Y.N. Esin1, J. Magail2, C. Yeruul-Erdene3, and J. Gantulga3 1Khakass Research Institute of Language, Literature and History, Shchetinkina 23, Abakan, 655017, Russia 2Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology of Monaco, 56 bis Boulevard du Jardin Exotique, 98000 Monaco 3Institute of History and Archaeology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Zhukovyn 77, Ulaanbaatar, 13343, Mongolia
This study focuses on traces of paint on stone stelae (“deer stones”) of Mongolia, dating from the late second to the mid-first millennia BC. The painting was made in various shades of red. In all cases, remains of paint were found on facets which had been protected from weathering because the stelae had collapsed or been reused. Additional protection might have been provided by a calcite crust formed where the stelae were in contact with the ground. On the basis of the role of painting in visual imagery, two groups of paintings are described: supportive (filling in the engraved figures) and independent. The first group is the largest. In terms of composition, stelae fall into two types: 1) those whose front is on the narrow vertical facet, carrying images of deer in the Mongolian-Transbaikalian style; 2) and those whose front is on the wide vertical facet, where the upper tier is emphasized, and neither deer nor belts with weapons are represented. The relative chronology of the two types is established by the fact that in certain instances, stelae of the first type were reshaped into those of the second type. The first type is related to funerary and memorial sites of the Khereksur and Deer Stone culture of Central Mongolia; the second, to burials of the Slab Grave culture. The tradition of decorating engraved figures with red mineral paint originated among eastern Eurasian steppe pastoralists in the Early Bronze Age.
Keywords: Mongolia, Trans-Baikal, Bronze Age, Early Iron Age, khereksurs, Slab Grave culture, deer stones, stelae.