'Amazing' Christian Temples Unearthed in Ancient Mongolian City Ruled by Genghis Khan Heirs

( [email protected] ) Oct 28, 2014 12:31 PM EDT
Ancient City
Archaeologists from the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore at the Ukek dig site. (Photo: Dmitriy Kubankin )

In an amazing unearthing, two Christian temples believed to be remains of a 750-year-old city of Ukek, founded by descendants of Genghis Khan, have been discovered along the banks of the river Volga in Russia.


According to archeologists from Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore, the city of Ukek was founded around 750 years ago by Batu Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, who controlled the Golden Horde kingdom stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia and controlled many of the Silk Road routes

At the time, Ukek was a multicultural city where a variety of religions were practiced, including Islam and Christianity.

The uncovered temples were roofed with tiles and decorated with stone carvings and murals and contained the remains of goods stored by merchants, including plates and bottles imported from Rome, Egypt or Iran. Also among the findings were high status items such as "a Chinese glass hair pin, with a head shaped as a split pomegranate, and a fragment of a bone plate with a carved dragon image"--which, according to archeologists, proves that not all Christians were treated as slaves.

"This discovery is significant for Christian history," said archaeologist Kimberely Smith-Wiess, "it gives us a peek into what it was like to practice the religion under the leadership of one of the most restrictive and brutal line of rulers in history."

Archeology reports that after the first Christian temple was destroyed in the early 14th century, a second temple was built in 1330 and remained in use until about 1350.

In 1395, Ukek was attacked and destroyed by a ruler named Tamerlane, who took over much of the territory formerly ruled by the Golden Horde.

Although archeologists believe much more could be discovered in the area, modern-day buildings cover much of the historic site of the city. Archaeologist Dmitriy Kubankin told the LiveScience website: "This hampers any research and prevents complete unearthing of the entire [site], because it extends over several private land plots.

"Nevertheless, digging just in one site may lead to significant discoveries. Archaeological expeditions from the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore [have made] yearly excavations since 2005."

Genghis Khan was one of the most successful and notorious rulers in history. Between 1206 and his death in 1227, he conquered nearly 12 million square miles of territory. He is believed to be responsible for the deaths of around 40 million people, a majority of which were Christians.