Key dates in twentieth century xiongnu archaeology
Russian scholars were the trailblazers in Xiongnu archaeology. Between 1896 and 1902, anthropologist Yu. D. Tal’ko-Gryntsevitch led the initial investigations of Xiongnu tombs. After that, archaeologists tended to favor the study of burial sites, no doubt because of the objects they were likely to contain. In 1924–25, Captain P. K. Kozlov's Mongolian-Tibetan expedition brought to light significant vestiges in northern Mongolia when it excavated twelve kurgans in the Noin-Ula necropolis. Some of these graves seemed to be royal, such as kurgan no. 6, which yielded a number of artifacts, in particular silks and Han lacquers, including a cup bearing a date. This allowed archaeologists to hypothesize that its occupant was the chanyu Wuzhuliuoruodi, who died in 13 AD. After a thirty-year hiatus, research began again under the leadership of archaeologists Kh. Perlee and Ts. Dorjsüren.
Perlee studied four Xiongnu settlements in the Kherlen Basin in 1952 and 1956, while Dorjsüren explored Noin-Ula in 1954–1955 and then Gol Mod in 1956–1957. At Noin-Ula he excavated a principal tomb, four secondary burials and about ten sacrificial pits. During the second campaign, he discovered an unrecorded set of seventeen tombs. Since 2006, a Russian-Mongolian team led by N. Polosmak has reopened the Noin-Ula site.
In the Arkhangai province at Gol Mod, Dorjsüren studied twenty-six tombs but finally decided to abandon this area. Starting in 1961, he explored the site of Takhilt in the province of Khovd. The following decades witnessed new expeditions. Beginning in 1974, K. Perlee made a survey of Duurlig Naars in the province of Khentii, while at the same time Russian archaeologists in Buriatia started to work at Ivolga. Under the leadership of A. Davydova, 216 tombs were excavated. S. Minaev and his team began to study funerary ensembles at Derestuy and then at Tsaram. At the same time, in China, researchers Tian Guangjin and Guo Suxin explored significant Xiongnu sites in the Ordos. In the early 1990s, a Mongolian-Japanese expedition, led by professors D. Tseveendorj and S. Kato, studied Xiongnu vestiges in the Khentii. Starting in 1996, the French Archaeological Expedition in Mongolia began a rescue archaeology operation in the province of Bulgan at the Egiin Gol site, where it studied a hundred tombs in the Egiin Gol cemetery. Since the year 2000, the Expedition has been working at the Gol Mod site.