Project: Karakorum 2020. A community project. Enhancement of the Kharkhorin Historical and Archaeological Heritage
Region: Area of Kharkhorin
Director: Roberta Menegazzi
Years: 2018-present

The site

The city of Kharkhorin, in the province of Övörkhangai, is located in an area of great historical and archaeological significance. The ruins of ancient Karakorum, the capital of the Mongolian Empire founded by Genghis Khan in 1220 and occupied until the end of the fourteenth century, are situated on the northern edge of the modern settlement. Moreover, the Buddhist monastery of Erdene Zuu, one of the largest in Mongolia, is located to the south of the ancient capital. This monastery was founded in 1585/86, in a place that is thought to have been previously occupied by the Khans’ imperial palace. The site of Karakorum has been investigated in recent years by a German-Mongolian expedition that, in addition to exploring different sectors of the city and some production areas outside the city walls, carried out surface surveys in the middle and upper Orkhon River valley. The team is currently conducting excavations at Karabalgasun, the capital of the Uyghur Empire, at about 30 km northwest of Kharkhorin.

The museum

The Karakorum Museum, not far from the archaeological site, provides an accurate picture of the historical development of the region, displaying several of the artefacts retrieved during the investigations in the ancient capital of the Mongolian Empire and the neighbouring sites. The Erdene Zuu monastery includes a museum section too, which contains both Buddhist artefacts and stone fragments originally belonging to the architectural decoration of Karakorum.

The activities of the Centro Scavi

Working together with both local and international institutions, the Centro Scavi Torino aims to enhance the rich historical and archaeological heritage of the region through a series of activities focussed on supporting the local museums as well as on disseminating the results of the ongoing research within the local communities.

The goal of the first action agreed with the Mongolian authorities was to bring the younger audience closer to the heritage preserved in the Karakorum Museum. The work carried out in the three-year period 2018–2020 was therefore centred on creating an educational section through the training of the museum staff and a series of workshops and activities specifically designed for school groups. In collaboration with the Ceramic Museum of Mondovì (2018) and the MAO - Museum of Oriental Art of Turin (2019), collaborative games, manual activities on various materials, and elaboration exercises were organised to help young visitors observe the exhibited objects, understand their function and manufacturing technique, and place them correctly in time. In 2020, the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic required to conduct the activities related to  the project remotely. In partnership with the Mongolian institutions involved, a board game and a comic book (in English and Mongolian) were created, based on the ideas collected during the on-site work carried out in 2019. A Mongolian artist was responsible for illustrating the historical narrative of the comic book (the journey to Mongolia of the Franciscan friar William of Rubruck), while an Italian artist was in charge of illustrating the frame story.

A remote training session for the staff of the Karakorum Museum was also held. At the suggestion of the staff themselves and thanks to the collaboration of experts from the YOCOCU association - YOuth in COnservation of CUltural Heritage, the session was mainly devoted to the conservation of stone materials exposed to natural agents.



2020, “From Turin to Karakorum: Archaeology for the Public though Asia”, in Cammarosano, M., Devecchi, E., Viano, M., Talugaes wittes. Ancient Near Eastern studies presented to Stefano de Martino on the occasion of his 65. Birthday, Munster, 275-285.