Make your own free website on



By D. Tumen, Ph.D., Chief of Anthropology Department, Institute of General and Experimental Biology, Academy of Sciences, Mongolia

The Mongols, who over centuries have been living in this unique ecological environment of Central Asia with a sharp continental climate and differing geographical zones and regions, have developed a distinctive nomadic civilization of pastoral livestock breeding. On the other hand, in the course of this historical development process an entire race of people have been named Mongoloid with a distinctive life-style, facial features and physical characteristics.

This unique feature of the Mongols has been changing with the influence of modern civilization of machinery and technology (industrialization, population growth, distribution, structure, migration, etc.). In view of this, anthropologists in this country are carrying out research into the peculiarities of a Mongol man combining their ancient past and the contemporaneity. This study is being conducted in the areas of paleoanthropology, morphology, genetics, ecology, demography, physiology, dentition, dermatoglyphics, ethnology and social anthropology.

The archaeological and paleoanthropological studies conducted in the recent years have revealed huge caches of weapons and artifacts pertaining to the Paleolithic Period, which were found in the Mongolian Altai mountain regions and in Gobi Altai aimag. A cave inhabited by the ancestors of today's Mongols who lived some 500 thousand years ago, was found in Bayanlig soum, Bayanhongor aimag which was one of the first major finds of the early men in the whole of Central Asia. This find, in some ways, confirms the authenticity of the hypothesis by an American scientist Osborne, who lived in the early XX century, that man could have originated from Mongolia.

Apart from this, Mongolian archaeologists and paleontologists have found a rich collection of paleoanthropological finds pertaining to the Neolithic Period (10,000-7,000 BC), the Bronze Age (X-VII centuries, BC), the Iron Age (VII-V centuries BC), the period of the Huns (III-I centuries, BC), the ancient Mongol Period (I century, AD) , and the latter-day Mongol Period (XIII-XVIII centuries, AD). The research conducted into these finds show that the Mongols of the Neolithic Period and early Bronze Age, living in the country's western parts, were nomads with a European feature, while those living in the country's central and eastern regions had Mongoloid features with a nomadic way of life.

There are more than 20 tribes and ethnic group of Mongol and Turkish origin living in Mongolia. The 1989 population census shows that 80 percent of Mongolia's population are Halha; 2.6% - Dorvod; 2.0% - Bayad; 0.3% - Hoton; 0.5% - Oold; 0.2% - Miangad; 1.2% - Zahchin; 1.1% - Urianhai; 0.5% - Torguud; 6.1% - Kazakh; 1.2% - Buriad; 0.7% - Darhad; 0.1% - Barag; 1.1% - Uzemchin; 1.5% - Dariganga; and the rest are Chantuu, Tsaatan (reindeer breeders), and Tuva, etc. Of them, the Kazakh, Hoton, Tuva, Chantuu or Uzbek and Tsaatan are of Turkish origin and the remaining - of the Mongol origin.

Historically, the Dorvod, Bayad, Miangad, Torguud, Urianhai, Oold and Zahchin are from Western Mongolia or are of the Oirad tribes; the Uzemchin and Barag are from Inner Mongolia and all of the Halha tribes, including the Borjigin. Hatgin, Hotgoid, Sartuul, Iljigin, etc., are from Central Mongolia.

According to anthropological characteristics, these tribes, although they have the features characteristic of the Mongols, can be divided into two basic groups, according to their geographical affiliation. For instance, the Buriad, Barag and Hatgin tribes of Eastern Mongolia and the Halha tribes have a strong Mongol characteristics while those tribes living in the West - Zahchin, Torguud, Oold, etc., - have characteristics relatively similar to the Europeans. The Mongols with their anthropological traits are very similar and close to the Buriad, Kalmyk, Koreans and the Japanese.

Population ecological study shows that the indigenous inhabitants of the Gobi, the steppe and high forest mountains are not much different in their height and weight, but are quite different in their physical structure, physical ratio and metabolism. For instance, people living in the high Altai mountainous regions are taller than those living in other zones, while those living in the Gobi, compared to people from the forest regions, have broad flat chests and tend to have less fat. While the cholesterol content in the blood of people in the Gobi is higher than those in the other geographical zones.

The average height of a male Mongolian is 161.5 cm and weight - 66.7 kg, while those of a woman are 156.7 cm and 57.6 kg, respectively. Compared to the figures in 1970, we find that the Mongolians have become taller by 2.5 to 3 cm and this growth is particularly evident in children and adolescents. For instance, research shows that starting from the 1980's, young Mongolians have been maturing earlier and their physical growth has been faster. However, this acceleration in adolescents is not the same in the urban and rural areas. For example, as a result of urbanization, which has been rather fast in the last 30 years in Ulaanbaatar, Erdenet, Darhan and Choibalsan, the average height of boys of 17 years of age in these towns has reached 167.5 cm, average weight - 66.8 kg, and those of girls - 158.6 cm and 56.4 kg, respectively. While the average height of rural boys of the same age in aimag centers is 166.4 cm, the average weight - 66.2 kg, and those of girls are 156.3 cm and 56.1 kg, respectively, and these indicators in remote rural areas are 165.8 cm and 64.6 kg for boys; 155.7 cm and 55.1 kg for girls, respectively.

In conclusion, it must be noted that the Government has launched the "Man" project, within the framework of which it is planned to study the physical, hereditary and psychological characteristics of a Mongol and establish a national standard. It is also planned to draft an adequate program of ensuring the reproduction of the Mongolian population and eventually determine the demographic policy of the country.

The Mongol Mesenger *No. 17 (95) April 27, 1993