Between the years of 1217 and 1227 Genghis Khan’s bloody conquests created the largest contiguous land empire the world has ever known, and for a time, the great Khan was the richest, most powerful man on earth.
His treasury contained the pillaged wealth of China, India and Russia combined; jeweled Chinese weapons, gold coins from Samark and priceless religious artifacts from Russian Orthodox churches…
So… Where did all this treasure go?
During his twenty year reign Khan subdued the Russian princes; his army conquered Persia, Asia Minor, Korea, South-East India, Indonesia, and China.
At the age of 65, during a campaign against the Chinese, the great Khan suffered a fatal fall from his horse, and in August of 1227 the mourning Mongol army abandoned the conflict to take their leader home.
After many months of pomp and ceremony, the body of the fallen ruler was loaded onto a giant oxcart and began its long journey towards the Khan’s final resting place. Surrounding the cart was a funeral procession 2,500 strong accompanied by a mounted bodyguard of 400 soldiers.
Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire
Where is Khan’s Tomb?
Many years before his death, the fearsome Mongol conqueror, after the custom of his people, chose his own grave site. Legends state that Khan chose the shelter of a lone tree near the base of Mount Burkhan Khaldun in Mongolia’s wild Khingan mountain range. So, somewhere deep in the mountains, Khan’s men dug an elaborate Tomb and Genghis Khan was laid to rest in an ornate coffin.
Into the grave with him went the royal treasury – a massive hoard of gems and precious metals — the spoils of war collected by Khan from all the lands he’d conquered in his twenty year reign. Some say the treasure included the crowns of each of the seventy-eight rulers Khan had subjugated, including those of Russia, Persia, and India.
Legend has it, that Genghis Khan’s soldiers killed every person encountered by the funeral procession on its journey into the mountains. And after Khan’s body was intured, the soldiers turned their attention to the slaves who dug the tomb, slaughtering all 2,500 of them. When the soldiers returned to Karakorum, Genghis Khan’s capital, they in turn were killed by other soldiers so they couldn’t reveal the location of Khan’s tomb.
To make the Tomb even harder to find, local legends say that a river was diverted over Khan’s grave, completely submerging it. Other tales state that his grave was stampeded over by horses to erase signs of digging, then trees were planted on top of it. The forest men of the Uriangut clan were appointed to nurture the saplings covering the grave, and eventually the burial site was swallowed in an impenetrable forest.
Whatever the truth may be, it seems as if Genghis Khan’s plan to protect his final resting place was effective. Despite the efforts of many well financed archaeologists and treasure hunters, to this day not one scrap of treasure has been recovered.
If someone does someday succeed in locating the tomb of the great conqueror the discovery could make unearthing King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt seem minor by comparison.
Location, Location, Location
At Genghis Khan’s death, his empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Aral Sea, leaving an incalculable number of possible locations for his tomb. There are many theories as to where Genghis Khan’s final resting place might be – some theories put the tomb within Mongolia’s rugged mountains, others say he could have been buried in China, where he died during his final campaign.
One of the oldest references to Khan’s burial location is the 15th century account of a French Jesuit which states that Genghis Khan may have selected as his final resting place, the confluence of the Kherlen and Bruchi rivers near the Burkhan Khaldun mountain.
This is the area in which Khan was born, and according to the French priest, after a major military victory, Khan reportedly said that this place would be forever his favorite.
The Kherlen river is still known today – but attempts to locate the “Bruchi” river, have drawn a blank – the river is unknown to modern day cartographers. Unfortunately this makes it impossible to pinpoint the exact location for the tomb specified in the ancient texts.
Amateur archeologist, Maury Kravitz, who’s been obsessed with Khan’s tomb for forty years, did discover a toponym “Baruun Bruch” (“West Bruch”) in the area roughly 100 km east of Burkhan Khaldun (48° N 110° E). In 2004 he conducted excavations there to no avail.
So, for now, the location of Khan’s tomb and the vast treasure it may contain, remains one of archaeology’s greatest unsolved mysteries.