On a small island, in a lake located in the mountains of southern Siberia lies one of the most intriguing archaeological sites of Russia, called Por Bajin (meaning “clay house”).
Dating back 1,300 years, this construction of high walls reminds us of a fortress, however, its true purpose still remains unknown. Por Bajin, which is located 20 miles (32 km) from the Mongolian borders, right in the middle of Tere-Khol Lake in Tuva, Siberia, was first explored in 1891 and excavated in 1957-1963. The first large-scale research started in 2007 by members of the Por Bajin Cultural Foundation.
Its true meaning and purpose have been fascinating researchers and people ever since. Many have supported the theory that this was a religious site, an astronomical site or even a summer palace. What’s more, the layout of this structure has led certain researchers to believe that it was meant as a ritual site. It is believed to be a site of the nomadic empire Uighur Khaganate, which spread all over Mongolia and southern Siberia from 744 – 840 AD. Nevertheless, the remote location of Por Bajin causes reasonable inquiries.
A 3D model that was created presents how Por Bajin might have looked like. Its outer walls are 12 meters high while the inner walls of approximately 1.5 meters height were meant to keep out the enemies. The main gate, connected to a second one, leads to two successive courtyards. An area of about seven acres includes more than 30 buildings. The layout of the site, with the existence of a central building and residential quarters, is similar to the style of Buddhist monasteries.
Albeit, the small amount of artifacts found on the site might be proof that it was not permanently inhabited. No one can tell for sure what the origin and purpose of this enigmatic site was. In addition, what puzzles researchers is the architectural style of this 1300-year-old construction, as the type of roof tiles, as well as the construction methods, are strongly influenced by the Chinese style.
Por Bajin was hit by a series of disasters. It was seriously damaged by at least one earthquake that left large cracks in the walls and bastions. The site was also destroyed by a fire. Por Bajin was never rebuilt and was probably very short-lived.
Chinese archaeologists are very interested in Por Bajin as well as Chinese Uighurs, who have long desired autonomy. To them, this site is evidence of the advanced development of Uighur culture at an early period in their history, and so it has a modern political significance. For all the reasons mentioned above, this intriguing site keeps attracting researchers trying to find answers.