Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Ancient engravings represent an important material evidence of the Mongolian prehistory. Outstanding rock art sites of Mongolia and neighbouring Asian countries were submitted to or included in the World Heritage List. Several rock art sites were also documented in the frame of a research project on the Ikh Bogd Uul Mountain, a National Park and a specially protected area in the Eastern Mongolian Altai. In 2009, a richly engraved surface was documented at the winter campsite of B., a local expert herder and the project’s guide on the mountain. The year after, a section of the engraved rock had been transformed into a shrine for Chinggis Khan by the guide himself, in order to sanctify and protect his winter campsite. The figure of the Mongol warrior and emperor certainly has a prominent role in the construction of Mongolian national identity, while it is also venerated on a private level. On the other side, the sacralisation of ancient rock art at a living pastoral campsite can be linked to the local animated tradition of holy rocks and places, persistently included into long-term cosmologies and sacred geographies. Putting this subtle event into focus, I propose to analyse multiple levels and agencies of recognition and re-interpretation of the past and their relevance in shaping alternative heritages: a complex dialogue encompassing ancient places and materiality but also associated memories and values.