Expedition Unknown – Genghis Khan’s Tomb – S02E02
For our next exciting expedition, Josh heads out to Mongolia in search of the tomb of Genghis Khan and one of the first things we learn is that his name should be more properly written as Chinggis Khaan. To be honest, I was unaware that Khaan had gone out of his way to make his burial place a secret. Sort of seems like if you take the time to conquer such a vast empire, you might want to have a few monuments to point out how badass you are.
There are quite a few stories about Khaan’s death that state he wanted to be buried in an unmarked grave and anyone who saw the funeral procession was to be killed. Stories even go so far as to say that a river was diverted to cover the burial spot. For someone who lived such a grand life, Chinggis wanted his deeds to live on rather himself as a person. Or perhaps, he didn’t want enemies digging up and desecrating his remains as an act of revenge.
But as we move into Ulaanbatar, it’s pretty obvious that Chinggis is worshipped and revered at nearly god like levels. His image and name are everywhere – statues, monuments, bars, vodka. Khaan is attributed with uniting the nomadic tribes, establishing trade routes and offering people complete religious freedom. Even if his methods were a bit rough, it was more than what a lot of people had before him.
Josh arrives in time for the Festival of the Three Games which includes Archery, Wrestling and Horseback riding, the 3 things Chinggis instilled in all his warriors. It should come as no surprise that Josh is going to give the wrestling a try although he spends more time in the dirt than anywhere else. At least the guy takes it easy on him and doesn’t outright pull his arm out of the socket.
After the festival and while visiting the massive 130 foot tall statue of Khaan outside the city, Josh is told of an archeological dig in search of the tomb. He heads out across the muddy plains to Karakoram, the former capital city that Khaan established and is said to be where the funeral procession started. Josh helps to excavate the site where they find some skeletal remains. Ominous stuff to be sure.
But this isn’t the only site where they think Khaan might be buried. There is another on the Burkhan Khaldun mountain that shows what could be three temples. However, it’s not a place you can just walk into and start digging. It’s actually considered to be a holy mountain referred to as the Forbidden Zone and there is no access without permission from the tribe that guards the gate. This tribe believes they are acting on orders from Chinggis himself to keep the location of his burial place secret. Oddly, the protectors of this area don’t say it’s actually the burial site and quite frankly, they don’t want to know. They believe that Khaan’s resting site should remain a secret and not become common knowledge.
With that, Josh and the team have to ask for permission to even be allowed on the mountain, but the gatekeeper isn’t sure of their intentions and says he will ponder the matter. Perhaps it was for dramatic effect, or perhaps he just wanted some new drinking buddies, but as the sun goes down, the gatekeeper invites Josh and crew in for a drink and before the night is over, they’re all good buddies and Josh gets permissions to press on.
In the morning, the gatekeeper says he will need to accompany them to the mountain to make sure they don’t get up to any funny business. No digging or excavating is allowed. To be blunt, they can look, but not touch. The tribesmen are very serious that nothing is to be disturbed.
Turns out the survey photos were correct and they discover stone bricks from a wall and ceramic tile from a roof. These are certainly older than the time of Khaan, but it does lead to some other discoveries. Josh finds multiple spear heads in the base and roots of a tree. These are warrior spears, but they appear to be from the wrong time period as well. But the question remains, there are no other temples in the area so why was one built here? What is the significance of this mountain and this location? Does this location have something to do with Khaan and a temple built on it? Or was the temple built first and they are applying the worship of Khaan after the fact?
With the weather turning bad, they manage to get a chopper to come in so they can take high resolution photographs of the mountain. Not sure why they didn’t call up the services of the chopper earlier, but, they scan the mountain several times and there is some sort of man-made bump at the top. They aren’t allowed to land, even if the weather did allow it, so some photos is the best they can do. There aren’t defining characteristics so this bump could literally be anything and so the mystery continues.
Is Josh and these teams of researchers within arms reach of Khaan’s tomb? Or are the stories true and it’s actually under a river or in some other completely nondescript location where nobody would think to look? And if the researchers are close, what happens if they actually find something? The men of the tribe seem like they would take some rather drastic strides to keep that information from getting out. Dare I say, finding Khaan’s tomb might result in a throat cutting.
Khaan certainly took steps to disappear after his death and with all the stories and deliberate attempts to keep the location secret, perhaps even misdirection, it looks like the final resting place of Chinggis Khaan will remain a secret for quite some time to come.