ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe they have found the burial site and treasure trove of the Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan.
The discovery of a walled burial ground containing at least 60 unopened tombs has increased speculation that an expedition that is under way will succeed in tracking down the elusive conqueror, who was buried amid great secrecy and slaughter in 1227.
John Woods, a history professor at the University of Chicago, said: "It is an exciting discovery because it's located near where some other important events occurred in Khan's life." Professor Woods leads the American-Mongolian team that has been scouring the steppes since last year.
These locations include Genghis Khan's likely birthplace and the Great Kuriltai, where 20,000 people crowned him Khan of Khans, and ruler of "all who live in felt tents".
After his crowning, the warrior let loose one of the most effective fighting forces assembled in the pre-firearms era. More than three million people may have died during the bloody creation of the largest contiguous land empire in history. At their height, the Mongolians simultaneously challenged the Germans and the Japanese.
After his death at the age of 65, perhaps from injuries suffered in a fall from his beloved horse, Genghis was buried by generals who went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the grave. Every one of the 2,000 people who attended his funeral was reportedly massacred by 800 soldiers, who in turn were killed to ensure his rest was undisturbed.
He has lain undisturbed ever since, despite the hi-tech efforts of Japanese explorers who wasted three years and millions of dollars in the mid-Nineties in a vain attempt to find his grave.
The Americans believe luck is on their side this time. As they considered abandoning a search near the town of Batshireet in Khentii Province, 200 miles north-east of the capital Ulan Bator, they heeded a suggestion from an asthmatic Mongolian geographer to climb a nearby hill, which was so steep that it had defeated him. …