January 8, 2024 — A new study on a previously overlooked Mongolian Arc—a monumental wall system in eastern Mongolia—by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers reveals new insights about the motives and functionality behind the construction of this colossal architectural marvel.

The study published in the Journal of Field Psychology contributes to a larger multidisciplinary project exploring historical wall systems and their socio-political, economic, and environmental impacts, marking a pivotal milestone in understanding ancient civilizations and their enduring legacies.

The “Mongolian Arc,” spanning 405 kilometers in eastern Mongolia, comprises an earthen wall, a trench, and 34 accompanying structures. Constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries A.D., this intricate system has emerged as a pivotal yet understudied facet of historical architecture, possibly due to its remote location.

The collaborative research combined remote sensing data collection, archaeological field surveys, and analysis through geographic information systems (GIS). Hebrew University Prof. Shelach-Lavi, Louis Freiberg Professor of East Asian Studies, along with Prof. Amartuvshin Chunag from the National University of Mongolia and their team also analyzed ancient written sources to offer a preliminary interpretation of the design and potential functions of the Mongolian Arc.

Mongolian Arc. Credit Gideon Shelach
Mongolian Arc. Credit Gideon Shelach
Mongolian Arc 2. Credit Gideon Shelach
Mongolian Arc 2. Credit Gideon Shelach

“Understanding the significance of the Mongolian Arc unlocks profound insights into medieval wall systems, raising pertinent questions about the motives, functionality, and enduring consequences of such colossal constructions,” said Prof. Shelach-Lavi.

This study is part of a larger multidisciplinary project, funded by the European Research Council (ERC), addressing the construction of extensive walls and structures in northern China and eastern Mongolia during the 11th–13th centuries A.D. The findings not only contribute to unraveling historical mysteries but also offer a framework for exploring the broader socio-political, economic, and environmental impacts of such endeavors.

The research paper titled “Unraveling the Mongolian Arc: a Field Survey and Spatial Investigation of a Previously Unexplored Wall System in Eastern Mongolia” is now available in the Journal of Field Archaeology and can be accessed here.

Ying Tung Fung1, Angaragdulguun Gantumur1, Ido Wachtel1, Amartuvshin Chunag2, Zhidong Zhang1, Or Fenigstein1, Dan Golan1 & Gideon Shelach-Lavi1

1) The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
2) National University of Mongolia