When our joint Mongolian-American Deer Stone Project began there was little world-wide recognition that nomadic pastoral societies offered an alternative pathway to civilization and empire. Today we recognize the formative nature of Mongolia’s Late Bronze Age culture in the transition from chiefly societies to states and eventually to empires. Deer stones stand proudly as the monumental evidence of this shift, memorializing its leaders and attesting to its social order, artistic capabilities, and complex belief system. Two thousand years after they were erected, Genghis Khan rode among deer stones and must have marveled at the heritage they signified. Today we do the same, recognizing also that there is still much more to learn from these ancient cultural icons. Bayarsaikhan’s study provides the path toward the broader anthropological meaning of deer stone stones and their art and iconography, not as ornaments from a vanished people but as highly visible historical and cultural monuments that enrich understandings of Mongolia in the past, present, and future.
William Fitzhugh, from the Introduction
A joint publication with the Arctic Studies Center, Smithsonian Institution