Dotted with archaeological sites, Siberia may be the final piece of an ancient Chinese puzzle.
Siberia is known from many things: Gulags, unmitigated cold, and more recently, a treasure trove of natural resources. A luxurious Chinese palace, however, would throw just about anyone.
But that is just what road crews found outside the city of Abakan, capital of the Russian Federation republic of Khakassia, not far from the northern borders of Mongolia. Clearing a track from Abakan to the village of Askyz, workers stumbling upon the buried foundations of a ruined building. The area is well known for tombs buried under mounds of earth called kurgans
, and archaeologists were quickly called in.
What they found was the equivalent of a palm tree on Mars. The site revealed a huge compound far bigger than any kurgan
, nearly 5000 feet combined. As unlikely as it was, the structure was the remains of a palace.
Even more unlikely, it was a palace typical of the Han Empire in China, which flourished from 206 BC to 220 AD. Topping it off was the fact the find was several hundred miles from the known borders of the Han Empire, in a the region controlled by the Xiongnu Khanate, a mysterious people with whom imperial Han forces often fought in open, bloody warfare.
Fully excavated in 1940, the site yielded up numerous luxury items from bronze ware to pottery all reminiscent of Han glory, sparking a lively debate as to just how the palace, and its obviously high-ranking occupants, came to live not only only far from the Han homeland, but in enemy territory to boot.