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As global temperatures warm, could pyramids of skulls be around the corner?

Might unusually warm weather in the 13th century given the Mongols what they needed to conquer much of the known world?

Beginning in the 13th century, the Mongol Empire spread across Asia and into the Middle East like wildfire, growing into the largest contiguous land empire the world has ever seen.

Historians have long speculated that periods of drought pushed the Mongol hordes to conquer their neighbors, but preliminary new findings suggest that theory may be exactly backward. Instead, consistent rain and warm temperatures may have given the Mongols the energy source they needed to conquer Eurasia: grass for their horses.

This idea, bolstered by the discovery of tree rings that preserve a climate history of Mongolia back to 657 A.D., is still in the preliminary stages of investigation. LiveScience spoke with Amy Hessl, the dendochronologist, or tree-ring researcher, who along with collaborators Neil Pederson and Baatarbileg Nachin first discovered the preserved trees hinting at the weather during the era of the Mongols.

Not to worry anyone, but as the New York Times recently reported, the Mongolians might be stocking up for the big push:

These days, the perks are far plusher. Mongolia, it turns out, sits atop a treasure trove of copper, coal and gold that is changing the fate — and the face — of this mostly empty country, thanks to China’s insatiable demand for natural resources. The surging mining trade has made Mongolia the world’s fastest-growing economy, transforming Ulan Bator into a city where Soviet bust meets Chinese boom.

And now the mercenaries in finance, attracted by a frenzy of deal-making, have joined in, too. “It’s a bit of a gold rush,” Mr. Hodgson said as he worked a booth at a coal industry conference packed with tailored suits and foreign accents.

For locals, their gentrifying capital, home to half of Mongolia’s 2.7 million people, has become a petri dish for their hopes and fears. Amid the crumbling Stalinist apartment blocks and rising skyscrapers, a debate is raging over mining’s impact, pitting those who praise the industry for sweeping away decades of decay against others who see materialism and corruption polluting Mongolia’s traditional way of life.

Sure, the Mongols might look cute and cuddly, but one minute they’re tending sheep, the next they’re chucking plague-infected carcasses into besieged cities.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Wait a second, are you telling us that even in the pre-industrial age, the Earth’s climatic history was marked by cooling periods and warming periods?

  • Dokdoforever

    That’s funny, the history books I read say that it was 50 years of unusually cold winters that shortened the growing season, forcing Genghis to turn to raiding his neighbors for survival.  His neighbors, the Xia in particular, exacerbated his difficulties by cutting off trade.

    I also saw a paper that blamed Genghis for the mini ice age after his rise.  His slaughter of millions somehow stopped alot of carbon emissions.  

  • Dokdoforever

    From the text book:
    …In the period from 1180–1220, Mongolia experienced a drop in the mean annual temperature,which meant that the growing season for grass was cut short. Less grass meant a real dangerto the Mongols’ animals, and, since the animals were truly the basis of the Mongols’pastoral-nomadic life, this ecological threat may have prompted them to move out of Mongolia

    Source: “The Mongols in World History,” Asian Topics in World History online, Columbia University (adapted)

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Well, a lot fewer cow (and human) farts will do that apparently:


  • http://www.globalasianculture.com Liz

    Sure, the Mongols might look cute and cuddly, but one minute they’re tending sheep, the next they’re chucking plague-infected carcasses into besieged cities.

    My rejoinder?

    Sure, the Germans might look thrifty and jolly, but one minute they’re plying you with beer and sasuages, the next they’re throwing Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals into flaming ovens.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Yeah, but is that climate-dependent?

  • http://www.globalasianculture.com Liz

    No I think that’s more dependent upon the amount of alcohol they have *not* consumed and when they start taking life way too seriously.

    Sturm und Drang! Sturm und Drang!

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Besides, shouldn’t that be “thrifty OR jolly,” depending on the region?

  • Byeonguk Yook

    Mongol conquest that would have to be weather change coinciding with Chinggis Khan. With weather alone they could just have been raiding over longer distances. 

  • http://www.globalasianculture.com Liz

    Really? But I thought Germany was one big blob, kind of like the way you described … Mongolia?

  • Arghaeri

    Humour detection failure? :-)

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Not sure if it’s a humor detection failure. That said, there is a major difference. Germans are almost universally ashamed of the Nazis. If you meet a Mongolian ashamed of Uncle Genghis, let me know. Since liberation from Soviet communism, they’ve named half the country after him, despite his inflicting demographic changes in conquered nations that would have sickened Pol Pot.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Besides, I’m all in favor of ethnic stereotypes, but it’s important to mix them properly. Germans are either thrifty, efficient and humorless, or they’re fat, jolly and live in Bavaria. If you mix the two, jokes like this (from Seth Myers) don’t work:

    German police fired only 85 bullets in all of 2011 & most of those were fired into the air to silence the laughter of children.

  • http://www.globalasianculture.com Liz


    I think we should all forget the havoc Mongolians wreaked in the 12th century. That was a long time ago. Can’t say the same for the Nazis.
    I pardon the Mongolians because they did, after all, give us decent barbecue. As a Korean I’ve definitely moved on, forgiven them. Did I mention the barbecue?So in light of my largesse, I suggest you let it go too. I mean they invaded Korea for shit’s sake, and not the Koehler-land, so what’s the beef. Because as we all know they mysteriously turned away at the gates of Vienna–my guess is the women were not to their liking.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer Accipiter

    I never thought the Poles and Teutonic Knights were particularly mysterious

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Couple of things:

    1. Taiwanese brought us Mongolian barbeque. The Mongols brought us soju, the world’s first international post system and interesting architectural applications with the human skull.

    2. Wrong Altaic speakers-it was the Turks who were turned away at the gates of Vienna. The Mongols smashes the
    Hungarians and then turned back when their khan died. And what are you trying to say about the flower of Teutonic womanhood?

    On a more serious note, sure it was the 12th century. But watch what would happen if, say, the French named Paris’s international airport after a hero from the Crusades.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    “Sure, the Mongols might look cute and cuddly, but one minute they’re
    tending sheep, the next they’re chucking plague-infected carcasses into
    besieged cities.”

    It’s that time of month for your wife, eh?

  • Dokdoforever

    Not cool. 

  • LazyassBruiser

     Mongolia experienced a drop in the mean annual temperature

    I dread to think what a mean annual temperature drop in Mongolia must feel like…probably almost as bad as a January in Chicago 

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer Accipiter

    @2  Yeah there’s that, i.e. the Turks, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hankin/1037654521 Richard Hankin

    Hopefully Mongolia will use SOME of the soon to be new found wealth and help the street children who live underground and are addicted to drugs.
    Mostly orphans or abandoned ,they live a life, as you would expect, of misery and depravation.

  • SomeguyinKorea

     No, what’s not cool is that he made that joke although his wife is from Mongolia.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    Assuming corruption doesn’t set in. 

  • Arghaeri

    RK I replied to Liz’s comment, and it appears to be confirmed since she’s still wittering on asking what you of all people have against mongolians. LOL

  • Arghaeri

    Another thing being that Koehler land is most likely the old teutonic state of Saxony, and as such Koehler may well gave been ivolved in the battle of Legnica in 1241.

    As such RK is probably within his rights to br pissed at the mogol depredations against his greatgreatgreat……..grandpappy in the 13 Century.

    Not to mention the much later

  • http://www.globalasianculture.com Liz

    Look at you, all in a snit. I reckon I hit a nerve?

    The Taiwanese may have brought Mongolian barbecue to the West, but the Mongolians are probably the originators of Korean barbecue in Korea, long before Taiwan even came to be.


    Batu Khan, who spearheaded Operation Central Europe was Mongolian. And I’m sure he liked his dumplings the size of baby heads. So … BAM! Again.

    On the subject of Teutonic womanhood — let’s just say — can’t all look like Diane Kruger now.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    What would happen if muslims named an airport after Saladin? Frankly in Europe religion took a hit due all the senseless wars in the name of it since then.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    What would happen if Muslims named an airport after Saladin? Absolutely nothing.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Actually, Germans are anal, or at least one can come to that conclusion by studying German grammar or watching their porn.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    January in Chicago? You’re such a pussy.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Doesn’t explain why they went so damned far out of Mongolia, though.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Speaking of Mongols and Germans…


  • SomeguyinKorea

    And since this a blog about Korea and all things Korean…


  • SomeguyinKorea
  • http://www.globalasianculture.com Liz

    This is the kind of video I end up watching when I find myself in that part of YouTube where I’m like, “Where the F*** am I?”

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    When I feel bad about US pop culture, I console myself thinking of Eurovision.

  • Dokdoforever

    It explains why the Mongols turned increasingly towards raiding surounding agricultural sedentary civilizations, rather than rely on grazing sheep. Once they began to raid, they could use surplus wealth and men to build up their military for the next raid. There is a momentum to raiding and conquering. You raid, pay off your soldiers with booty, raid again, pay off more soldiers and so on. The problem is when you reach a point of declining marginal return – when the next raid becomes harder and harder. Which is why you see the Mongols trying to conquer Japan, see them get bogged down in Java and Vietnam. And the Mongols had no way to gain consent of the governed through institutions or shared cultural values or religion. Which is why their empire – the greatest on the planet – collapsed within 50 years.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Not that I watch the Eurovision every year, but I think the last decent singer was Celine Dion when she sang the song picked to represent Switzerland (if I remember correctly), and won…


    I had a great time this afternoon showing my kid clips of some of the worst performances of the Eurovision over the years, including the Djingisch Khan one. But, I made sure that I explained to him beforehand that many of the acts are supposed to lose because the countries they represent don’t want to have to foot the bill for the next competition, which is what happens when a country wins.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    “Which is why you see the Mongols trying to conquer Japan”

    I remember seeing an interesting documentary where they excavated some of the ships that had sunk during the Mongols massive failure to invade Japan (typhoon, divine wind, etc. You know the story) which lead to the end of Mongol Empire. Turns out that some of the ships, which the archeologists determined were built in Korea, had a very basic flaw built into them (the masts were anchored in such a way that they would snap off or send the ships in a tailspin in strong winds) which have historians wondering if it was sabotage. I would be inclined to believe that it was.

  • Jens-Olaf

    Most Korean students to Germany are going for the music or engineering, some for the language few for the arts. I guess that says all about what they are expecting there. Also sports has a reputation for studying.

  • http://www.globalasianculture.com Liz

    Don’t get me wrong. I think Germany’s great.

    I was just picking on Mr. Koehler. It’s a former co-worker thing.

    Of course back then I didn’t read this blog. I didn’t need to, because everything RK posted he basically summarized like the Text To Speech Teutonic Robot that he is.

  • mie269sese


  • gumiho

    What would happen if the British named an armored car after Saladin?

  • Arghaeri

    About the same thing as if they named an armored personnel carrier Saracen.

  • WangKon936

    Okay. I get it. Global Warming is real. What convinced me? Studies from environmentalists? No. Studies from prominent meteorologists? Al Gore? Hell, no.

    What convinced me? Effing grizzly bears are mating with polar bears! The north is so warm now that grizzly bears can go up north to rape polar bears. Effing unreal.



  • palladin9479

    Lol. The worlds been slowly warming for awhile now. It’s going to get warmer over the next couple of decades. Part of that climate cycle that our green and blue world has been known to have for the past few millennia. The big debate is over the *cause* of that warming, is it part of the natural cycle or are humans causing it.

    In either case warming isn’t an issue. Warmer world and higher CO2 concentration means bigger and healthier plants and more farmable land. Warmer temperatures have correlation with higher bio-diversity and generally a more active planet. It’s cold temperatures that are associated with mass extinction, death and disaster.

    Fear the cold not the warmth.