A multidisciplinary research project uniting scientists in America with Mongolian scholars and archeologists has the first compelling evidence of the location of Khan’s burial site and the necropolis of the Mongol imperial family on a mountain range in a remote area in northwestern Mongolia.
Among the discoveries by the team are the foundations of what appears to be a large structure from the 13th or 14th century, in an area that has historically been associated with this grave. Scientists have also found a wide range of artifacts that include arrowheads, porcelain, and a variety of building material.
“Everything lines up in a very compelling way,” says Albert Lin, National Geographic explorer and principal investigator of the project, in an exclusive interview with Newsweek.Whether this is the real thing or not, you gotta love that this has been made possible:
In a laboratory at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology at University of California, San Diego, Lin and his team combed through the massive volumes of ultrahigh-resolution satellite imagery and built 3-D reconstructions from radar scans in their search for clues to where Genghis Khan may be buried. As part of an unprecedented open-source project, thousands of online volunteers sifted through 85,000 high-resolution satellite images to identify any hidden structures or odd-seeming formations.Apparently there is concern of the local authorities about grave robbing, so it does not seem that the site will be excavated anytime soon. And, perhaps, the central position of Genghis Khan in modern Mongolian culture might make the disinternment of any human remains from the area a difficult proposition politically.
In any case, it would be great to read the headline "Genome sequence of Genghis Khan" in your Nature or Science news feed one fine evening a few years down the road, so let's keep our fingers crossed that it may yet happen.
PS: On an unrelated topic, I sometimes wonder why there has not been more work on "famous DNA"? This would provide an incredible way of involving the public in cutting edge science. It might also help historical research, and while the location of Genghis Khan's tomb is obscure, those of other famous potentates like Tamerlane, or the Ottoman Sultans, or a good number of European royals are not.
Of course, there may not be much scientific interest in many such persons, but if Einstein's brain continues to be the subject of reputable studies in good journals, why isn't Einstein's genome so studied? Or Newton's, Darwin's, Beethoven's, or any other intellectual giant's whose burial place is known? I'm not naive enough to think that such an approach would reveal a "genius gene" they all possessed, but still, it is not inconceivable that something of interest about their origins -if not their genetic predispositions- might turn up.