Richard S Ciolek-Torello

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Independent Scholar

Grant number

Gr. 10651

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Ciolek-Torello, Richard (Independent Scholar) "Baibalyk: An 8th Century Uyghur Fortified Town and Trading Center in a Nomadic Pastoral Landscape on the Mongolian Steppe."

Today’s Mongolians are the descendants of nomads, who constructed some of the greatest polities of the Old World. Despite the prominent role of these states and empires on the world stage, surprisingly little is known of the indigenous organizational traditions from which they arose. These traditions involved non-intensive agro-pastoralism and mobile populations living in marginal environments – features commonly associated with egalitarian societies. How and why states emerged in this divergent context is one of the foremost research questions in the archaeology of Mongolia and neighboring steppe regions. Important to addressing this question is the study of the development of urban centers in nomadic pastoral societies. Although many urban centers have been documented, few have been subjected to intensive investigation. To address this deficiency, we began a long-term program of investigation at Baibalyk, an urban center believed to have been established in the 8th century by the Uyghur Khaganate in the fertile and strategically located Selenge Valley of north-central Mongolia. We will test theories of state development in nomadic societies, to preserve Uyghur cultural heritage, and to benefit the modern Mongolian community that surrounds Baibalyk. Our anthropological research contributes to alternative perspectives on statehood and new ways of conceptualizing urbanism.