We are all visual creatures and harness a multitude of mental imagery and associations with pretty much any term stored among our vast, dusty memories. If I asked you to think about London, you would probably immediately see the Big Ben clock tower before your very own eyes, shortly followed by Tower Bridge or, perhaps, the London Eye or St Paul’s Cathedral. If I asked you to think about Mongolia, you would probably see a horse, maybe a steppe or eagle hunters but I could bet my life on it that the first person that would float out of your subconscious would be Genghis Khan.
I am so certain of it because this is pretty much the only historical context that we, Europeans, tend to have about Mongolia. Feeling a little inadequate with my meagre history attainment, I made it my point of honour to visit the National Museum of Mongolia, located just off the main parliament square, in place of the former Museum of the Revolution.
I was very glad to discover that, although very important to Mongolia’s status and national pride, Genghis’s era is only one of the very many fascinating chapters of Mongolia’s history. It was also a joy to find a plethora of artefacts in the museum’s collection, starting from the Stone and Bronze Age, all the way through the Turkish tribe rule in Mongolia and ending in the familiar Soviet and, more recent, democratic period. Here is a selection of my favourite exhibits.