First inscription that reads ‘Turk’ found in Mongolia
The very first inscription that reads “Turk,” belonging to Ilterish Qaghan, the founder of the Second Turkic Khaganate, has been found in Mongolia, with the Foreign Ministry considering the discovery “an important milestone in Turkish history.”
According to scientists, who started surface explorations in 2016, the region was where Ilterish Qaghan used to gather all the Turkish tribes. After the discovery of stones on which the stamps of these tribes were engraved, many statues and figures of Turkic princes were uncovered.
In the works that were interrupted due to the pandemic and restarted in July 2022, a giant complex was discovered during the excavation in a cairn of approximately 250 square meters.
The inscription in a monument complex found during a joint scientific archaeological expedition by the International Turkic Academy and the Mongolian Archaeological Institute in the Nomgon Valley is written in Turkic and Sogdian languages.
Scientists participating in the expedition identified words from the text of the monument, such as “Turk”, “tanrı” (god), “kutluk” (khaganate), and “tumen” (division).
“This inscription is of great importance as it takes our written history back further,” said Darhan Kıdıralı, the head of International Turkic Academy.
“The oldest written monument where the name ‘Turkish’ is mentioned for the first time was discovered by Turkish scientists,” Kıdıralı said, adding that this is a valuable discovery that will shed light on the history of many countries.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry made a statement regarding the discovery, saying, “The discovery of the monument complex, which is considered to belong to Ilterish Qaghan, the founder of the Second Turkic Khaganate, created excitement and joy.”
One of the important dimensions of the country’s relations with Mongolia, which is rooted in the Central Asian steppes, is cooperation in the fields of history and culture, according to the ministry.
It was said in the statement that this discovery, which marks the Turkish-Mongol cooperation, “is an important milestone in Turkish history, and at the same time, is a new work that adds to the cultural richness of Mongolia.”
“Unearthing, protecting and promoting these artifacts, which are important for Turkish history and are a part of Mongolia’s cultural heritage, will continue to be one of the most important areas of cooperation between Türkiye and Mongolia,” the ministry added.
Ahmet Taşağıl, a professor from Mimar Sinan University, said, “It is a very important discovery for the Turkish world and Turkish history,” and added that it may be as important a discovery as the Orkhon inscriptions, two memorial installations erected in the Old Turkic alphabet in the early eighth century.
The inscriptions, which were erected in honor of two Turkic princes, Kul Tigin and his brother Bilge Qaghan, Ilterish Qaghan’s sons, had been the oldest known written Turkic works.
They relate the legendary origins of the Turks, the golden age of their history, their subjugation by the Tang dynasty, and their liberation by Ilterish Qaghan.
Ilterish Qaghan left the sinicized tribes near China and returned to the Mongolian steppe in the 680s, from where he raised an army and reconquered most of the lands of the first Turkic khaganate. His name means uniter, refounder (teriş) of the nation (il). Ilterish Qaghan, known for the rumor that he was not defeated in any war, was succeeded by his brother, Qapaghan Qaghan.
The Second Turkic Khaganate was a khaganate in Central and Eastern Asia founded by the Ashina clan of the Göktürks. It was preceded by the Eastern Turkic Khaganate (552-630) and then a period of Tang dynasty rule (630-682). The Second Khaganate was centered on Ötüken in the upper reaches of the Orkhon River. It was succeeded by its subject the Toquz Oghuz confederation, which became the Uyghur Khaganate.