Genghis Khan exhibit opens Friday at Field Museum

February 22, 2012 5:05:30 AM PST
More than 800 years ago, a man named Genghis Khan forever changed the face of Asia and Europe. He was a warrior, an educator and a statesman. His story is now being told at The Field Museum.

Featured is the authentic music of Mongolia, and the frightening and unusual tale of Genghis Khan, brutal conqueror and genius politician.

"It is the story of a great leader," said museum president John McCarter, "and a great land empire in central Asia 800 years ago...The good and the bad. You get all the dimensions."

And there was plenty of both for this man and his army who overran Asia and parts of Europe starting in the year 1206. And that's what this exhibit, which opens a six-month run this Friday, is all about: The story of a man who had a taste for blood and power, and more and more land.

"With an army of only about 150,000 men he was able to conquer everything from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and from Russia down to India. This was 11 million square miles," said Tom Skwerski, manager of exhibitions at The Field Museum.

Starting in 1206, Khan and his descendents spread across Asia and Europe like wildfire, and by 1279, the Mongol empire was the largest ever created.

Yet, this man who lived by the sword also educated those he conquered, and much more.

"He was a statesman and an innovator, creating things like the silk road, by which he had passports, the postal system and religious freedom," Skwerski said.

This is the largest collection of 13th century Mongolian artifacts ever assembled in one location. All because of a man who combined conquer and culture.

But Genghis Khan was more than a warrior and innovator. He was also one of the great lovers of all time. He had several wives and 500 concubines. In a sense, Genghis Khan lives on today.

"His legacy is also a legacy of DNA," said Skwerski. "The American Journal of Human Genetics traces it back to 16 million men living in Asia that share the Y chromosome of Genghis Khan."

Someday that could be one heck of a family reunion.

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