Esther Jacobson-Tepfer, Cultural Riddles: Stylized Deer and Deer Stones of the Mongolian Altai

Deer stone of Mongolian type (Type 1), Ushkiin-Uver. Hövgöl aimag, Mongolia.

This paper examines the image of a stylized deer of the late Bronze and early Iron Ages in Mongolia and adjoining regions.  This image is associated primarily with a particular kind of standing stone known as "deer stone" found in the Transbaikal and northern Mongolia.   In fact, the Mongolian deer stone is only one of several so-called deer stone types of that period, and the stylized deer image itself existed independently, and vigorously, across Mongolia but most particularly in  rock art of the Altai Mountains.  An examination of the deer image pecked into the surfaces of erratic boulders and bedrock complicates traditional understandings of the evolution and significance of all deer stone typologies.  It is evident that in the case of the Altai representations, image meaning seems to point in  cultural directions rather different from those hitherto associated with the generic deer stone.

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