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J., will look into contemporary accounts from China, Persia and Europe for clues to climate and military events.From all this, the researchers hope to develop a picture of how sun, water, soil and animals might have created an energy system that the Mongols could have tapped into.The idea that shifting climate can influence civilizations has gained traction in recent years.
In Mongolia’s rocky Khangai Mountains, ecologist Byambasuren Oyunsanaa and biophysicist Damdin Suren Sodov cross-section a dead trunk that easily could have grown 1,000 years ago.
In summer 2012, Pederson, Hessl and several Mongolian colleagues spent a week gathering more tree-ring samples.
In the West, they are stereotyped as ruthless invaders; but in fact by unifying huge territories (including what is now modern China) they brought peace and economic stability to the people of many long-warring smaller fiefdoms.
Rival rulers who joined them were left in place (although they had to pay taxes), and the Mongols made it a policy to leave common people alone to follow their own regional customs and cultures.
There is a case to be made that the Mongols in fact originated many modern governmental concepts: religious freedom; state-sponsored agricultural research; an international postal system; and civil-service appointments based on merit, not aristocratic pedigree.
The last ruling line of Genghis Khan’s descendants survived in central Asia’s Bukhara region until the 1920s, when they were unseated by the Soviets.Growing out of fissures and thin soils were thousands of gnarled, stunted larches and Siberian pines–a tree-ring scientist’s treasure.Annual rings of many species reflect rainfall or temperature in predictable ways.The idea may have implications not only for our understanding of history, but for modern Mongolia and the wider world.(Read the researchers’ latest results, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) Tree-ring scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have worked in Mongolia since 1995.These can be read like books; and trees in the driest, harshest sites like this are exquisitely sensitive to rain, live to extraordinary ages, and leave trunks that may stand for centuries after they die.They are truly ancient manuscripts, writ with a fine hand.The team also scouted lakes in the grasslands below, where herders for centuries have driven livestock and horses.Like tree rings, lake-bottom sediments build up year by year.That time also was unusually warm, as shown by a 2001 paper from other Lamont researchers.Pederson and Hessl reasoned that the clement weather could have brought an unusual boom in grass production—and thus a boom in camels, yaks, cattle, sheep and other livestock that have always comprised the country’s main wealth.