Virtual Exhibition "Deer stones of Mongolia"

Virtual Exhibition "Deer stones of Mongolia" organised by Saint Petersburg state Roerich family museum and institute opened for visitors since December 28, 2017 till March 2018 during opening hours.

Deer stones are one of the types of the archaeological monuments, which became a symbol of ancient culture of Central Mongolia. They represent stone pillars of rectangle cross section schematically depicting the figure of a male warrior.

As a rule there are tree zones on a pillar: head with earring and necklace on neck, body with images of the bow and shield are filled with drawings of animals (primarily deer) and the belt is attached to it with a dagger, battle axe or punch-chisel, a knife, a whetstone. Dating of the pillars according to the types of these images is X–VI centuries BC.

Two styles of the deer stones are revealed. The first one, called “Mongol-Transbaikalian” is distributed mainly in Central Mongolia and eastern regions. Figures of the deers are very stretched, the nose looks like a bird's beak, the horns turn into fantastic curls. The  axe with a loop on the back of the blade and a dagger with a mushroom-shaped or ring-shaped finial are usually fixed on belt . These statues are simultaneous to the burials with similar funeral sets of X–VIII centuries in China.

The second one, “Altai-Sayan” is widespread in Western Mongolia, the Altai mountains and Tuva. The images of the deers, felines and boars belong to the typical “scythian animal style”. The ciocana-punches, daggers akinak and earrings are analogous to the burials of the Scythian-Siberian cultures of the Russian Saiano-Altai dating back to the IX–VI centuries BC.

Thus, the deer stones in Central Asia were used by population belonging to different cultures and widespread on a huge territory.

The large-scale excavations of the ensembles of ancient structures associated with deer stones in Mongolia were provided for the first time by the International Central- Asian Archaeological Expedition (ICAE), organised by State Roerich family Museum and Institute in Saint Petersburg and National University of Mongolia. For a hundred years of the deer stones studies no research of the architecture of associated complexes and the stages of their formation was performed.

In 2001 the ICAE  has excavated a funerary-ritual complex Khar gov on the territory of Mönkhkhairkhan sum in Hovd aimak associated with four deer stones of  “Altai-Saian” and “mixed” type.

In 2006 in the valley Surtiin denzh in Bürentogtokh sum of Khövsgöl aimag a ritual complex around the rows of deer stones of “Altai-Saian” type was completely investigated. Just the image from Surtiin denj monument – circled  felines  became a symbol of this exhibition.

In 2013 in the same Bürentogtokh sumthe excavation site 75 ´ 55 meters was placed on the one of the most famous in publications monument with the deer stones of “Mongol-Transbaikalian” type – Uushigiin uvur. 

The unity of the composition of the investigated structures at the ritual sites and constructions associated with the funeral khereksur-mounds of the same period of time results in the conclusion about replacement of real burial structures with grave in the deer stones. So, the results of the research provided by ICAE prove the hypothesis that in Western and Central Mongolia the deer stones did not play the role of the of "gravestones" monuments, but were used as cenotaphs the monuments presenting real men for some reason, not buried in khereksur-mound.

For objective reasons it is difficult to demonstrate the original deer stones in a museum. The up-to-date technologies allow everybody the access to their digital models. Upload the application “Deer stones” with a booklet and in augmented reality feel yourself an archaeologist looking for the ancient images on the monuments.



Kovalev A. et al. A Ritual Complex with Deer Stones at Uushigiin Uvur, Mongolia: Composition and Construction Stages // Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia 44/1 (2016) 82–92