LiveScience by Laura Geggel, april 19, 2017
“I could tell you where Genghis Khan is buried,” says Alan Nichols, the first time we speak. “But then I’d have to shoot you.”
We laugh, but I am not sure the American explorer isn’t serious: after all, it’s a mystery that’s endured for nearly 800 years.
There have been many attempts to find Genghis’ tomb by grave robbers, adventurers and archaeologists. Most have been centred on Burkhan Khaldun, in the Khentii province of northeastern Mongolia, the great warrior’s birthplace. According to The Secret History of the Mongols (1240), the oldest surviving literary work on the last days of Genghis, he sought refuge here, worshipped here, declared it the most sacred mountain in Mongolia and – most intriguingly – exclaimed, “Bury me here when I pass away.” However, all searches of the area have proved fruitless.
After a decade of research, Nichols, 86, an attorney, published author and expert on Tibet and China, is convinced Genghis’ final resting place is elsewhere. He invited me to join an expedition to show the tomb is hidden where he thinks it is, but his emails were so cryptic that only at the last minute did I know which country to book flights to.
At first, all I was told was that we were going “somewhere in historical Mongolia”, the route and plans changing in the days leading up to our meeting.
His obsession with secrecy is largely due to concerns about what could happen should knowledge of the burial site fall into the wrong hands. Not only would the discovery of the tomb of the founder of the Mongol empire be of huge historical significance, it’s also believed to be full of jewellery, precious metals and relics.
“I’m very careful about not telling people where it is,” he says. “I have agreements with all the technical people – I’m a lawyer, as you know – and I’ve already thought how to make sure that nobody lets it out” before, that is, he’s been able to go through the correct channels and guarantee some measure of protection.