This paper focuses on a hitherto little-known long (or “Great”) wall that stretches along 737 km from northern Inner Mongolia in China, through Siberia into northeastern Mongolia. The wall was constructed during the late medieval period (10th to 13th century CE) but is commonly called the “Wall of Chinggis Khan” (or ‘Chingisiin Dalan’ in Mongolian). It includes, in addition to the long-wall itself, a ditch feature and numerous associated fortifications. By way of an analysis of this impressive construction we seek to better understand the concept of monumentality and in turn shed light on the wall’s structure, function and possible reasons for its erection. We pose the interesting question of whether any construction that is very large and labor intensive should be defined as a “monument”, and if so, what that definition of monumentality actually entails and whether such a concept is useful as a tool for research. Our discussion is relevant to the theme of this collection of papers in that it addresses the concept of the ‘extraordinary’ as conceived by archeologists. Following our analysis and discussion, we conclude that although size and expenditure of energy are important attributes of many monuments, monumentality (i.e., expression of the extraordinary) is not a binary “either-or” concept. Rather than ask whether the “Wall of Chinggis Khan” was or was not a monument per se, our analysis reveals aspects in which it was indeed monumental and extraordinary, and others in which it was not extraordinary, but rather an ordinary utilitarian artifact.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by research funds provided by the Louis Frieberg Chair of East Asian Studies, and by the Ring Family Foundation for Atmospheric and Global Studies, both at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Field equipment and U.S. participation were made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (Grant RZ-249831-16). We greatly appreciate the generous support provided by the Mongolian Institute of Archeology and thank the local people of Dornod province for their assistance and kind hospitality. We are especially grateful for the Mandel Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in Humanities and Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for their kind support of this publication.
© 2020, The Author(s).