Honors Program

University Honors, Honors in Philosophy

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Richard D. Kortum

Thesis Professor Department

Philosophy and Humanities

Thesis Reader(s)

Douglas S. Duckworth


In the Altai Mountains of far-western Mongolia near the convergence of China, Kazakhstan, and Russia, the Biluut Rock Art Complex contains over 9,000 petroglyphs. Hundreds of associated archaeological features including stone mounds and different types of standing stones are also present. Perhaps most crucial to connecting Biluut rock art with these features are deer stones, found not only here, but also throughout northern and central Mongolia, the larger Altai region, and Central Asia. These monuments bear important connections to khirigsuurs, Bronze Age burial mounds of stone encircled by ringed “fences”. Stylized “Mongolian deer” engraved on the classical type of deer stone have also been found on natural rock panels on the three Biluut hills. Combined rock art and archaeological research as part of a larger project aims to clarify cultural developments in the Bronze and early Iron Ages, especially. My thesis contributes to these efforts by aiding in the documentation, cataloguing, analysis, and interpretation of Mongolian deer and other deer imagery at Biluut, in the context of rock art and archaeology in the general region. Systematic stylistic analysis of Mongolian deer forms is discussed in light of new data collected from Biluut 3 in the summer of 2011, then extended to a mixed body of deer imagery as a whole. This refines perspectives on the language of Mongolian deer imagery at Biluut and nearby sites (which I initiated as the focus of my McNair project in 2010-2011), and extends to the wider body of deer imagery. Considering the cosmology and gender significance of deer imagery, I critically engage with Jacobson-Tepfer’s “Deer Goddess” interpretation of the classical Mongolian deer figure-type. A core component of this research is an investigation of Mongolian shamanism and related Siberian forms of shamanism.

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

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