The Xiongnu gold from Noin-ula (Mongolia)

N. V. Polosmak, S. S. Shatskaya, M. V. Zadorozhnyy, L. P. Kundo, E. V. Karpova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents the results of interdisciplinary studies of gold artifacts from the elite Xiongnu burials at Noin-Ula (Noyon Uul, Mongolia, early 1st millennium AD), excavated by the Russian-Mongolian expedition in 2006-2012. Using scanning electron microscopy, atomic absorption spectroscopy, and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, as much as 17 artifacts were analyzed. These include ornaments from coffins and clothes, made by Chinese artisans. Results suggest that they were all made of native gold, similar to that from the known deposits of Mongolia as far as the elemental composition is concerned (we used an electronic database containing information on 3338 samples of Mongolian native gold, as a reference). Results of statistical tests suggest that placer deposits were the most probable source of the gold. The results do not contradict the idea that Chinese artisans used Mongolian gold. In the Han era, the Xiongnu could have been among their principal providers. The relationships between the two empires and peoples were always beneficial for the Xiongnu. Enjoying the numerous achievements of the Han civilization, they offered too little in return. One of the ways the Han dynasty could have benefited from their tumultuous neighbors was to receive native gold from them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-94
Number of pages12
JournalArchaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Gold artifacts
  • Interdisciplinary studies
  • Mongolia
  • Native gold
  • Noin-Ula
  • Western Han era
  • Xiongnu
  • interdisciplinary studies
  • gold artifacts
  • native gold



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