Sunday, November 02, 2008

Can High Tech Tools Find Tomb of Genghis Khan? article naturally caught my eye as I am currently listening to Conn Iggulden's first novel in his trilogy about Genghis Khan and have found it both thrilling and fascinating. It is historical fiction but hopefully Iggulden has not strayed too far from the facts. His incarnation of "Timujin" is a warrior of admirable strength and skill as well as a man of vision and deep conviction. Some may also perceive him as ruthless although I think he demonstrated more restraint than other men spawned in such an environment. The tribal society Iggulden depicts on the unforgiving steppes is that of a hard people struggling often just to survive in a land where the dispossesed or just unfortunate are prey to any passing group who simply want their meager belongings even if they are just an old worn dell (coat) and a small pouch of rancid mutton. But it was from these very wanderers that Genghis Khan forged a nation.

I also saw the award-nominated film "Mongol" that gave further insight into the nomadic cultures of the 13th century. It, too, is supposed to be one of a trilogy of films and I eagerly await its successors.

Somewhere beneath the wind-swept deserts of Mongolia lies the body of
one of the most enigmatic warlords in history, a ruthless but brilliant
leader who united his people and built the largest empire in the world.
Nearly 800 years after Genghis Khan died, the legends continue to grow,
as do the mysteries.

Now, a young scientist at the University of California, San Diego, is
hoping to succeed, where others have failed, and answer a question that
has puzzled historians for centuries: Where, precisely, is the tomb of
Genghis Khan?

Albert Yu-Min Lin doesn't plan to search for his answer with
the traditional tools of archaeology, a small pick and good brush.
Instead, he will rely on high-tech, and if he is successful, he will
find the long-sought tomb without turning a single space of dirt.

"We're trying to locate the tomb, not dig it up," said Lin, who lived for awhile in Mongolia with a family of horsemen.

Lin's tools will be "non invasive" implements, ranging from
satellite photos, ground-penetrating radar, and sensitive devices that
can detect clues that the ground was disturbed hundreds of years ago.

Lin has already begun his search with satellite photos donated by
GeoEye, Corp., that could hold clues to "anomalies" on the surface that
could indicate an ancient disturbance of the soil. Lin is an affiliate
research scientist in UC San Diego's Center for Interdisciplinary
Science in Art, Architecture and Archaeology.

The satellite images are the first phase of the three-year
project. If he finds some promising sites, and if he gets approval from
local authorities, he will lead a team of researchers for on-site,
non-intrusive investigations. They will use several new techniques,
including magnetometry, which can pinpoint subsurface disturbances,
like ditches and plowing, by detecting variations in soil magnetism
against the general background of the Earth's magnetic field.

Archaeologists have used that technology to locate other sites,
but it does have limitations. It is effective if the area has been
burned at some time in the past, because burning changes the magnetic
properties of the surrounding soil by altering the magnetism of tiny
iron particles. But a grave is less likely to show up because the hole
usually is immediately refilled with the same dirt.

Ground penetrating radar could also be used to create reasonably clear
images of the first few feet of soil, but it, too, has its limitations.
It does not work as well in moist soils, because water attenuates the
signal. However, the burial site is probably in a high desert location
with typically dry soils.- More from ABC News