Mongolian tour guide
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Updated: Nov 18, 2023

What are Mongolian Stone Men?

Mongolian Stone Men figures formed a distinctive genre of funerary art during the Türk (552–742) and early Uighur (744–840) period.

Mongolian Stone Man
Mongolia Stone men - BABA

They cover the steppe from Mongolia to the Black Sea. About 400 such Mongolian Stone Men figures are known, of which about half are in Mongolia, primarily central Mongolia (around the sacred Ötüken forest) and the ALTAI RANGE (the old Türk homeland). All the figures hold a cup to their chests with one or both hands in the former case the left-hand holds the pommel of a sword. The men are belted and bearded. Stone men occur in distinct funerary complexes often associated with Old Turkish inscriptions. Elaborate complexes consist of a templelike structure with walls, a ditch, and a figure of a seated man often with a seated woman, his wife, attended by standing or kneeling figures. Outside, to the east or southeast, extends a line of erect stones (baba), sometimes including schematic stone men. Ordinary complexes usually contain a single stone man in an enclosure defined by stone slabs and a line of babas. Qipchaq babas in the Black Sea steppe (11th and 12th centuries) are either male or female, often with exaggerated breasts and belly, and generally hold a cup

with both hands to the chest or abdomen.

In southeastern Mongolia and north-central Inner Mongolia occur distinctive Mongolian Stone Menn seated on armchairs with one hand holding a stemmed cup and the other the figure’s left knee. They are located southeast of mounds with remains of templelike structures. Many figures are naked and androgynous, with prominent male genitalia and breasts; none has a moustache or weapons. Others, however, are clothed and elaborately carved, often holding a rosary in their left hand. Details of hairstyle and clothing match those of the 13th-century MONGOL EMPIRE. Their regional origin and dates suggest that they belonged to the ÖNGGÜD or possibly QONGGIRAD tribes and show the gradual transformation of funerary beliefs during the Yuan under Confucian and Buddhist influence. Stone men found with ELK STONES (Mongolia) or Scythian graves (Ukraine) may represent either early examples or more likely intrusive artefacts due to reuse of old gravesites. See also FUNERARY CUSTOMS; QIPCHAQS; RUNIC SCRIPT AND INSCRIPTIONS.

Source: Christoper P. Artwood Encyclopedia of Mongolian and the Mongol Empire

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