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

  • 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 might link the archeological 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 the İzmir Kâtip Çelebi University, found the remains of roof tiles, bricks, and ceramic pottery in the Van Province of eastern Turkey.

Scientists at 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 noted that there were s-like symbols, or “swastikas,” imprinted on the roof tiles, said Munkhtulga Rinchinkhorol, an archaeologist who was on the dig,per Live Science.

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

A view from the statue of Genghis Khan in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

A view from the statue of Genghis Khan in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The arms and collar of his robe are decorated with swastikas
Sergen Sezgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The swastikas’ association with the Mongol Khans, alongside historical records indicating that the Mongols had a large presence in the area, indicates that this could have been a palace built during the Ilkhanate period, Live Science reported.

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

An illustration of Hulagu Khan

A 14th-century illustration of Hulagu Khan being enthroned.
Pictures 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, the science magazine reported.

But Timothy May, a professor of Central Eurasian History at the University of North Georgia, told Live Science 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, chair 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 am hungrily waiting for more information.”