Ruins decorated with swastikas may be clues to the palace of Genghis Khan’s bloodthirsty grandson, archaeologists say

Aerial view of the excavation site in Turkey

Aerial view of the excavation site in Van, Turkey, where researchers are looking into whether this was the site of Hulagu Khan’s summer palace.Necat Hazar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

  • A team of archaeologists may have discovered the ruins of a palace owned by Genghis Khan’s grandson.

  • The team says swastika patterns on ruins in Van, Turkey, may link the archaeological site to Hulagu Khan.

  • Hulagu Khan is known for slaughtering armies, destroying cities and trampling a caliph to death with horses.

Archaeologists may have discovered the remains of an ancient summer palace built for Genghis Khan’s bloodthirsty grandson, Hulagu Khan, in the 1260s, according to new research.

A joint Turkish and Mongolian excavation team, led by Ersel Çağlıtütüncigil of İzmir Kâtip Çelebi University, found the remains of roof tiles, bricks and ceramic pottery in the Van province of eastern Turkey.

Researchers at an excavation site in Turkey

Researchers examine the remains of roof tiles and pottery at an excavation site in Van Province, Turkey.Necat Hazar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The archaeologists noticed that there were s-like symbols, or “swastikas,” imprinted on the roof tiles, said Munkhtulga Rinchinkhorol, an archaeologist who was at the dig, according to Live Science.

Although the swastika pattern is now primarily associated with Nazi Germany, Rinchinkhorol told Science magazine that the symbol was previously used as “one of the symbols of power of the Mongol khans.”

View from the statue of Genghis Khan in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

View from the statue of Genghis Khan in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The arms and collar of his cloak are decorated with swastikasSergen Sezgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The swastika’s association with the Mongol khans, along with historical records indicating that the Mongols had a large presence in the area, indicate that this may have been a palace built during the Ilkhanate period, Live Science reported.

The Ilkhanate was a small Mongol empire in the 13th and 14th centuries, founded by Hulaghu Khan. Hulagu, who conquered significant parts of Western Asia, are known for slaughtering armies and destroying cities. He was known for sacking Baghdad in 1258 and trampling the caliph to death with horses.

An illustration of Hulagu Khan

A 14th-century illustration of Hulagu Khan enthroned.Images from History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

There are historical records indicating that an Ilkhanate palace existed in the area, per Live Science. The 13th-century Armenian historians Kirakos of Ganja and Grigory of Akanc gave accounts of palaces near Lake Van, Science magazine reported.

But Timothy May, a professor of Central Eurasian history at the University of North Georgia, told LiveScience that while it is possible that this palace belonged to Hulagu and the scholars are “very good and may be correct,” further research is needed.

Michael Hope, head of Asian studies at Yonsei University in Korea, told Live Science that he agreed with May’s assessment. “Whether this is the palace of Hülegü described by Kirakos remains to be seen,” he said, per Live Science. “I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m hungrily awaiting more information.”

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