of typical pottery in the contemporary with the settlement (see Fig. 9; Kharinskiĭ southern direct vicinity of the monastery corroborate a strong et al. 2014; Kharinskiĭ et al. 2019). A second but different presence during the Turko-Uyghur period in that area. example for a cemetery close by a settlement also should be Considering the high density of sites of this time in the mentioned. Pėrlėė (1961:92–93) excavated in 1950/51 a Orkhon valley, this discovery is not surprising. Karakorum small site with permanent houses at Takhilt Us, west of did not grow from a previous settlement but was constructed Baga Gazryn Chuluu, Dundgov aimag, and identified a cem- on the behest of the Mongol Khans as depicted above. As to etery nearby, where, in his opinion, Chinese were buried. Two the question of axial principles related to a cosmological pro- Islamic cemeteries in the surroundings of Karakorum pose a gram (Renfrew 2008: 47), there has been a vivid debate on unique characteristic in the eastern Eurasian steppe. A large possible models for the layout of Karakorum. One faction area densely set with funerary buildings beyond the northern favors Chinese ideal cities as models (Shatzman Steinhardt city wall is considered to be a cemetery for members of this 1990; Pohl 2009: 530); others propose Central Asian precur- religion based on the small excavation from 1978 to 1980 sors (Becker 2012). These suggestions are not entirely con- (Bayar and Voitov 2010). The Muslim cemetery extends over vincing as none fit Karakorum’s layout and appearance. an area of around 24 ha. Considering that 37 graves had al- Karakorum rather evinces the impression of a true pastoralist ready been discovered in the small area of maximum 1600 m , cosmological program in the broadest sense possible: with the about 6600 buried persons could be expected north of the city Khan’s palace supposedly in the south and the city area wall. About 8.5 km northeast of the city lies a second, rather stretching to the north, the overall pattern resembles the tradi- smaller cemetery, which likewise is said to contain burials of tional spatial orientation of the Mongolian yurt or rather ger Muslims; the results of the excavations, however, have not yet (Wasilewski 1976). This specific Mongol worldview might been published. explain at the same time why there are barely any traces dis- The social diversity of the inhabitants is vividly described cernible in the area south of the presumed palace area. Other in several sources; the same is true for ethnic neighborhoods. habitation sites repeat this general outlay, as for example, Rubruck’stwo “vici,” commonly translated as “quarters,” of Khar Khul Khaany Balgas in the Khanui valley (see Fig. 5) Chinese artisans as one group and Muslim merchants as the and less pronounced, Kondui (Kradin and Baksheeva 2018: other, might be understood in the sense of neighborhoods 304 Fig. 9.8). While this finding speaks for Mongolian partic- (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: 212). Many of the artisans were ipation in the planning of the city, it is unclear how far this prisoners of war or captives with different origins and statuses, participation went and by whom. Some passages in the written like the famous goldsmith, William Boucher (Rubruck and sources suggest at least a certain personal interest of the su- Jackson 1990:183; Guzman 2010), and many of the inhabi- preme rulers, such as those concerning the construction of the tants of the city did not come voluntarily (Allsen 2015). We wall around Karakorum on the Grand Khan’sorder. At the reckon, thus, that Karakorum maintained a highly varied per- same time, most architectural styles and techniques identified manent population, concerning professions (see Reichert in Karakorum closely resemble Chinese patterns. 2020), religious affiliations, and ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, envoys and traders as well as soldiers enriched 3.4 Social and economic function the makeup of the population. If we take the size of the com- pounds as an indicator of the rank of the owner, there must If one considers that large scale cemeteries are unknown (cf. have been significant differences. Standardized building Erdenebat 2009) but that it was still a privilege to be buried in forms or floor plans cluster in different areas and along the marked graves, the excavated burials around Karakorum main streets, which could indicate a social and/or occupational (Bayar and Voitov 2010) likely belong to a lower elite stra- differentiation of the neighborhoods. tum. As of yet, the social stratification of Mongol society With regard to possible farming activities, from the archae- based on the material remains of funerary assemblages is a ological side, Helmut Roth suggested the existence of irriga- research lacuna that hinders a reliant evaluation of this ques- tion systems, “celtic fields” (Roth 2002:32–33, pl. 2). These tion. Burial places that can be attributed to the city’s inhabitants traces, which are visible on the city map, are younger than the remain unknown in the surroundings of Khar Khul Khaany city and belong probably to the monastery (Honeychurch and Balgas, the next largest city compared to Karakorum in the Amartu̇vshin 2007: 42). Botanical analyses and pollen asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 135 found in the craftsmen quarter of Karakorum stems from kilns of northern China, followed by wares such as the famous blue- and-white porcelain from southern China of varying qualities (Sklebitz 2018: 208). With mostly bowls of varying sizes and other tableware identified, only a few items such as miniature vessels hint at religious activities within these houses used for living and working (Sklebitz 2018: 211–213). The overall amount of glazed wares highly speaks for the assumption that Karakorum’s population had easy access to these goods, some of them brought there over wide distances of more than 2000 km as the crow flies. Furthermore, the import of goods can be discerned on the level of botanical macro remains an- alyzed by Manfred Rösch and his group (Rösch et al. 2010). They could prove that several foreign species must have been brought to Mongolia, with likely origins in Central Asia and China. Especially the distribution of Chinese porcelain wares in the hinterland of Karakorum, proven by surveys in the Orkhon valley, hints to the pervasiveness of imports beyond city limits. Fig. 9 Map of Khirkhira (3) also showing the locations of Alestuĭ (1) and Okoshki (2) (graphic by Tobias Pfaff, Bonn) 4 Karakorum and its hinterland indicate the existence of agriculture in the vicinity of A city stands in a multifaceted network of relationships with Karakorum during the empire period (Lehmkuhl et al. 2011; its immediate and wider surroundings. “The importance of Rösch et al. 2010). Finds of plowshares and molding boards long-distance trade for the emergence and development of within the middle of Karakorum (Kiselev 1965; Reichert cities means that we cannot study the city just in relationship 2020) at least point to the fact that the inhabitants had the to its immediate hinterland. The long-distance trading net- required tools to undertake agricultural works. Of course, we works are much larger and much more important for urbani- cannot know who the actual people doing the job were. The zation than often believed, and Central Place Theory cannot Yuan shi reports the establishment of an agricultural colony do justice to this aspect of urbanism” (Hansen 2008:74–75). for the first time in 1283, which had been abandoned and First, the city needs workers from its surroundings, second it reestablished between this time and 1323 on several occasions needs raw materials that are processed and negotiated in the (Farquhar 1990: 397). To sum up, we can surely state that city, and third, it needs food for the daily needs of the inhab- people carried out cultivation of crops nearby Karakorum of itants. At the same time, the surrounding countryside is the however restricted scale and under much climatic duress ideal location for buyers of goods produced and traded in the (Boyle 1958:226–227). And concerning “farming,” one city. Numerous studies have shown that there is no clear sep- should not leave the Orkhon unmentioned, as it delivered a aration between the city and its environs and that in several great variety of fishes, and the same is true for Ögiĭ Nuur some ancient cultures the city and its environs are not linguistically 60 km to the north of the city. separated, but are described by one and the same term (Marcus There is abundant evidence for imported goods and long- and Sabloff 2008a:22–23). Furthermore, there is no sharp distance trade. We already mentioned merchants who lived in limitation of the hinterland, its extent also depends on time- Karakorum according to literary sources. Archaeological specific functions and interactions. work corroborates this picture. Not only were manufactured We are dependent on written sources for the information on ceramics imported from China (Sklebitz 2018) but so were the origin of the labor force. According to this information, several raw materials for secondary craft processes within people from Han China and the regions south of the Gobi, the workshops of Karakorum (Reichert 2020). With a concen- who also used the building techniques they were familiar with, tration on blacksmith operations in these workshops during such as rammed earth walls and ramparts, kang 炕 systems, the early stages of the settlement activities, Karakorum is a fired roof tiles, etc., helped to erect the various buildings. After likely provider for military equipment. It served as station for the Xi Xia 西夏 (1038–1226) and Jin 金 (1115–1234) dynas- the imperial guards and later housed the military colony of the ties had disappeared from the political map and afterwards the province Lingbei (Barkmann 2002: 16 f.). With a proportion Song 宋 Dynasty area was conquered step by step by the of more than 70%, the majority of the imported glazed wares Mongol army, the huge resources of China were available 136 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 for the Mongol center of power. An inscription from a granite already washed from the Mongolian rivers at the time of the quarry in the upper Orkhon valley, which mentions the origin first steppe empire of the Xiongnu (Polosmak et al. 2019). of workers from today’s Hohot, enriches the picture from the This tradition is likely to have continued into the Mongol written sources with a remarkable detail (Bemmann et al. period, even though scientific analyses are still pending as 2011): specialists in agriculture were also sent from China to final proof. Other raw materials necessary for specialized Karakorum. Numerous other workers, especially artisans, crafts may have come to Karakorum from distant regions, came from Central Asia, the Black Sea region, or Eastern such as mercury or gemstones (see Reichert 2020;also Europe as prisoners of war to Karakorum, where they carried Allsen 2019: 41). At the same time, local raw materials such out commissioned work for the court or the elites (Allsen as birch bark, bones, leather, furs, and wool were used. 1997, 2002). The people entrusted with the administration of Just as for raw materials, a local frame of reference is the city and the affairs of government, as well as specialists in emerging for the supply of food and livestock on the one hand, science and religion, also usually came from the conquered as well as an astonishingly wide one on the other. Animals regions, attracted by the new possibilities (de Rachewiltz et al. were offered for sale at the city gates, as were cereals. For the 1993). So far, there is no evidence that pastoral nomads were animals, however, we do not yet know from which area they settled in Karakorum or that the local population was integrat- were delivered, and isotope analyses should provide a remedy ed into the economic system of the city beyond the supply of in the coming years. The cereals, however, seem to have been animals. in short supply and had to be imported on a large scale, despite The raw materials required for building and road con- repeated local cultivation attempts. Rashīd al-Dīn reported struction come from the surrounding area of the city. Roof that already starting under Ögödei, every day 500 wagons – tiles, bricks, floor tiles, and building decorations were fired each towed by six oxen – loaded with food and drinks arrived on site, including Buddhist art and devotional objects in the city (Thackston 1998/1999:235; Di Cosmo 2014/15: (Hüttel 2012a;Pohlet al. 2012). The granite used for the 73). Khubilai Khan successfully used the evident dependence column bases and millstones comes from quarries in the on Chinese grain imports as a means of political pressure in upper Orkhon valley. Slate, which was used to cover the his disputes with Arigh Böke. After no more supply routes kang systems and as road surface in the form of slabs, is reached Karakorum, the latter had to clear Karakorum and also found in several places in the upper Orkhon valley abandon it. It is unclear when the transports were resumed. and also directly south of Karakorum in the mountains. Did this happen only after the disappearance of the anti-Yuan- Due to the low demand, the quarries were certainly used Steppe coalition or already in the time of its decline? The news on a seasonal and occasional basis, i.e., workers from the recorded in the Yuan shi gives the impression that in the four- city went to the surrounding countryside and obtained the teenth century, grain supply was primarily oriented towards necessary materials. Siberian larch, the locally dominant the needs of the garrison troop, whose soldiers were recruited tree species, also served as a building material and is so far not from the steppe but from China and Korea (Dardess 1972/ the only proven fuel (Pohl et al. 2017: 240–244);fossilfuels 73:154–159). Even in favorable years, the military colony’s were apparently used neither for firing the heating systems crop yield was not sufficient to cover its annual requirements. nor the ceramic kilns. Charcoal piles, the relics of which This was due not only to the fact that alcohol was distilled would have to be present in large numbers in the surround- from grain, which was mentioned several times in the Yuan ing area, have not yet been discovered. shi and which was made a punishable offence, but also to the On the one hand, probably all the grey ware produced by difficult growing conditions and the natural conditions. An pottery wheel was manufactured locally. A Mantou-type kiln inscription from 1331 mentions the cultivation of grain being for firing grey pottery located directly north of the Buddhist threatened by severe drought (Muraoka 2013:59). In an emer- temple within the city area was excavated as early as 2002 gency, the grain reserves kept in storehouses were also used to without any further details being known (Franken 2005:148). supply the population: An inscription from 1337 proves that On the other hand, the majority of the glazed goods and por- grain from the military stores was sold to the starving and celain came to the city as finished products, mainly from pro- freezing population (Ushine 2013). In 1308 an enormous duction centers south of the Gobi (Sklebitz 2018). Despite the number of 868,000 refugee households were being issued wasteful use of iron in Karakorum’s artisan quarter (Reichert grain at Karakorum and 2,000,000 ingots cash for cloth and 2020), it has not yet been possible to prove the exploitation of grain were to be provided (Dardess 1972/73:157). local ore deposits or the smelting of ore. This is all the more Karakorum is not alone in its dependency on food im- astonishing as smelting furnaces from the Xiongnu period ports, and at this point we shall only remind you of grain have been excavated in the Orkhon valley (Pohl et al. 2012; supplies from North Africa to feed Rome or the transport of Sasada and Amartuvshin 2014). Cast iron products may all grain to the newly founded Roman city of Xanten on the originate from China; Mongolia has so far lacked any evi- Lower Rhine. These two examples are intended to indicate dence of the use of the necessary technology. Gold was that there is no typical nomadic deficit here, but that this is a asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 137 problem of high population numbers or a difficulty with a Karakorum was connected to the major overland routes via poorly developed or economically self-sufficient settlement the yam communication system and thus connected to and environment that is unable to produce the required surplus. beyond the borders of the empire. This network of way- Aware of this deficit, the Mongols founded Chinqai early on stations was not only used for the transmission of news but as an agricultural colony and production site and military was also used by embassies and merchants. The costs of trans- farmers were settled in various locations (Buell 1993; port were at least up to a certain degree overrode by heavy Shiraishi et al. 2009; Bretschneider 1967:59–60). Most political inducements. Khans are reported to have paid over- scholars locate Chinqai close to the Mongolian Altai, but market prices and actively supported merchant bonds finan- convincing archaeological evidence is still missing. Several cially to attract trade to Karakorum (see Favereau 2018). By towns south of the Gobi had granaries (Fig. 10), the stocks 1260, tax and booty had reached the treasure houses of of which could be transported to Karakorum if necessary Karakorum along these supply arteries and contributed signif- (Dardess 1972/73). Since Ögödei, a systematically devel- icantly to the prosperity of the city and its attractiveness for oped route with 37 relay stations has been used for this merchants. This steady and strong influx of people, goods, purpose (Dardess 1972/73:124;Thackston 1998/1999: and treasures may have stunted after the relocation of the 324). capital to today’s Beijing. Karakorum then became an outpost, In what kind of network is such an artificially built city like an island far away in the steppes and was fed and highly Karakorum integrated, which did not grow organically out of subsidized by the imperial center in northern China to keep the region and is also located in a previously city-less econom- the steppe region under control and because of its high sym- ic region, where there was no need for a city? As with the bolic value. It was a tribute to the birthplace of the dynasty supply with food, Karakorum again was placed within differ- (Cleaves 1952: 31). One would expect that post-1268, elites, ently scaled communication networks. On the one hand, the merchants, and artisans moved to the new capital, Dadu, and city itself embodies a hub with various overland routes with that with that transformation the financial power and econom- relay stations, while on the other, the city was “only” one stop ic resources of Karakorum crumbled away. However, no sig- on the seasonal change of residences by the moving court. nificant decline in quality goods and handicraft activities can Fig. 10 Map showing supply stations of Karakorum located south of the Yunnei; 11. Dongsheng; 12. Datong; 13. Ningxia (graphic by Tobias Gobi (after Dardess 1972/73): 1. Karakorum; 2. Yingchang; 3. Shangdu; Pfaff, location of sites by Bryan K. Miller, Michigan) 4. Jingzhou; 5. Etzina; 6. Fengzhou; 7. Jining; 8. Xinghe; 9. Pingdi; 10. 138 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 yet be demonstrated by the small-scale excavations in the city China. As it appears so far, none of the other known perma- center (Reichert 2020). The statement that the emperor had nently populated places – Khar Khul Khaany, Avraga, Bars Karakorum enlarged in 1299 (Yuan shi: 20, 426) also does Khot, Khirkhira, Kondui – is integrated into such a network of not fit into the picture of a city in decline. seasonally-used residences. In addition, the city was integrated through the itinerant movements of the “horde” mobile court into a network of residences which, depending on the preferences of the respec- 5 Karakorum and steppe urbanism – A tive ruler, may have had different stations and may have re- conclusion sulted in the rise and fall of individual sites as a result of the inflow or outflow of labor and specialists. The first Mongol In order to give greater context to Karakorum, we ask how rulers only stayed temporarily in Karakorum and then trav- typical are the construction, planning, and use of the city as elled on to the next residence. This was apparently merely the compared to other documented examples of urban places on case during the existence of the “Yeke Mongol Ulus” from the Mongolian Plateau. An almost universal characteristic is the 1206 to 1260. The various residences were mainly located by establishment of cities on an open verdant site separate from Boyle and the statements were refined from an archaeological previous settlements. As far as can be assessed from other in- point of view by Shiraishi (Boyle 1974a; Shiraishi 2004). vestigations, this applies to all large cities, residences, and per- Through the evaluation of aerial photographs and detailed manent settlements of the Mongols and apparently also to cities surveys, further contemporary sites with permanent architec- of the Uyghur. Only for the Khitan has it been proven several ture have been added in recent years that can be dated back to times that they repaired and extended places erected by the the Mongol Empire period on the basis of surface finds. Uyghurs, as in Chin Tolgoĭ, Khermen Denzh, and Chilen However, their function is largely unclear (Fig. 11). It is strik- Balgas. However, the Khitan came from northeast China as ing that so far all facilities have a different layout, and so it is invaders to the Mongolian steppe and therefore pursued a dif- not possible to deduce specific functions. At best, their signif- ferent strategy for establishing permanent centers. This means icance can be inferred from the find material, such as glazed that when steppe regimes founded a city, they purposefully roof tiles covering the more important buildings. One of the broke away from the specific spots of cities belonging to pre- sites, Zhargalantyn ShiliĭnBalgas (Tsambagaravet al. 2017), vious empires, even if the city was founded within the same was possibly a station on the important southeastern route to greater valley of previous establishments. This was done in order to herald the establishment of a completely new empire. Another characteristic, which has already been implicitly stated but which is worth underlining, is that all these urban places or fixed settlements quickly declined after the overarching politi- cal system vanished. They did not survive independently. Urbanism was not sustainably carried on by the remaining in- habitants or new arrivals. Karakorum fits into this picture of city foundations without urbanization, in the meaning that the pop- ulation moves from the steppes to the urban area. These observations lead us to our initial questions of whether we can discern different trajectories in urbanization within pastoral and sedentary societies, or if there even is urbanization as such. Regarding the latter question, we argue that there is no transformation of a society from a steppe to an urban one. This transient nature of urban sites is not even particular to pastoralist societies. Larger settlements of the Iron Age in Western Europe, attributed urban status by some scholars, show similar developments within sedentary, agrarian-based societies. As to whether we can discern differ- ent trajectories in urbanization, we must change the question, since we can no longer compare urbanization but only urban- ism. To answer, we would need to identify specific “steppe” Fig. 11 Locations of residences and settlements with fixed buildings of characteristics of urbanism. Concerning Karakorum, a discus- the Mongol empire period in the Orkhon valley: 1. MOR-82; 2. Doityn sion employing the list of attributes compiled by Smith would Balgas; 3. Bayan gol, 4. OOR-100 (?); 5. Baga Nariĭn Am; 6. Zachyn not allow for a strict differentiation in structural traits between Bulag (?); 7. Zhargalantyn Shiliĭn Balgas; 8. OOR-60 (graphic by Tobias the city in the steppe and other urban sites within sedentary Pfaff, Bonn) asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 139 Archaeology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and the National societies. This observation is not particularly surprising since Museum at Ulaanbaatar, with some of whom we have been working since the discussion also showed that skilled specialists from urban- 1999. This study profited from many fruitful discussions with and hints ized, sedentary areas were specifically brought to Karakorum by Bryan K. Miller and Ernst Pohl. Ishayahu Landa provided Chinese to erect the city and the appeal for the rulers to establish a city citations and helpful comments with regard to historical intricacies. We thank our two anonymous reviewers for their productive remarks. was informed by existing locales. What, then, makes Karakorum special? The investment in Compliance with ethical standards large ritual and political buildings, such as the “Pavilion of the Rising Yuan” and the magnificent palace area, as well as the Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of multitude of inscribed stone stelae, which all date from the first interest. half of the fourteenth century (Matsuda and Ochir 2013), occur Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons onlyatKarakorum.Inaddition tohavingstructuresthatare Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adap- particular only to this capital city, the built environments of tation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as Karakorum combine architectural elements from different cul- you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, pro- tural traditions, elevate them to a far greater size than equivalent vide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included structures elsewhere, and exhibit a far greater thickness of set- in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a tlement layers and refuse material – all of which make credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Karakorum stand out among permanent settlements of the same Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by time such that even without written documents one would as- statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this sume the capital of the Mongols to be here. licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The analysis of the environs shows impressively that the usual criteria and dimensions for a city–hinterland relationship have been set aside. The city of Karakorum lived beyond its means. 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Karakorum, the first capital of the Mongol world empire: an imperial city in a non-urban society

Asian Archaeology , Volume 4 (2) – Dec 8, 2020

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Abstract

Cities within a steppe environment and in societies based on pastoral nomadism are an often overlooked theme in the anthro- pological literature. Yet, with Karakorum, the first capital of the Mongol Empire (AD 1206–1368), we have a supreme example of such a city in the central landscape of the Orkhon valley in Mongolia. In this paper, we ask, what is the city in the steppes? Taking Karakorum as our starting point and case of reference and to attain a better comprehension of the characteristics of urbanism in the steppe, we apply a list of urban attributes compiled by Michael E. Smith (2016) to provide a thick description of Karakorum. The discussion not only comprises comparisons to other contemporary sites in Russia and Mongolia, but also addresses in detail the question of city–hinterland relations as a fundamental necessity for the survival of the city in an anti- urban environment. The analysis shows that during the Mongol period we can identify urbanism but no urbanization: there is no process of independent, natural growth of cities carried out by the population, but cities are “political” in the sense that they are deeply intertwined with the authority and have therefore much to tell about the relation between power and authority on the one hand and the ruled on the other. . . . . Keywords Mongol empire Urbanism Imperial city Urban planning Nomads 1 Introduction (2018) on urban sites in Mongolia, Transbaikalia, and the Russian Far East. The Eurasian Society and the University “The concept of ‘city’ is notoriously hard to define” (Childe of Bern in 2016 hosted a conference on “Urban Culture in 1950: 3). This initial statement by V. Gordon Childe in his Central Asia.” The proceedings of this conference, however, seminal paper on the so-called Urban Revolution is all the include only lectures about the former Soviet republics in more true if we look at urban settings within the steppe envi- Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Qara Khanids ronment of eastern Asia. Comparative archaeological debates (Baumer and Novák 2019). of urban settings (Cowgill 2004;Smith 2011) and handbooks There may be two explanations for this shortcoming. First, on early cities (Marcus and Sabloff 2008b;Clark 2013; many scholars focus on the so-called ancient civilizations, Yoffee 2015) more or less neglect the constructed centers of which is an unsuitable term as it perpetuates the dichotomy nomadic empires in the Eurasian Steppes. As far as we know between civilized and barbarians. Cities are, in the opinion of there is no book, no special volume of a journal, no conference many scholars, strongly connected with the rise of early states. proceeding that focuses on urban sites in the Eastern Eurasian In his recent book, Killing Civilization, Justin Jennings not steppes. There are only a monograph with collected studies by only explains why we should refrain from using this term Kyzlasov (2006) on permanent settlements and urban sites but also why the two concepts of emerging statehood and mainly in Tuva, a book by Tkachev (2009) on the history of urbanism need to be disentangled (Jennings 2016). A second Mongolian architecture, and an edited volume by Kradin reason lies within geopolitics of the twentieth century. The Eurasian steppe zone, which includes the former Soviet Union and its satellite states as well as parts of China, was * Jan Bemmann jan.bemmann@uni-bonn.de inaccessible for researchers from Western industrial states for most part of the twentieth century. The inaccessibility of the literature from these regions and Department of Pre- and Early Historical Archaeology, Bonn University, Brühler Straße 7, 53119 Bonn, Germany the inability to perform field research led the scholarly 122 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 community to miss out on valuable comparative case studies. existence of large, fixed settlements with a wide variety of One in particular, concerning the steppes of present-day functions and social groups in a qualitative difference to the Mongolia, offers a remarkable diversity of settlement types hinterland (with urban denoting this difference), while urban- over time, and most of them were never reoccupied after their ization means the process of dispersing this way of life decline. There are residences, fortresses, large urban sites, through society in a longer perspective, and sustainable linear fortification walls, walled enclosures, monasteries, and growth and endurance of these cities irrespective of political, permanent settlements with pit houses. Many of them were ecological, social, or other upheavals. Do the particular eco- already discovered at the end of the nineteenth century nomic configurations of our working area command a differ- (Radloff 1892), and the Mongolian scholar and founding fa- ent trajectory in urbanization as compared to urbanization in ther of Mongolian archaeology, Kh. Pėrlėė,listed more than sedentary subsistence economies? Faced with the transient 200 in a comprehensive study in 1961. These works, however, nature of Mongolian urbanism, can we talk about urbanization are of an empirical character, and questions concerning the at all or should we rather refrain from using the term? To why and how of urban foundations and the underlying societal elucidate and explore such questions, we feel it first implications are seldom addressed. necessary to develop a better comprehension of the Taking the famous city of Karakorum (Fig. 1), the first characteristics of urbanism in the steppe. Therefore, we capital of the Mongol World Empire, as a starting point, we apply a list of urban attributes compiled by Smith (2016)to ask, what is a city in the steppe? We test whether the theories provide a thick description of Karakorum (sensu Geertz 1973: and definitions developed for cities in sedentary societies, ex- 3–30). This description follows along structural characteris- emplified by Michael E. Smith (2011), are applicable to sites tics. What we do not intend to do is write yet another outline of in pastoral nomadic societies. For the sake of clarity, we need Karakorum’s history based on the few written sources avail- to underline a necessary differentiation: urban, urbanism, and able in translation into western European languages (cf. urbanization are not interchangeable terms but have specific Sagaster 1999; Barkmann 2002; Gießauf 2003;Hüttel semantic meanings (see Gaydarska 2017: 181–182; M. L. 2004). We concentrate on Karakorum because compared to Smith 2003:12–13). Within this paper, urbanism means the other sites in Mongolia, many studies and a variety of source Fig. 1 Mongolia and the Orkhon Valley, inset showing Karakorum marked in red (graphic by Tobias Pfaff, Bonn) asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 123 materials are available, including excavation reports and writ- The ready adaptation in archaeology might be due to the cha- ten sources, survey data, and very precise maps. The only risma evoked by the terms “central place,”“centrality,” and other city with a similarly advanced state of research is Chin “functions of settlement” popularized by Christaller: rather Tolgoĭ, which is, however, of earlier date (Kradin 2011). This than applying the model with its problematic theoretical as- comparatively rich trove allows us to apply several methods sumptions, archaeological studies merely refer to these con- from a variety of disciplines to describe these characteristics, cepts. At the same time, these terms – or rather the application ranging from archaeology, through history, and to urban plan- thereof – often produce rather static glimpses of what must ning. In the following, we will first lay out the theoretical and have been dynamic processes in the past. methodological foundation, after which we analyze Kara- Another critique one can put forward vis-à-vis functional korum. Comparisons to contemporaneous sites contextualize definitions of cities stems from application of functions too Karakorum within the wider characteristics of Mongol period lavishly and imprecisely defined: which functions were iden- urbanism. Ensuing from this discussion, the nature of urban- tified and how was their impact measured beyond the site ism in the Mongolian steppes reveals further insights into itself? A point already raised critically by Smith (2016). This power and authority since the emergence of these cities that practice can lead to the attribution of any built environment as is inherently linked to empire. Karakorum functions thus as a city or town, no matter if they even served as habitation site classic example of the “political city” as opposed to the “eco- (e.g. Rogers 2017). In this case, the definition as a city loses nomic city” as discussed by Smith (2016). While the latter are heuristic meaning and, alongside this, its usefulness to differ- “cities in which growth feeds on itself,” the former’sgrowth is entiate variety in human behavior. mostly dependent on political or ritual impetuses (Smith 2016: But let us return to the question at hand: from the plethora 165). of different approaches to urbanism, a certain unity among scholars emerges on the simple conclusion that there are no universal criteria fitting every case. Instead, we have to choose 2 Theoretical framing: What is the city criteria that fit the question at hand; and we need to set cities in the steppe? and central places into relation to other forms of habitation within the region and period under study. For this reason, To start with, we should ask if Karakorum is a city at all. Does we adopted Michael E. Smith’s list of attributes which incor- it comply with common criteria of urbanism (here in the porates all critical features except for the juridical definition of meaning of being a city)? Since Childe published his trait list cities (Table 1). This last concept of a juridical definition is in 1950 there has been an ongoing debate over which criteria a based on emic perspectives of a legal status, such as a town site needs to fulfill in order to be ranked as a city (cf. Marcus charter or the right to serve a market. One rapidly encounters methodological obstacles in the application of this criterion: and Sabloff 2008a:12–20). Size, area, and high population density were commonly held as deciding factors (Wirth not only do these concepts derive from medieval Europe, but 1938), but theories of “low density urbanism” (Fletcher they are also only evident in written sources, as they are de- 2012) clearly show that there is no such thing as one category fined by distinct laws. of population density for an urban site. Apart from our daily For societal systems that did not operate with such binding experience of cities as compact, nucleated aggregations of institutions, one has to come up with different criteria. Smith people, many modern cities and premodern cities are compar- provides exactly such criteria or attributes based on two prin- atively loosely settled (Fletcher 2012). Such demographic or ciples: first, they were part of earlier theoretical schemes, and sociological criteria are but only one way of defining cities. second, they can be analyzed by means of archaeological data Another angle to this task looks into the functions that (Smith 2016: 158). The first group of attributes deals with city settlements perform. Based on the seminal study by Walter size and demography. Although as explained above, these Christaller (1933), functional criteria gained higher influence attributes are insufficient taken by themselves, size still mat- in historical geography. In this theory, the existence of spe- ters. Taking functions irrespective of settlement size as only cialized functions serves to identify central places, which sup- criteria leads to misleading attribution as shown above. plied critical services for a hinterland with lower ranking Smith’s second group, subsumed under “social impact (urban places. Depending on the quantity and reach of functions of functions),” contains political and economic functions and each site, a hierarchical settlement pattern can be reconstruct- their impact on the hinterland. Administrative (civic architec- ed. Although the theoretical foundations of the model have ture), productive (crafts), and distributive (markets) functions long been refuted in geographical scholarship and Walter are scaled dependent on their impact from low to high. The Christaller’s entanglement with the Third Reich is widely attributes of “built environment” can beeasilydeductedfrom known (e.g. Kegler 2015), this concept found adaptation in cities’ maps. Theyprovideadescription of thecity’sinfra- archaeological studies and is still being widely used structure. Last, “social and economic features” explore the (Gringmuth-Dallmer 1999;Müller 2012;Nakoinz 2012). social makeup of the city’s population (for further 124 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 Table 1 List of attributes of Attributes Type of Variable urbanism, after Michael E. Smith Settlement Size population M area M density M Social Impact (urban functions) royal palace P/A royal or high aristocratic burials P/A large (high-order) temples P/A civic architecture S craft production S market or shops S Built Environment fortifications P/A gates P/A connective infrastructure P/A intermediate-order temples P/A residences, lower elite P/A formal public space P/A planning of epicenter P/A Social & Economic Features burials, lower elite P/A social diversity (nonclass) P/A neighborhoods P/A agriculture within settlement P/A imports S M: quantitative measurement P/A: presense/absence S: measurement scale (1: low, 2: moderate, 3: high) discussion, see Smith 2016). Smith’s list provides a systematic 160). Thus, these 21 attributes or traits need not be ticked off approach that allows for easy transference to any cultural and at the end we will know, Karakorum was a city or not, but complex. we will know how Karakorum was a city. Urbanism is highly The criteria are not bound geographically or temporally varied across time and space; these traits help to understand and thus facilitate transcultural comparisons. Furthermore, as the particular configuration of urbanism in a steppe environ- Smith himself points out, the scheme is open to addition if ment during the Mongol Empire. Consequently, there are no needed for specific environments. While the attributes within clear-cut boundaries, but a high degree of flexibility to erudite the group of “social impact” elucidate the relation to the hin- “the inherent complexity of ancient urbanism” (Smith 2016: terland up to a certain degree from the perspective of the city, 158). Some scholars who see the goal of archaeology in the we feel it necessary to enhance the discussion with regard to production of exact science of empirical, testable data might the hinterland. What kind of sites are located within the vicin- be concerned with this level of fuzziness. This level of fuzz- ity of the site in question and which functions might they have iness, however, can be seen as a chance and unique feature of performed for the city? The establishment of a functioning an archaeology that is nearer to the humanities: we discuss supply is crucial for the survival of a city especially during these sites not with respect to how they differ but how they the early days of its existence. A change of perspective is are similar, in order to identify essential attributes of urbanism needed and the discussion of city–hinterland relations de- in the Mongolian steppes. This endeavor echoes Dorothee serves broader space. We will therefore discuss this aspect Kimmich’s manifest on the concept of similarity in cultural separately. studies from 2017. Thinking in similarities allows for a flex- To make one last point before we dive into the analysis of ible construction of lifeworlds, where the supposed exactness Karakorum: it is not Smith’s aim to provide yet another def- of difference and identification – in our case: is it a city or not inition of the city. His scheme has a different goal: “In the – produces mistakes or inadequate representations of ancient societies. Kimmich finds fault in arbitrarily set lines where realm of cities, instead of asking whether a site was a city, we will learn more by asking which attributes of urbanism were there are none and highlights similarity as “fundamentale present at what level or concentration at a site” (Smith 2016: Erkenntniskategorie und handlungsleitende Orientierung zu asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 125 den wichtigsten ‘tools’ kulturtheoretischer Reflexion” deep history of steppe empires, which invested high political (Kimmich 2017: 12). She traces the concept of thinking in and ideological meaning in this valley, the Great Khans had similarities in philosophical and cultural studies and through ample reason to choose this site as the location for their first this exploration describes what is at the heart of Smith’sap- capital (Allsen 1996;Di Cosmo 2014/15). In the Mongols’ proach of 21 attributes: “Grenzen müssen fließend sein, weil cultural memory of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Kategorien sonst die notwendigen Anpassungsleistungen an Chinggis Khan is named as the founder of the city and 1220 semantische aber eben auch an soziale, kulturelle, historische is given as its founding year (Cleaves 1952; Pelliot 1925). und politische Veränderungen nicht leisten könnten” However, as Klaus Sagaster underlines, a philologically exact (Kimmich 2017: 29). In this way, the openness and vagueness translation of the text shows that Chinggis Khan designated of the approach are rather to be seen as strengths, which is in Karakorum as capital or residence – in his opinion, the accord with the partial nature of archaeological remains. And Chinese word “du 都” can signify both, while the Mongol in answer to the question introducing this paragraph: yes, we version of the inscription indicates a clear preference for res- will refer to Karakorum as a city throughout the text by the idence (Sagaster 2005: 151). Accordingly, Chinggis Khan simple argument that it was the capital of a world empire. In chose a place for a camp, and this decision did not comprise the next sections, we explore what a city in the steppe actually the construction of permanent and locally fixed architecture. means. Construction work began under the second Khan, Ögödei, from 1235 (Abramowski 1976), and the city was presumably occupied into the early decades of the fifteenth century 3 Closing in on Karakorum: The city (Reichert 2019). in the steppe 3.1 Settlement size The 21 traits as compiled by Michael E. Smith (2016) are presented in the following for the case study of Karakorum, Karakorum’s size is not easily determined, as the built lived enhanced by the discussion of hinterland–city relations. The area extends beyond the bounding city wall. The area inside past 20 years has witnessed an intensification of archaeologi- the city wall without Erdene Zuu covers 135 ha. If one in- cal research in and around the site (Bemmann 2014:14–18). cludes the several suburban sites and the buildings along the Many of the attributes addressed below were in some form or road that stretch from the eastern main gate to the southeast, combination the subject of earlier works. While we deem the area extends over about 1300 ha. At the same time, the Karakorum to be the most thoroughly researched fixed settle- density of building constructions and size of plots varies with- ment in Mongolia, our knowledge is – not surprisingly within in as well as outside of the outer city wall immensely (Fig. 2). the field of archaeology – imperfect. Especially the critique of Furthermore, certain environmental constraints need to be stasis as put forward with regard to Christaller’s theory of mentioned: the growth of the city was naturally bounded to central places, we, too, cannot escape, since we take Kara- the west by the inundation area of the Orkhon River. korum in its latest appearance as representative for its com- Concerning the demography of Karakorum, the number plete time of use. The same is true for all other sites discussed of inhabitants is not exactly mentioned in the sources. within this text. In most cases, we cannot even clearly identify Because of William of Rubruck’s comparison of the times of foundation, use, and abandoning of the sites due Karakorum to Saint Denis we can calculate the number to a lack of precise and detailed chronological systems and of inhabitants to roughly 7000 to 12,000 people for the having to work with insufficient excavation data. In the face of year of the monk’s visit to Karakorum in 1254 (Reichert these challenges, we still think it worthwhile to discuss our 2020). Another number stems from written accounts of material as scant as it may be within the context of urbanism. population movements ordered by the Great Khans. Apart from making progress in understanding and explaining Commanded by Ögödei Khan, the palace area was urban phenomena in the steppe, the discussion will crystallize enclosed by a wall or an earth rampart already in 1235 as fields in which we need to focus future efforts. The present described in the Yuan shi 元史 (History of Yuan)(Yuan shi: paper is the first to draw these scattered data together in a chapter 2; Abramowski 1976: 130). No exact numbers of concise form. workers are given for this episode. However, the fourth Karakorum lies within Central Mongolia in the valley of Khan, Möngke, stopped the development of Karakorum the Orkhon River (Fig. 1). To the south backed by hills, the and disbanded 1500 Chinese workers who worked on the city lies on top of a gravel fan at the mouth of the valley that enclosing city wall in 1251 (Yuan shi: chapter 3; opens here to a width of 24 km and stretches 70 km to the Abramowski 1979: 20). Whether these people were the north before it restricts again (Mackens et al. 2017). The near- same workers who were moved to Karakorum in 1235 by Orkhon supplied year-round fresh water, and the region is cannot be decided, but one should keep in mind that the known for its comparatively fertile soils. Combined with a palace had been completed and inaugurated during the 126 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 Fig. 2 Map of Karakorum and its surroundings (© Sven Linzen, IPHT Jena 2019, used with permission) spring of 1236 (Abramowski 1976: 131). Be that as it may, habitation at the site and differing intensities in occupation in 1252, Möngke again resettled 500 families of varying across the city area. The Khan’s court did not reside con- craftsmen to Karakorum to fulfill work on the palace (Yuan stantly at Karakorum, but rather migrated between several shi: chapter 3; Abramowski 1979: 21). 9500 soldiers were camps during the cycle of the year (Boyle 1974a;Shiraishi ordered to Karakorum in 1309 (Yuan shi: 23, 510). Two 2004). William of Rubruck observed that Möngke went years prior the emperor entrusted 10,000 Han soldiers sta- twice a year to Karakorum, once during spring (“at tioned there with fields to cultivate (Yuan shi: 22, 492), Easter”), and another time in summer (Rubruck and which indicates a permanently stationed garrison troop of Jackson 1990: 209). Merchants and their personnel surely such size at Karakorum (Dardess 1972/73). The total num- were likewise on the move as their trade demanded, pre- ber of troops in Mongolia is estimated at 150,000 men sumablyfrom springtofallinmostcases. (Hsiao 1978: 59). Considering the population estimates, As one can discern on the city map, the density of build- however, we must bear in mind the seasonality of ing constructions and the thickness of occupation layers asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 127 fluctuates enormously within the walled area (Fig. 2). “Pavilion of the Rising Yuan” mentioned in written sources While the area around the central street crossroads com- (Cleaves 1952: 23; Franken 2015:161–162). The grandeur of prises cultural layers of up to 5 m thickness with at least the reconstructed architecture, which unites religious ideas nine phases of use (Reichert 2019), the northern parts and from Tibet and architectural know-how from China, high- presumably southern areas are only slightly elevated com- lights the ranking of this structure as a large temple of a higher pared to the original topography and might provide only order (Franken 2015: 157; Muping 2015). The Buddhist one or two use phases. Thus, the density of population sculpture in the temple was up to 7 m high (Hüttel 2009: varied from season to season, from quarter to quarter, and 542), and, following Franken (2015: 140), the building can of course along the timeline. The shifting of the court to only be hypothetically reconstructed to a minimum height of Dadu, the reduction to the tasks of a regional town, fight- 9 m and a probable height of perhaps 35 to 38 m. The inscrip- ing within the area between Khubilai and Arigh Böke, and tion of 1346 describes a five story building of 300 chi height later with Qaidu, along with the sacking of the city (Cleaves 1952), presumably ca. 90 m. Taking into consider- (Dardess 1972/73), all probably left their mark on the de- ation that the inscription was placed on the back of a turtle mographic development. As William of Rubruck experi- more or less in front of the temple, the mentioned height enced Karakorum during one of Möngke’s rare visits, his should not differ significantly from its actual height. comparison probably accounts for a moment of increased Temples of this size presumably attracted a larger community population. Bearing these restrictions in mind and ground- and must have operated almost as a magnet for the entire ingour numbersonRubruck’s observations, we can as- region. The temple must have been visible from far away sume a general population density of about 44 to 75 inhab- and was without doubt constructed as a landmark building. itants per hectare for Karakorum if taking only the walled The presumable temple complex in the other city of the perimeter, and a much looser population of five to nine Mongol empire period, Khar Khul Khaany Balgas, lies at a persons per hectare if we include the outlying, dispersed similar spot in relation to the palace compared to the one at compounds. The former ratio corresponds well with pub- Karakorum and with its accompanying buildings takes up the lished data of population densities from Mesoamerican largest area of the city after the palace area, as is the case at Aztec sites (Smith 2016: 162 Table 10.2). Although we Karakorum (Moriyasu and Ochir 1999: pl. 19a–b; Shiraishi should keep in mind that Rubruck visited Karakorum only 2002: 278,fig.3–61) (Fig. 5). The digressing orientation of 19 years after the construction begun. both temples might be explained with religious reasons, to align the corners of the buildings approximately with the car- 3.2 Social impact dinals following the Mandala principle (see Franken 2015: 145). The aforementioned inscription of 1346 (Cleaves The existence of an imperial palace at Karakorum is known 1952) associated with Karakorum’s landmark, the stone turtle, from several written sources: William of Rubruck, for exam- also bears witness to the eventful building history of the tem- ple, provides a detailed description of the residence (Rubruck ple. The latter is also inscribed into the course and sequence of and Jackson 1990:209–212). The identification of the phys- the enclosing walls. Four kilns, used for the firing of building ical remains of the building on the actual site, however, took materials needed for the redevelopment of the temple, sat on archaeologists a good part of the twentieth century and the an older wall and ditch structure (Franken 2005: 147). The beginning of the twenty-first century. Still, it must be admitted inscription stone itself is a rarity in Mongolia. Only three more that the question is not yet entirely resolved. As a possible sites with free standing stones are known from the Mongol candidate for the Khan’s palace, Soviet archaeologists focused Empire period: one from Khirkhira in Transbaikalia (the ear- on a large building complex within the southwest of the liest, the so-called Chinggis Stone; Elichina 2005;de enclosing wall, the orientation of which lay at odds with the Rachewiltz and Rybatzki 2010:160–165), one from the so- overall orientation of the city and features within the city called Möngke’s palace west of Mörön, Khuvsgul aimag (Figs. 3 and 4). Sergei V. Kiselev, who conducted the first (Moriyasu and Ochir 1999: 254–260; Poppe 1961; Rinčen larger excavation of this complex in 1947 and 1948, thought 1959), and a third one from Khubilai Khan city (Moriyasu they had discovered the palace (Kiselev 1965). Conspicuous and Ochir 1999: 261–265; de Rachewiltz 1987). The only finds of Buddhist nature he attributed to post-settlement use. stone turtles we know of from the Mongol period are all lo- His interpretation of the complex as the Khan’spalace found cated at or nearby Karakorum, which underlines its special ready reception in the publications of historians, art historians, position as former capital of the united Mongol empire and architects, science journalists, and other archaeologists later capital of the province Lingbei. (Phillips 1969; Shatzman Steinhardt 1988; Shiraishi 2002; The location of the palace, however, has to be looked for Dmitriev 2011). Renewed and large-scale exposure, as well underneath the Buddhist monastery from the end of the six- as meticulous interpretation of the remains, led to the identi- teenth century, Erdene Zuu, which is still active today. Six fication of this complex as a Buddhist temple, probably the trenches along the walls of Erdene Zuu and one south of the 128 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 Fig. 3 Geomagnetic map of the Buddhist temple in Karakorum measured by a team from Bonn University in 1999, at that time this area was thought to be the palace area of the capital. Greyscale displays a dynamic range of 14nT (−7nT to +7nT) (after Mommsen et al. 2001:74 Fig. 2) Fig. 4 Map of the Buddhist temple in Karakorum as drawn by Radloff and his topographer I.I. Shchegolev in 1891 (detail after Radloff 1892: pl. 36.2) asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 129 Fig. 5 Map of Khar Khul Khaany with presumable temple (after Shiraishi 2002:278, Fig.3–61) eastern gate of this fence showed earlier wall structures under- palace, but we can be fairly certain about its location. neath that have been dated to the early thirteenth century via Furthermore, William of Rubruck provides a description of thermoluminescence and radiocarbon analyses (Erdenebat the palace itself: “The palace resembles a church, with a mid- 2011). These partially exposed walls presumably enclosed dle nave and two sides beyond two rows of pillars and three the actual palace area of Karakorum (Franken 2012/2013: doors on the south side. The tree [i.e., a silver well 366–368; Franken et al. 2014:368–372; Hüttel 2007). Out manufactured by the French artisan Guillaume Boucher] of respect for the current occupants, no further excavations stands inside, opposite the middle door, and the Chan sits at within the walls of the monastery are yet planned, and the the northern end, in an elevated position so that he is visible to location of the palace remains hypothetical. The hypothesis, all” (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: 210). Although we do not however, gains further weight if we reconsider William of have any material evidence of the palace itself, we do have Rubruck’s description of the palace’s location relative to the buildings excavated elsewhere that are interpreted as palaces city itself: “At Caracorum Mangu [Möngke Khan] has a large of the upper elite. Again, it was Sergei Kiselev who conducted encampment, near [emphasis by authors] the city walls and excavations at the site of Kondui, located in Siberia in the enclosed by a brick wall (…)” (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: Transbaikalian region (Fig. 6). This site is interpreted as an 209). This depiction matches the relative location of Erdene imperial residence of the Mongol period. Its central complex, Zuu with regard to the main body of the city. Thus, we do not with rows of column bases oriented north–south, formed a dispose over the actual physical remains of the former Khan’s wider middle nave and two naves to the sides (Kiselev 1965: 130 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 Fig. 6 Map of the palace of Kondui (after Kiselev 1965) Fig. 171; Kradin and Baksheeva 2018: 311 Fig. 9.11). The to Rubruck’s description. Rashīd al-Dīn also mentions the hall that had been supported by these column bases alone must construction of the palace area carried out by Chinese crafts- have been of impressive size, notwithstanding outer architec- men: “Each side was an arrow shot in length, and in the mid- tural components as can be discerned on the published map. dle was raised a pavilion of great height. The buildings were Following the extent of the stone bases as depicted by Kiselev, decorated as elaborately as possible and ornamented with the the area of the upstanding structure covered about 24 × 21 m skills of painters and artists.” (Thackston 1998/1999 II: 670). (504 m ). The structural components emit a striking similarity The length probably refers to the side length of the walled asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 131 palace area. The ground plan of the buildings is reminiscent of era underlines the fact that Karakorum kept wide-reaching a Christian cross, which gives further weight to this impres- administrative function (Pohl 2005). sion. However, it goes without saying that a similar building A part of the city which is probably identical with the as palace of Karakorum is highly hypothetical. The so-called artisans’ quarter mentioned by Rubruck was excavated from palace building in Avraga, a Mongol-period settlement near 2000 to 2005 (Reichert 2020). Large kilns were erected close the Kherlen River, is much smaller and differs completely in to the Buddhist temple, and further away, in the inundation its layout (see Shiraishi and Tsogtbaatar 2009:553–556). If area of the Orkhon, a whole line of kilns was excavated monumentality and size are related to meaning, it is evident (Hüttel 2012a; Franken 2005). While these kilns presumably that the palace area, and that also means the ruler, is placed at produced building materials intended for use in Karakorum number one and the Buddhist temple is at second place. itself, the impact of craft production in the middle of the city Until now, no burials of the ruling elite have been identi- extends probably beyond the constraints of the city: Apart fied in the Orkhon valley. Going back to an anecdote told by from the manufacture of items for elite consumption, bone Rashīdal-Dīn about how Chinggis Khan chose his own buri- cutting and services like mending of vessels might have al place, it is assumed that the burials of the khans took place served a larger hinterland of Karakorum (Reichert 2020). in the three-river region of Kherlen, Onon, and Tuul in the The data concerning markets at Karakorum remain heartland of the Mongol tribe (Thackston 1998/1999:261;de unsatisfying: Rubruck describes different markets at all four Rachewiltz 2004/SHM §179, 102; Yuan shi: 1, 11; but see main gates, each specializing in a certain commodity. “At the Boyle 1970). The self-chosen place of burial around the east gate are sold millet and other kinds of grain, though they mountain Burkhan Khaldun was even declared under are seldom imported; at the western, sheep and goats are on UNCESO World Heritage Protection (https://whc.unesco. sale; at the southern, cattle and wagons; and at the northern, org/en/list/1440). In this way the different ideological horses” (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: 221). Furthermore, he position of Karakorum in comparison to the Kherlen region mentions “a bazaar and fair” within the so-called Saracen is expressed. According to Christopher Atwood (2015), quarter, which might have functioned as shops (Rubruck and varying ideological and legitimatory preferences found their Jackson 1990: 211). Rashīdal-Dīn cursorily mentions a mar- expression in the choice of residences of the respective ket and storehouses at Karakorum (Thackston 1998/1999 I: khans. Literary accounts suggest a varied burial practice ac- 955; see also Allsen 2019: 44). None of these activities, which cording to social rank, in which the burial grounds of the must have left some material remains, have been identified so highest social members were kept secret and did not display far in the archaeological record. Neither can they be observed any major above ground markers (Boyle 1974b; see also by outer appearance alone on the city map. Though the exis- Allsen 1996). The most elaborate burials known so far are tence of markets is reliably witnessed, we do not know who those from Tavan Tolgoĭ, Sukhbaatar aimag. One even had access to them. Did they only serve the population of contained a seal, another one a folding chair (Turbat and Karakorum proper or a larger audience? In analogy to craft Batsukh 2015;Törbat 2015). production, one can presume a wider circle of customers Smith does not provide a clear idea of what he meant by his enjoying the offered wares, although we do not yet have the attribute of civic architecture (Smith 2016). As its social im- data to support this claim. According to the written sources, a pact and reach, ranging from intra-site to wider region or hin- clear distinction can be made between a local trade at the terland, need to be evaluated, we assume it to mean commu- gates, with local products, and a long-distance trade with its nally used buildings such as assembly halls or other adminis- products in the Muslim neighborhood. This observation might trative buildings. Archaeological works did not reveal any reflect a different clientele and participation and perhaps also structures that might be attributed to any such function. efforts to keep the nomads and their animals out of the walled According to Rubruck, the Great Khan’s separated palace part of the city. compound comprised storage buildings which were also men- Another attribute not clearly listed by Smith is the function of tioned by Rashīd al-Dīn. Nobles within a distance of two- the city as a military base. After the establishment of the prov- months-journey gathered here when the khan resided at ince Lingbei with Karakorum as its administrative center, the Karakorum to receive gifts (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: city became the station of a military garrison with accompany- 209). Ögödei encouraged them to build residences nearby ing storehouses for provisions (Lech 1968: 112; Dardess 1972/ his palace at Karakorum as is told by Rashīdal-Dīn 73). The military garrison is mentioned several times in the (Thackston 1998/1999 I: 670–671). Although we lack physi- Yuan shi since 1283 (Yuan shi: chapter 58; Cleaves 1952: 26). cal remains, we can still assume a far-reaching impact of Karakorum during its time as capital. Court secretaries like- 3.3 Built environment wise had palaces separated from the Muslim and Chinese communities of Karakorum (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: A city wall with gates is mentioned in the written sources – 221). The find of an administrative seal from the post-Yuan erected on behalf of Ögödei in 1235 – and was partly 132 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 excavated (Kiselev 1965). Because of its relatively small effortsonthe eastern maingate asthe gatewaytoChina height and built, the defensive function of the outer wall had (Kiselev and Merpert 1965:174–175). Unfortunately, the been rightfully questioned (Kiselev and Merpert 1965:173; publication of his results posthumously does not allow for Dardess 1972/73: 118). The construction of the wall of a clear picture of the gate (Kiselev and Merpert 1965: rammed earth layers (hang tu夯土) but without brick cladding Fig. 100). could be exemplified by recent excavations of a Mongolian- Connective infrastructure within the city is dominated by a Israeli-German team in the northern extremity of the city (see central intersection of two streets running N–Sand E–Wand Fig. 7). A radiocarbon date from charcoal that was uncovered leading towards the four main gates. These large main roads outside the actual wall and which probably stemmed from a divide the city into four quarters, lead beyond the city limits, wooden parapet yields a time frame of 1291 to 1401 cal AD create a connection to the hinterland, connect to the important (95.4%, calibrated with OxCal v. 4.2.3 and IntCal13; Bronk overland routes, and cut deeply into the landscape. The small- Ramsey 2013; Reimer et al. 2013; laboratory number: er inner-city traffic routes, the construction of which was prob- COL2896.1.1). Walls with brick cladding are commonly ably less complex, are a visual contrast. The roughly north– found in contemporary Chinese cities, and apart from aesthet- south running main road, which was carefully paved during ic considerations, they provided protection from erosion as one of the first settlement phases, was revealed during exca- well as defensive functions (Turnbull 2009). The outer wall vations within the middle of the city (Pohl 2010). Stone plates of Karakorum might thus be more of a demarcation line, os- of slate were carefully placed on the levelled ground and sep- tentatiously showing the extent of the Great Khan’sposses- arated by wooden beams into rectangular fields of roughly 3 × sion and controlling access to the city proper. After all, 2.8 m on average, thus forming a 5.6 m wide street (see Karakorum is still the only Mongol period city in Mongolia Fig. 8). The beams probably functioned as a buffer for the with an extended outer wall. The wall units at Avraga are so considerable variations in temperature. At some point during inconspicuous that they are barely discernible on site the use phase of this street, ditches lined with wood were (Shiraishi 2002; Tsogtbaatar et al. 2017). Walls also structure constructed alongside the pavement. The paved street, how- the inner city area of Karakorum, including specific building ever, served for only about one generation, after which new complexes, which are separated, and larger neighborhoods. street surfaces were placed on top of the old road by using The palace area was surrounded by a mighty rampart veneered settlement refuse, as is discernible by massive animal bone with fired bricks – 8 m thick and much wider than the current waste within the street levels topped by gravel as new road rampart of the Erdene Zuu monastery (Hüttel 2009:546–547). surface. From about the turn of the thirteenth to fourteenth The same can be observed in the city of Khar Khul Khaany: century until the latest clearly established settlement phase The residence of the ruler is protected by impressive walls and after the demise of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in 1368, this procedure had been repeated at least four times, now and then access to it is regulated by four gates (Moriyasu and Ochir 1999: Pl. 19a). in connection with maintenance works on the accompanying Access to the city area of Karakorum proper was like- ditches. These endeavors speak for a continued interest and wise channeled through four gates, as mentioned by investment in the infrastructure, even though at a lower rate Rubruck (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: 221). Old map- than during the earliest street construction. Further connective pings of the ruins at Karakorum show several openings infrastructure is observable on the city map, which shows within the wall to which streets lead (Kato 1997). Thus, several linear structures, most likely streets. Recent geomag- we reckon with a multitude of gates and apertures of netic measurements demonstrate the continuation of roads varying sizes and construction on top of the mere four outside the city, extending from the eastern main gate to the gates mentioned by Rubruck. Kiselev concentrated his southeast, northeast, northwest, and west (Fig. 2). Whether Fig. 7 Section through the northern part of the outer city wall of Karakorum. The section is located nearby the assumed northern main gate to the northwest, taken in 2014 (photo © Bonn University, used with permission) asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 133 Fig. 8 Excavation photograph of the exposed main street in the city center of Karakorum, taken in 2003 (photo © Bonn University, used with permission) these traces are the result of heavy use of the same path or are A Persian inscription on a stele erected in 1342 draws our an actual built road needs to be verified by targeted attention to a Sufi assembly: “… akhānqāh for followers of excavation. the way of Sufi …” (Isogai and Yajima 2013b). Another As of yet, there are no indications for the existence of water Persian inscription stone mentions for 1332 “…a waqf [en- management, as clear remains of wells, water pipes, or other dowment under Islamic law] of three houses for the benefit of conduits are missing. The only measure taken with regard to the masjid [mosque] …” (Isogai and Yajima 2013a). In addi- water management are the ditches observed alongside the tion, inscriptions name a shrine for the Three Sovereigns – road, which captured and allowed for the movement of super- mythological rulers in ancient northern China – aConfucius fluous surface water. A track that is discernible on the topo- Shrine, and a San ling hou miao三靈侯廟 shrine (Matsuda and graphic map leads from the western main gate to a meander of Ochir 2013). The written sources thus paint a vivid picture of a the Orkhon River; probably the place to fetch fresh water multitude of different persuasions and belief systems all with (Fig. 2). It is not known whether the Orkhon was also used their own assembly places or places of worship at Karakorum. for transport purposes, e.g., to bring building materials from As already mentioned, Ögödei encouraged the Mongol no- the quarries in the upper part of the valley to the city center. bility to construct houses near his residence (Rashīdal-Dīn Rubruck mentioned twelve heathen temples, two mosques, and Boyle 1971:61–62). None of the excavated areas have and one church (Rubruck and Jackson 1990:221). Theexca- yet yielded sufficient evidence for an elite attribution to any of vator Hans-Georg Hüttel thinks that a building in the northeast these structures. Maybe we need to search the residences in sector of the city was erected for religious services (Hüttel the compounds dispersed outside the main body of 2012b). Judging by its comparative size to the aforementioned Karakorum, which were already partially mapped by Buddhist temple, this complex would presumably belong to Radloff (1892: pl. 36). intermediate-order temples. The interpretation as a possible The political center of the whole city and its surroundings Nestorian church, later remodeled as Buddhist temple, sug- was probably the court of the Khan, but we do not know if there gested by the excavator (Hüttel 2012b), cannot be verified, as was a formal public place within Karakorum. The city map full publication of these excavations is still awaited. shows seemingly empty spaces within the northern parts of Rubruck’s description has proved rather reliable so far, so the walled area, the purpose of which remains open to specu- we can therefore assume that there was a variety of minor lation. The written accounts, however, stay conspicuously si- religious places of congregation in Karakorum. Until now, lent on this point. Some scholars assume that yurts (Mongolian however, we were unable to identify any other complexes ger) stood within these areas without permanent building con- with any certainty. There are, for example, no other buildings structions. As of yet, there has been no evidence brought for- with a deviant layout such as that of the large Buddhist temple. ward to support this claim. On the contrary, written sources do Inscriptions from the first half of the fourteenth century not even mention pastoralists as inhabitants of the city. (Matsuda and Ochir 2013), however, witness several religious In the case of Karakorum, we have strong reasons to as- institutions and serve to corroborate Rubruck’sobservations. sume that Karakorum had been planned from the beginning as 134 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 epicenter: the site was founded as the capital of the Mongol Mongolian steppe. The same is true for Avraga, which has been empire, and in answer to differing opinions, we do not have studied much more intensively. The nearest funerary com- any data that would suggest a prior settlement on the location plexes typical of the time lie at adistanceofmorethan 25km or evidence for an independent development from the bottom (Shiraishi and Tsogtbaatar 2013:7). up. Pottery from beneath Erdene Zuu and from surface collec- With the site of Okoshki, it is alone Khirkhira, in Siberia, tions north and west of Erdene Zuu indicates the existence of a for which our Russian colleagues successfully identified a Uyghur period settlement in this area (Shiraishi 2011). Our small necropolis of a high-ranking community nearby and most recent survey’s surface finds of typical pottery in the contemporary with the settlement (see Fig. 9; Kharinskiĭ southern direct vicinity of the monastery corroborate a strong et al. 2014; Kharinskiĭ et al. 2019). A second but different presence during the Turko-Uyghur period in that area. example for a cemetery close by a settlement also should be Considering the high density of sites of this time in the mentioned. Pėrlėė (1961:92–93) excavated in 1950/51 a Orkhon valley, this discovery is not surprising. Karakorum small site with permanent houses at Takhilt Us, west of did not grow from a previous settlement but was constructed Baga Gazryn Chuluu, Dundgov aimag, and identified a cem- on the behest of the Mongol Khans as depicted above. As to etery nearby, where, in his opinion, Chinese were buried. Two the question of axial principles related to a cosmological pro- Islamic cemeteries in the surroundings of Karakorum pose a gram (Renfrew 2008: 47), there has been a vivid debate on unique characteristic in the eastern Eurasian steppe. A large possible models for the layout of Karakorum. One faction area densely set with funerary buildings beyond the northern favors Chinese ideal cities as models (Shatzman Steinhardt city wall is considered to be a cemetery for members of this 1990; Pohl 2009: 530); others propose Central Asian precur- religion based on the small excavation from 1978 to 1980 sors (Becker 2012). These suggestions are not entirely con- (Bayar and Voitov 2010). The Muslim cemetery extends over vincing as none fit Karakorum’s layout and appearance. an area of around 24 ha. Considering that 37 graves had al- Karakorum rather evinces the impression of a true pastoralist ready been discovered in the small area of maximum 1600 m , cosmological program in the broadest sense possible: with the about 6600 buried persons could be expected north of the city Khan’s palace supposedly in the south and the city area wall. About 8.5 km northeast of the city lies a second, rather stretching to the north, the overall pattern resembles the tradi- smaller cemetery, which likewise is said to contain burials of tional spatial orientation of the Mongolian yurt or rather ger Muslims; the results of the excavations, however, have not yet (Wasilewski 1976). This specific Mongol worldview might been published. explain at the same time why there are barely any traces dis- The social diversity of the inhabitants is vividly described cernible in the area south of the presumed palace area. Other in several sources; the same is true for ethnic neighborhoods. habitation sites repeat this general outlay, as for example, Rubruck’stwo “vici,” commonly translated as “quarters,” of Khar Khul Khaany Balgas in the Khanui valley (see Fig. 5) Chinese artisans as one group and Muslim merchants as the and less pronounced, Kondui (Kradin and Baksheeva 2018: other, might be understood in the sense of neighborhoods 304 Fig. 9.8). While this finding speaks for Mongolian partic- (Rubruck and Jackson 1990: 212). Many of the artisans were ipation in the planning of the city, it is unclear how far this prisoners of war or captives with different origins and statuses, participation went and by whom. Some passages in the written like the famous goldsmith, William Boucher (Rubruck and sources suggest at least a certain personal interest of the su- Jackson 1990:183; Guzman 2010), and many of the inhabi- preme rulers, such as those concerning the construction of the tants of the city did not come voluntarily (Allsen 2015). We wall around Karakorum on the Grand Khan’sorder. At the reckon, thus, that Karakorum maintained a highly varied per- same time, most architectural styles and techniques identified manent population, concerning professions (see Reichert in Karakorum closely resemble Chinese patterns. 2020), religious affiliations, and ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, envoys and traders as well as soldiers enriched 3.4 Social and economic function the makeup of the population. If we take the size of the com- pounds as an indicator of the rank of the owner, there must If one considers that large scale cemeteries are unknown (cf. have been significant differences. Standardized building Erdenebat 2009) but that it was still a privilege to be buried in forms or floor plans cluster in different areas and along the marked graves, the excavated burials around Karakorum main streets, which could indicate a social and/or occupational (Bayar and Voitov 2010) likely belong to a lower elite stra- differentiation of the neighborhoods. tum. As of yet, the social stratification of Mongol society With regard to possible farming activities, from the archae- based on the material remains of funerary assemblages is a ological side, Helmut Roth suggested the existence of irriga- research lacuna that hinders a reliant evaluation of this ques- tion systems, “celtic fields” (Roth 2002:32–33, pl. 2). These tion. Burial places that can be attributed to the city’s inhabitants traces, which are visible on the city map, are younger than the remain unknown in the surroundings of Khar Khul Khaany city and belong probably to the monastery (Honeychurch and Balgas, the next largest city compared to Karakorum in the Amartu̇vshin 2007: 42). Botanical analyses and pollen asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 135 found in the craftsmen quarter of Karakorum stems from kilns of northern China, followed by wares such as the famous blue- and-white porcelain from southern China of varying qualities (Sklebitz 2018: 208). With mostly bowls of varying sizes and other tableware identified, only a few items such as miniature vessels hint at religious activities within these houses used for living and working (Sklebitz 2018: 211–213). The overall amount of glazed wares highly speaks for the assumption that Karakorum’s population had easy access to these goods, some of them brought there over wide distances of more than 2000 km as the crow flies. Furthermore, the import of goods can be discerned on the level of botanical macro remains an- alyzed by Manfred Rösch and his group (Rösch et al. 2010). They could prove that several foreign species must have been brought to Mongolia, with likely origins in Central Asia and China. Especially the distribution of Chinese porcelain wares in the hinterland of Karakorum, proven by surveys in the Orkhon valley, hints to the pervasiveness of imports beyond city limits. Fig. 9 Map of Khirkhira (3) also showing the locations of Alestuĭ (1) and Okoshki (2) (graphic by Tobias Pfaff, Bonn) 4 Karakorum and its hinterland indicate the existence of agriculture in the vicinity of A city stands in a multifaceted network of relationships with Karakorum during the empire period (Lehmkuhl et al. 2011; its immediate and wider surroundings. “The importance of Rösch et al. 2010). Finds of plowshares and molding boards long-distance trade for the emergence and development of within the middle of Karakorum (Kiselev 1965; Reichert cities means that we cannot study the city just in relationship 2020) at least point to the fact that the inhabitants had the to its immediate hinterland. The long-distance trading net- required tools to undertake agricultural works. Of course, we works are much larger and much more important for urbani- cannot know who the actual people doing the job were. The zation than often believed, and Central Place Theory cannot Yuan shi reports the establishment of an agricultural colony do justice to this aspect of urbanism” (Hansen 2008:74–75). for the first time in 1283, which had been abandoned and First, the city needs workers from its surroundings, second it reestablished between this time and 1323 on several occasions needs raw materials that are processed and negotiated in the (Farquhar 1990: 397). To sum up, we can surely state that city, and third, it needs food for the daily needs of the inhab- people carried out cultivation of crops nearby Karakorum of itants. At the same time, the surrounding countryside is the however restricted scale and under much climatic duress ideal location for buyers of goods produced and traded in the (Boyle 1958:226–227). And concerning “farming,” one city. Numerous studies have shown that there is no clear sep- should not leave the Orkhon unmentioned, as it delivered a aration between the city and its environs and that in several great variety of fishes, and the same is true for Ögiĭ Nuur some ancient cultures the city and its environs are not linguistically 60 km to the north of the city. separated, but are described by one and the same term (Marcus There is abundant evidence for imported goods and long- and Sabloff 2008a:22–23). Furthermore, there is no sharp distance trade. We already mentioned merchants who lived in limitation of the hinterland, its extent also depends on time- Karakorum according to literary sources. Archaeological specific functions and interactions. work corroborates this picture. Not only were manufactured We are dependent on written sources for the information on ceramics imported from China (Sklebitz 2018) but so were the origin of the labor force. According to this information, several raw materials for secondary craft processes within people from Han China and the regions south of the Gobi, the workshops of Karakorum (Reichert 2020). With a concen- who also used the building techniques they were familiar with, tration on blacksmith operations in these workshops during such as rammed earth walls and ramparts, kang 炕 systems, the early stages of the settlement activities, Karakorum is a fired roof tiles, etc., helped to erect the various buildings. After likely provider for military equipment. It served as station for the Xi Xia 西夏 (1038–1226) and Jin 金 (1115–1234) dynas- the imperial guards and later housed the military colony of the ties had disappeared from the political map and afterwards the province Lingbei (Barkmann 2002: 16 f.). With a proportion Song 宋 Dynasty area was conquered step by step by the of more than 70%, the majority of the imported glazed wares Mongol army, the huge resources of China were available 136 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 for the Mongol center of power. An inscription from a granite already washed from the Mongolian rivers at the time of the quarry in the upper Orkhon valley, which mentions the origin first steppe empire of the Xiongnu (Polosmak et al. 2019). of workers from today’s Hohot, enriches the picture from the This tradition is likely to have continued into the Mongol written sources with a remarkable detail (Bemmann et al. period, even though scientific analyses are still pending as 2011): specialists in agriculture were also sent from China to final proof. Other raw materials necessary for specialized Karakorum. Numerous other workers, especially artisans, crafts may have come to Karakorum from distant regions, came from Central Asia, the Black Sea region, or Eastern such as mercury or gemstones (see Reichert 2020;also Europe as prisoners of war to Karakorum, where they carried Allsen 2019: 41). At the same time, local raw materials such out commissioned work for the court or the elites (Allsen as birch bark, bones, leather, furs, and wool were used. 1997, 2002). The people entrusted with the administration of Just as for raw materials, a local frame of reference is the city and the affairs of government, as well as specialists in emerging for the supply of food and livestock on the one hand, science and religion, also usually came from the conquered as well as an astonishingly wide one on the other. Animals regions, attracted by the new possibilities (de Rachewiltz et al. were offered for sale at the city gates, as were cereals. For the 1993). So far, there is no evidence that pastoral nomads were animals, however, we do not yet know from which area they settled in Karakorum or that the local population was integrat- were delivered, and isotope analyses should provide a remedy ed into the economic system of the city beyond the supply of in the coming years. The cereals, however, seem to have been animals. in short supply and had to be imported on a large scale, despite The raw materials required for building and road con- repeated local cultivation attempts. Rashīd al-Dīn reported struction come from the surrounding area of the city. Roof that already starting under Ögödei, every day 500 wagons – tiles, bricks, floor tiles, and building decorations were fired each towed by six oxen – loaded with food and drinks arrived on site, including Buddhist art and devotional objects in the city (Thackston 1998/1999:235; Di Cosmo 2014/15: (Hüttel 2012a;Pohlet al. 2012). The granite used for the 73). Khubilai Khan successfully used the evident dependence column bases and millstones comes from quarries in the on Chinese grain imports as a means of political pressure in upper Orkhon valley. Slate, which was used to cover the his disputes with Arigh Böke. After no more supply routes kang systems and as road surface in the form of slabs, is reached Karakorum, the latter had to clear Karakorum and also found in several places in the upper Orkhon valley abandon it. It is unclear when the transports were resumed. and also directly south of Karakorum in the mountains. Did this happen only after the disappearance of the anti-Yuan- Due to the low demand, the quarries were certainly used Steppe coalition or already in the time of its decline? The news on a seasonal and occasional basis, i.e., workers from the recorded in the Yuan shi gives the impression that in the four- city went to the surrounding countryside and obtained the teenth century, grain supply was primarily oriented towards necessary materials. Siberian larch, the locally dominant the needs of the garrison troop, whose soldiers were recruited tree species, also served as a building material and is so far not from the steppe but from China and Korea (Dardess 1972/ the only proven fuel (Pohl et al. 2017: 240–244);fossilfuels 73:154–159). Even in favorable years, the military colony’s were apparently used neither for firing the heating systems crop yield was not sufficient to cover its annual requirements. nor the ceramic kilns. Charcoal piles, the relics of which This was due not only to the fact that alcohol was distilled would have to be present in large numbers in the surround- from grain, which was mentioned several times in the Yuan ing area, have not yet been discovered. shi and which was made a punishable offence, but also to the On the one hand, probably all the grey ware produced by difficult growing conditions and the natural conditions. An pottery wheel was manufactured locally. A Mantou-type kiln inscription from 1331 mentions the cultivation of grain being for firing grey pottery located directly north of the Buddhist threatened by severe drought (Muraoka 2013:59). In an emer- temple within the city area was excavated as early as 2002 gency, the grain reserves kept in storehouses were also used to without any further details being known (Franken 2005:148). supply the population: An inscription from 1337 proves that On the other hand, the majority of the glazed goods and por- grain from the military stores was sold to the starving and celain came to the city as finished products, mainly from pro- freezing population (Ushine 2013). In 1308 an enormous duction centers south of the Gobi (Sklebitz 2018). Despite the number of 868,000 refugee households were being issued wasteful use of iron in Karakorum’s artisan quarter (Reichert grain at Karakorum and 2,000,000 ingots cash for cloth and 2020), it has not yet been possible to prove the exploitation of grain were to be provided (Dardess 1972/73:157). local ore deposits or the smelting of ore. This is all the more Karakorum is not alone in its dependency on food im- astonishing as smelting furnaces from the Xiongnu period ports, and at this point we shall only remind you of grain have been excavated in the Orkhon valley (Pohl et al. 2012; supplies from North Africa to feed Rome or the transport of Sasada and Amartuvshin 2014). Cast iron products may all grain to the newly founded Roman city of Xanten on the originate from China; Mongolia has so far lacked any evi- Lower Rhine. These two examples are intended to indicate dence of the use of the necessary technology. Gold was that there is no typical nomadic deficit here, but that this is a asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 137 problem of high population numbers or a difficulty with a Karakorum was connected to the major overland routes via poorly developed or economically self-sufficient settlement the yam communication system and thus connected to and environment that is unable to produce the required surplus. beyond the borders of the empire. This network of way- Aware of this deficit, the Mongols founded Chinqai early on stations was not only used for the transmission of news but as an agricultural colony and production site and military was also used by embassies and merchants. The costs of trans- farmers were settled in various locations (Buell 1993; port were at least up to a certain degree overrode by heavy Shiraishi et al. 2009; Bretschneider 1967:59–60). Most political inducements. Khans are reported to have paid over- scholars locate Chinqai close to the Mongolian Altai, but market prices and actively supported merchant bonds finan- convincing archaeological evidence is still missing. Several cially to attract trade to Karakorum (see Favereau 2018). By towns south of the Gobi had granaries (Fig. 10), the stocks 1260, tax and booty had reached the treasure houses of of which could be transported to Karakorum if necessary Karakorum along these supply arteries and contributed signif- (Dardess 1972/73). Since Ögödei, a systematically devel- icantly to the prosperity of the city and its attractiveness for oped route with 37 relay stations has been used for this merchants. This steady and strong influx of people, goods, purpose (Dardess 1972/73:124;Thackston 1998/1999: and treasures may have stunted after the relocation of the 324). capital to today’s Beijing. Karakorum then became an outpost, In what kind of network is such an artificially built city like an island far away in the steppes and was fed and highly Karakorum integrated, which did not grow organically out of subsidized by the imperial center in northern China to keep the region and is also located in a previously city-less econom- the steppe region under control and because of its high sym- ic region, where there was no need for a city? As with the bolic value. It was a tribute to the birthplace of the dynasty supply with food, Karakorum again was placed within differ- (Cleaves 1952: 31). One would expect that post-1268, elites, ently scaled communication networks. On the one hand, the merchants, and artisans moved to the new capital, Dadu, and city itself embodies a hub with various overland routes with that with that transformation the financial power and econom- relay stations, while on the other, the city was “only” one stop ic resources of Karakorum crumbled away. However, no sig- on the seasonal change of residences by the moving court. nificant decline in quality goods and handicraft activities can Fig. 10 Map showing supply stations of Karakorum located south of the Yunnei; 11. Dongsheng; 12. Datong; 13. Ningxia (graphic by Tobias Gobi (after Dardess 1972/73): 1. Karakorum; 2. Yingchang; 3. Shangdu; Pfaff, location of sites by Bryan K. Miller, Michigan) 4. Jingzhou; 5. Etzina; 6. Fengzhou; 7. Jining; 8. Xinghe; 9. Pingdi; 10. 138 asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 yet be demonstrated by the small-scale excavations in the city China. As it appears so far, none of the other known perma- center (Reichert 2020). The statement that the emperor had nently populated places – Khar Khul Khaany, Avraga, Bars Karakorum enlarged in 1299 (Yuan shi: 20, 426) also does Khot, Khirkhira, Kondui – is integrated into such a network of not fit into the picture of a city in decline. seasonally-used residences. In addition, the city was integrated through the itinerant movements of the “horde” mobile court into a network of residences which, depending on the preferences of the respec- 5 Karakorum and steppe urbanism – A tive ruler, may have had different stations and may have re- conclusion sulted in the rise and fall of individual sites as a result of the inflow or outflow of labor and specialists. The first Mongol In order to give greater context to Karakorum, we ask how rulers only stayed temporarily in Karakorum and then trav- typical are the construction, planning, and use of the city as elled on to the next residence. This was apparently merely the compared to other documented examples of urban places on case during the existence of the “Yeke Mongol Ulus” from the Mongolian Plateau. An almost universal characteristic is the 1206 to 1260. The various residences were mainly located by establishment of cities on an open verdant site separate from Boyle and the statements were refined from an archaeological previous settlements. As far as can be assessed from other in- point of view by Shiraishi (Boyle 1974a; Shiraishi 2004). vestigations, this applies to all large cities, residences, and per- Through the evaluation of aerial photographs and detailed manent settlements of the Mongols and apparently also to cities surveys, further contemporary sites with permanent architec- of the Uyghur. Only for the Khitan has it been proven several ture have been added in recent years that can be dated back to times that they repaired and extended places erected by the the Mongol Empire period on the basis of surface finds. Uyghurs, as in Chin Tolgoĭ, Khermen Denzh, and Chilen However, their function is largely unclear (Fig. 11). It is strik- Balgas. However, the Khitan came from northeast China as ing that so far all facilities have a different layout, and so it is invaders to the Mongolian steppe and therefore pursued a dif- not possible to deduce specific functions. At best, their signif- ferent strategy for establishing permanent centers. This means icance can be inferred from the find material, such as glazed that when steppe regimes founded a city, they purposefully roof tiles covering the more important buildings. One of the broke away from the specific spots of cities belonging to pre- sites, Zhargalantyn ShiliĭnBalgas (Tsambagaravet al. 2017), vious empires, even if the city was founded within the same was possibly a station on the important southeastern route to greater valley of previous establishments. This was done in order to herald the establishment of a completely new empire. Another characteristic, which has already been implicitly stated but which is worth underlining, is that all these urban places or fixed settlements quickly declined after the overarching politi- cal system vanished. They did not survive independently. Urbanism was not sustainably carried on by the remaining in- habitants or new arrivals. Karakorum fits into this picture of city foundations without urbanization, in the meaning that the pop- ulation moves from the steppes to the urban area. These observations lead us to our initial questions of whether we can discern different trajectories in urbanization within pastoral and sedentary societies, or if there even is urbanization as such. Regarding the latter question, we argue that there is no transformation of a society from a steppe to an urban one. This transient nature of urban sites is not even particular to pastoralist societies. Larger settlements of the Iron Age in Western Europe, attributed urban status by some scholars, show similar developments within sedentary, agrarian-based societies. As to whether we can discern differ- ent trajectories in urbanization, we must change the question, since we can no longer compare urbanization but only urban- ism. To answer, we would need to identify specific “steppe” Fig. 11 Locations of residences and settlements with fixed buildings of characteristics of urbanism. Concerning Karakorum, a discus- the Mongol empire period in the Orkhon valley: 1. MOR-82; 2. Doityn sion employing the list of attributes compiled by Smith would Balgas; 3. Bayan gol, 4. OOR-100 (?); 5. Baga Nariĭn Am; 6. Zachyn not allow for a strict differentiation in structural traits between Bulag (?); 7. Zhargalantyn Shiliĭn Balgas; 8. OOR-60 (graphic by Tobias the city in the steppe and other urban sites within sedentary Pfaff, Bonn) asian archaeol (2021) 4:121–143 139 Archaeology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and the National societies. This observation is not particularly surprising since Museum at Ulaanbaatar, with some of whom we have been working since the discussion also showed that skilled specialists from urban- 1999. This study profited from many fruitful discussions with and hints ized, sedentary areas were specifically brought to Karakorum by Bryan K. Miller and Ernst Pohl. Ishayahu Landa provided Chinese to erect the city and the appeal for the rulers to establish a city citations and helpful comments with regard to historical intricacies. We thank our two anonymous reviewers for their productive remarks. was informed by existing locales. What, then, makes Karakorum special? The investment in Compliance with ethical standards large ritual and political buildings, such as the “Pavilion of the Rising Yuan” and the magnificent palace area, as well as the Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of multitude of inscribed stone stelae, which all date from the first interest. half of the fourteenth century (Matsuda and Ochir 2013), occur Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons onlyatKarakorum.Inaddition tohavingstructuresthatare Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adap- particular only to this capital city, the built environments of tation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as Karakorum combine architectural elements from different cul- you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, pro- tural traditions, elevate them to a far greater size than equivalent vide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included structures elsewhere, and exhibit a far greater thickness of set- in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a tlement layers and refuse material – all of which make credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Karakorum stand out among permanent settlements of the same Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by time such that even without written documents one would as- statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this sume the capital of the Mongols to be here. licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The analysis of the environs shows impressively that the usual criteria and dimensions for a city–hinterland relationship have been set aside. The city of Karakorum lived beyond its means. 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