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Searching For Genghis Khan

Jacki Lyden in for Tom Ashbrook

We’ll talk to a research scientist just back from Mongolia about his super high-tech search for the tomb of Genghis Khan.

Tadanobu Asano plays Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, in Kazakhstan's Oscar-nominated epic "The Mongol", directed by Russia's Sergei Bodrov. (AP)

Tadanobu Asano plays Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, in Kazakhstan's Oscar-nominated epic "The Mongol", directed by Russia's Sergei Bodrov. (AP)

On the Mongolian plains, men ride on horseback searching for the tomb of Chingis Khan, warrior-king who conquered a vast empire. They’re also bringing high-tech, non-invasive tools which rely on the ‘crowd sourcing’ of people on their laptops at home.

And they’re operating under the skepticism, by some scholars, that the great Khan ever had a tomb anywhere at all. That hasn’t stopped U.C. San Diego scientist Albert Lin and a Mongol battalion of explorers.

This hour On Point: Ghingis Khan’s secrets.

-Jacki Lyden


Albert Lin, research scientist at the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology at the University of California, San Diego. You can find his work with National Geographic here.

Morris Rossabi, professor of history at the City University of New York, and adjunct professor of Mongolian and inner Asian history at Columbia University.

From The Reading List:

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  • Anonymous

    Read Genghis Khan this summer, by Jack Weatherford, LOVED it, what a great historic reading…such respect for that culture and for the whole Kahn clan, wonder why I never heard about this in highschool social studies? Why was such an important contributor to everything left out? I hope they never find his Spirit Banner, may it rest in peace.


    A question about the pronunciation of his name: harad G or soft G? I read somewhere long ago that his name derived from the fact that because of all the silver mountings and decorations on his men’s horses, his hordes could be heard coming from a long ways off, and thus came to be called, from that jingling sound, CHINGIS. As a stickler for pronunciations I ask, any truth to this?

    • guest

      No, the Chinggis is ocean or sea, in modern mongolian it is tenggis

  • Michael

    So cool,

    I watched the History Chan. on Khan and his promotion of trade and what happen to people who crossed him. It even went on to say that because of his attacks on the muslims at the time it saved europe. but the sad thing is he didn’t value books and would burn or destory whole towns so alot of knowledge was sadly loss.

  • Michael

    As for the tome, I heard that once he was buried the people who did so were killed thereafter so noone could know where he was.

    • Anonymous

      They didn’t want anybody finding his buriel site, or his spirit stick, which had his horse hair on it and has to do with his spirit, very important to him at that time. I hope they never find the site, because his people at that time, never wanted it found.

      • MongolGenocidersDestroyer

        I hope so – the last time Soviet archeologists opened the grave of
        Tamerlane (descended of Genghis Khan) the Nazi German invasion of Russia started…

  • Jethrokatz104

    I lived in Mongolia for two years, 1991-1993. At that time, there was talk of Japanese research teams searching for Genghis Khans site. In my discussions with Mongols at the time, I got the feeling that Mongols were very mixed about the idea of unearthing a possible tomb. In general, there are theories that Genghis may not have been a Mongol, and opening a grave site might confirm such theories.

    Given that Genghis was buried in secrecy, that the site has never been found is perhaps because it wasn’t meant to be found.  Shouldn’t we respect the wishes of the dead and Mongolian culture and let Genghis lie undisturbed and in peace.

    Perhaps the time and money being spent on a venture that might produce very unintended and possibly very negative consequences could be better spent helping the people of Mongolia today.  

  • Rachel718

    (If he saw it) what did your guest think of the homage to Genghis Khan as the opening exhibit in the new museum in Singapore?

  • Kiriakos

    I think this is an elaborate travel adventure story.  The Mongols did not have a culture of monumental burial.  When I hear the name dropping of all of these prominent scholars he has met on the way to try to lend some credibility to this whimsical quest, it reminds me of an acquaintance who went on several mountaineering adventures climbing Mt. Ararat looking for the Ark and constantly asking pious friends for money to support his personal adventure that had no prospect of finding a ship on a mountaintop.

    • MongolGenocidersDestroyer

      The Mongols were sheep herders and to abide the law of the steppes they would let a herd of sheep roam over a grave to hide it from the enemy tribes to prevent the rampant grave robbery common among the people of the steppes. 

  • Seaboniks

    I listen daily, and I have never heard a more long-winded and arrogant guest than Alfred Lin.

  • Zach

    What will a positive find look like and how can you or anyone be sure with these techniques? Without DNA or artifacts on display isn’t this study’s find inherently suseptible to rightful sceptiscm?

  • Roy Mac

    Unless I’m hearing this wrong, your guest Lin is saying that we don’t know anything about Genghis Khan, so why do we think he’s so bad.  Umm.  I thought this show was supposed to shed light into the darkness.  Lin seems to just make assertions without factual back-up.

    • Anonymous

      If you pick up a copy of Genghis Khan, you will experience a different Kahn than is the one legend has made, he was remarkable and the people he represents are as well. Check it out if you’re interested in the true Genghis Khan.

      • MongolGenocidersDestroyer

        May he rest in hell!!  The fact that he’s a mass murderer whose descendants brought destruction and Black Death to half of the world is indisputable.  What is his contribution to the progress of the Humankind?  Destruction of ancient civilizations and bringing nomadic tribes with their sheep all the way to Vienna, Austria?

        • Guest

          I’d read Jack Weatherford’s book ( http://www.amazon.com/Genghis-Khan-Making-Modern-World/dp/0609809644/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1312572092&sr=8-1 ) who I have doubt is much more knowledgable about Genghis Khan and his empire than you are before making anymore such exaggerations.

  • MongolGenocidersDestroeyer

    The interviewer shows too much enthusiasm to hear about this Mongolian mass murderer and nomadic genocidal destroyer of ancient civilizations.  Of course, why would a Westerner bother to show any compassion to non-Catholic-Protestant-Westerners that this Satan-monster massacred?  After all, isn’t it the same thing that the European thugs did to Native Americans hundreds years later?  Hey, we are your listeners too and please do not ask me for a contribution next annoying fund-raising campaign you have.      

    • Zzz_247

      An uneducated person better looks when is quiet than talking loud!

      • MongolGenocidersDestroyer

        Any facts or proof to support your criticism?  I bet deep in the heart real peace-loving Mongolians love the fact that this moron left Mongolia and took his bloody mind somewhere else.  

  • Guest

    Albert Lin,
    I appreciate your work. However, you should not even look for the tomb! This will bring a curse for all generation who found.

  • Mike

    His tomb stays where is and noone should even know about it! Forget about finding or looking for!

  • The_zero_effect

    where is Tom????!!! please come back soon.

  • VoiceOfReason

    I agree with Lin that our perception of Genghis Khan is often skewed since the history was actually written by the conquered nations.  It is refreshing seeing new applications of technology to ancient problems.  Hopefully, the novel methods will be used in other archeology projects and applications.  

  • Jake

    I really enjoyed the show.  Like any unsettled historical debate, it sounds like scholars line up on either side of the question of: whether or not a tomb exists.  In other words, the search for Ghenghis’ tomb is a legitimate inquiry into an unsettled historical question.

    In addition, it sounds like the expedition itself is an instructive endeavor.  The expedition is leveraging a number of cutting-edge technologies (geo-technical devices, crowd-sourcing, etc.) to enhance an archeological search.  This kind of marriage between disciplines can only improve both. 

    Well done, and good luck!

  • Mill

    Alexander “the Great” and Genghis Khan “the Mass Murderer”? I guess Alexander and his army never hurt a fly, let alone killing masses of people. The double-standards are appalling.

  • Pingback: Crowdsourcing the Search for Genghis Khan’s Tomb | varnam

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  • Rais Karauchy

    It’s very interesting information.
    But it’s worth saying here that the name “Mongol” until 17th-18th

    meant belonging to a political community, and wasn’t the ethnic name. While

    “the name “Tatar” was the name of native nation of Genghis Khan, he and

    his tribesmen didn’t speak the language, which we call now

    (orientalist V. Vasiliev, 19th c) – this is confirmed by many data of the

    ancient and medieval sources. Read about hidden real history of Tatars and

    other Turkic nations in an e-book “Forgotten Heritage of Tatars” (by

    Galy Yenikeyev). You can find it in the Internet, on Smashwords company
    website. There are а
    well-grounded rebuttal of the chinese-persian
    myths about “incredible cruelty of nomadic mongol-tatar conquerors”
    and “a war between the Tatars and Genghis Khan” etc., as well as a lot of
    previously little-known historical facts, 16 maps and illustrations in this

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