Hunting, herding, and people in the rock art of Mongolia: New discoveries in the Gobi-Altai Mountains

Vanwezer, Nils, Timothy Treal Taylor, William, Bayarsaikhan, Jamsranjav, Breitenbach, Sebastian, Amano, Noel, Louys, Julien, del Val, Miren, Boivin, Nicole and Petraglia, Michael (2021) Hunting, herding, and people in the rock art of Mongolia: New discoveries in the Gobi-Altai Mountains. Archaeological Research in Asia, 26. p. 100267. ISSN 2352-2267

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Despite its harsh and arid conditions, the Gobi Desert has played an important role in shaping Holocene populations, including the transition from hunting to herding lifeways. Here we present three newly documented rock art sites in the Gobi-Altai Mountains of south-central Mongolia, a cave (Gazar Agui 1), a rock shelter (Gazar Agui 13) and an open-air landscape site overlooking a palaeolake (Unegt Uul). In addition, we re-examine the preservation of the rock art cave site of Saalit Agui some 20 years after its original documentation, using digital technology not available at that time. Comparisons of rock art at Gazar Agui 1 and Saalit Agui with previously documented rock art in Mongolia suggest links with Mesolithic and Neolithic anthropomorphic iconography. Unegt Uul and Gazar Agui 13 show Early Bronze Age to Iron Age symbols, suggesting two distinct periods of production, by hunter-gatherers during the Early Holocene and by later hunter-pastoralists during the Late Holocene. Our findings suggest that wet periods in mountainous basins of the Gobi-Altai were likely key to early human habitation, with pastoralism dominating during arid periods. Our observations further indicate that preservation of rock art sites in the region is currently under threat due to human activity and climate change.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: Archaeological field work in the Gobi-Altai region was conducted with the permission of the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science for Mongolia [Permit 18-6-2/2 (2018) & 79/B (2019)]. We thank our international field crews for assisting in the rock art surveys. We are grateful to Evgny Rybin and B. Byambadorj for providing key references, and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments. This research was funded by the Max Planck Society, Germany.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Petroglyphs, Ochre, Paleoclimate, Hunter-gatherer, Hunter-pastoralist, Preservation
Subjects: F400 Forensic and Archaeological Science
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2021 09:32
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2023 08:00

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