Problems of Archaeology, Ethnography, Anthropology of
Siberia and Neighboring Territories

ISSN 2658-6193 (Online)

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2021 Volume XXVII

doi: 10.17746/2658-6193.2021.27.0308-0313

УДК 903.01

Holocene Archaeological Material from Tsagaan Agui Cave Recovered During the 2021 Excavation Campaign

Khatsenovich A.M., Bazargur D., Tserendagva Ya., Marchenko D.V., Rybin E.P., Klementiev A.M., Margad-Erdene G., Kravtsova P.S., Dolgushin I.D., Gunchinsuren B., Olsen J.W., Derevianko A.P.

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Tsagaan Agui Cave, situated in Tsagaan Tsakhir limestone massif in the Gobi Altai Mountains of southern Mongolia, is the one of the rare stratified Holocene archaeological sites known in the Gobi Desert. During 1995-2000 excavation campaigns, cultural material spanning the late Bronze Age through the ethnographic present was recovered. In 2021, an excavation pit (2021/1) was dug in the gallery that joints the cave’s Main and Small Chambers, and an additional sondage (2021/2) was excavated in the Main Chamber itself. Excavation Unit 2021/1 is subdivided into Layers 1, 2, and 3, in which Layers 1 and 2 are attributed to the Holocene, and 3, the lowermost, is likely of Pleistocene age. Birch barkfragments bearing Old Mongolian inscriptions, cylindrical paste beads, and one additional, presumably carnelian, bead were found in Layers 1 and 2. Excavation Unit 2021/1, Layers 1-3, yielded lithic artifacts made of yellow jasper and Devonian flint, typical of the local Paleolithic industry. Only a single transparent chalcedony microblade can be tentatively dated to the Holocene. The suite of Holocene cultural material obtained during the 2021 excavations at Tsagaan Agui requires additional analysis and interpretation and is of particular interest with respect to the reconstruction of late prehistoric trade networks linking arid southern Mongolia with remote regions and the appearance of historical documents in the Gobi Desert. The study of the Holocene layers at Tsagaan Agui Cave is also of timely significance in terms of preserving Mongolian cultural heritage, since the upper layer of the site is being destroyed due to unregulated and unsupervised tourist activity in spite of its relatively remote location.


Central Asia, Mongolia, Gobi Desert, extreme environment, cave site, mixed complex, Holocene, beads, birch bark

Chief Editor
Academician A.P. Derevyanko

Deputy Chief Editor
Academician V.I. Molodin

17, Аkademika Lavrentieva prosp., Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

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