Hun Princess Graveyard’s Secret
A Hunnu princess’s graveyard discovered in summer of 1990 in Mankhan locality of Khovd province has become the sensation in the world of archeology.
Ever since 1924 when the graveyard of the Hunnu ruler Modun Shayu filled with riches was discovered, this become only the second time when the remains of Hun noble was found.
“We were really lucky. The graveyard was not plundered. Though the wooden cover of the graveyard was demolished the coffin chamber was well preserved,” says the Khovd archeological expedition head, Prof. D. Navaan.
Hunnu princess. Rock painting from Gobi Alatai province, Khanyn Khad Mountain
“She was barely 20 years old. The wooden walls of the coffin were held together by leather strips, all of which were amazingly well preserved provided that the burial took place some 2,000 years ago.
“The side walls of the coffin are ornamented with four flower petals. In one corner we discovered remains of a green color silk cover the coffin was wrapped around.”
“Inside the coffin we discovered golden earrings, a hair comb, remains of bronze decorations, wooden plates covered with gold, small balls made of semi- precious stones and other personal belongings of Hun princess.”
The wooden box inside which the coffin was placed, contained a bronze jar with great engravings of various animals, metal bridle, details of horse equipment. A chariot wheel attracted special attention of archeologists as it has more than 40 holes for rungs and therefore the wheel must be very large.
Five horse skulls were put on the northern side to the burial, with one horse head turned towards the coffin. The number 5 was revered by Huns because of their special reverence for Cygnus Constellation. One separate horse head probably belonged to the princess’ beloved horse.
“Archeological research of Hunnu burial sites is not an easy task. The more noble was the deceased, deeper the graveyard was hidden,” says Prof. Navaan. “Once we came across a graveyard going as deep as 16 meters. Aside from depth stone landslides make the work very dangerous. Huns were shrewd enough to protect their graveyards against robbers with various tricks.“
Excavating another Huunnu graveyard, one of hundreds found in Khovd province
Each Hunnu noble graveyard usually narrows as it goes down. For example, Hun Princess graveyard occupies some 13 to 16 meters on the earth surface but when it goes down it narrows down to 2.5 x 5 meters.
“When closing the burial, Hunnu filled it with layers of stones and earth so that in case robbers start to dig vertically and go down for about four meters, the walls slide down burying robbers alive. After some examination we decided to dig from less steep side and our guess about the possible trap turned to be true,” explains Prof. Navaan.
The archeological expedition began the exploration of Khovd province since 1984. This is not well explored area containing many remains of various nomadic cultures. Often there are clusters of several dozen and even hundreds of graveyards form various periods.
For example, more than 80 graveyards from Hunnu period containing more than 2,000 rare artifacts, were uncovered in the neighboring Bulgan province along the Egiin River banks by a UNESCO funded expedition, shedding new light on the culture and life of Hunnu. A structural analysis of some bronze Hunnu artifacts at the Louvre Museum laboratory proved that they were locally made.
“A stone made, ink container with remains of paint represents an interesting discovery hinting that Hunnu may have used own script,“ says Prof. Navaan. “More than 60 pictograms were spotted on various items again supporting the possibility of Hunnu script.”
Most of found items are personal belongings to serve the buried ones in the other world. For example, each graveyard contained chopsticks made of animal bones.
Hunnu paid close attention to clothes and arms. Knives and almost every piece of kitchenware or clothes was adorned with distinct and exquisite ornaments or patterns. Without doubt Hunnu were masterful artisans