Carolina Squirrel – Tomb Raider

The Carolina Squirrel may not be as pleasant to the eye as Lara Croft (or Angeline Jolie as Lara Croft) but he still risked life and limb by first traveling by China Airlines where the toilets are as gross as any gross scene from Indiana Jones movies (like the cave floor full of squirming insects), and the airline food is highly toxic.   Having arrived in exotic Mongolia, he had to negotiate life threatening traffic,  choking “poisonous” fumes ( I am sure of this!), shaky pavement stones, a four wheel drive adventure into the Mongolian Steppes and an encounter with ferocious local animals (like grumpy camels) to get to the Ongot Archaeology Site in Hustai National Park.

Mongolian Camel - Alternative Transport and Food

Located in the plains between the mountains and the Tuul River, the Ongot site contains a tomb of a ruler or king from the Ruan-Ruan Khanate from about 742 – 552 BC.  At this time, a turkic speaking tribe had gained influence over the Mongolian steppes.  The Ruan-Ruan people liked to bury their leaders in carved stone tombs and then erect stones carved to represent lions, birds and people.  The man-shaped stones were erected facing the fallen king and were arranged and carved to look like they are mourning the king and holding their hands against their chest in respect.  There are over 30 of these carved standing stones at Ongot.

The Tomb of a Turkic Leader of the Ruan-Ruan Khanate (742 - 552 BC)
The Lion Guardian - Represents Safety and Peace
The Sheep Guardian - Represents the Offering of Sacrifice
Man Statues of Ongot Burial Site

As if having so many carved stones at the site is not enough, the Carolina Squirrel throws in for no extra charge,  a fine young Mongolian explorer with finely chiseled features amongst another 552 balbal or standing stones which stretch in a curved line into the horizon.  The meaning of these stones are not clear, although local legends give two possible explanations.  In the first explanation, the balbal stones represent the number of enemy killed or battles won by the deceased king.  In the second explanation,  the stones are supposed to help guide the spirit of the deceased king along its journey into the afterlife.

Mongolian Eye Candy for the Ladies
The 552 Standing Stones Stretching into the Distance.

The Carolina Squirrel was impressed with the location of the site that seemed to be the centre of the plain no matter which direction one comes from.  There is a real sense of the vast expanse of space and infinity there.

17 thoughts on “Carolina Squirrel – Tomb Raider”

  1. Who are you and what have you done with Lone Gray?! Great feeling in these photos of the vastness of that part of the world. I don’t expect I’ll ever get there so thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi oceangirl,
    Carolina Squirrel is my adventurer archaeologist alter ego. Similar to “Indiana” Jones, “Carolina” Squirrel is named after South Carolina which is the heartland for the grey squirrel.

    It’s me but with a fedora and a bullwhip. If you were there, you would realise that the photos fail to give the sense of vastness that is actually there.

  3. Lovely scarf for the lion statue. I like that pic! It Mr. eye candy holding a gun? Is this arch. site in a dangerous area?

    I also know I would never get to journey there otherwise, so thank you for the photo adventure!
    Take Care,

  4. OK, so note to self here, avoid China Airlines at all costs. Got it.

    But WOW! What a fabulous experience and fascinating site! I love old history/archeology stuff like this. I’d love to see something that old one day…The oldest thing I’ve seen is probably Stonehenge (well, they’re pretty old, I guess…). But the story & the site there in the national park is way cool!

  5. Sounds fabulous, other than the toxic airline food. Although, it does look like they have some very large birds there who have used the sculptures for target practice. Hopefully they didn’t decide to dive bomb a wandering squirrel…

  6. What a great adventure Squirrel. Keep um coming. It’s hard to fathom how much work went into these things. My question would be, were they made during the king’s lifetime at his command, or after his death out of grief and respect?

  7. Melanie,
    “Is Mr. Eye Candy holding a gun?” Huh?! Oh! No, that’s not a gun. It’s the base for a field telescope. Area is completely safe except for wildlife and weather.

    Wandering coyote,
    Stonehenge is pretty old. Probably another 5-6 hundred years older that this Ongut site.

  8. Owen,
    There are indeed large birds there like the black vulture but I believe the white stains on the statues actually come from the pouring of milk or yogurt on them as a form of offering.

    Mr. Charleston,
    I am only guessing but they were mainly nomadic herders at that time. It is more likely that it was built when the king died but could have been added on in following years.

    Carolina Squirrel, thanks you, ma’am.

  9. Stinkypaw,
    How nice to see you here. Do come again. I will try to leave treats for you when you visit.

    secret agent,
    I think I know what you mean. The scarf shows that this place still has a place in the hearts of the people.

  10. Thank you for the memories! I visited a similar site in the north of Mongolia near Mörön/Murun near Lake Khovsgul. I wasn’t able to get any pictures, so your pictures will have to do! I still have my own blue scarf at home.

  11. L. Gabel,
    I wish I had more time to travel round the country. Visiting places like these have an almost spiritual aspect of connecting with the past, don’t they? I’m sorry you didn’t get any pictures. Maybe another visit?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s