The Mongols and the Environment

The Mongol Empire is remembered as a mighty empire that rose from a small group of nomads in the steppes of Central Asia who were practically unstoppable, and at its height was composed of Central Asia, China, and large parts of the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Yet, the impact the Mongols had on the environment they conquered is not looked at in great depth.

The Mongols took advantage of the areas they conquered, including mining for precious metals and rocks that they would later use to craft beautiful artwork and tools. An example of this can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A Safe Conduct Pass, according to the description in the Met Museum website, was a passport for people who went on state missions and also was a patent used by those in government. The important thing to note about these passes, though, is that they are made of  “iron with a silver inlay” meaning that the Mongols had to extract the metals from the ground in order to make the passes. Metalwork became of great importance to the Mongol Empire, especially during Genghis Khan’s rule, as new ideas and technologies were exchanged between cultures in the 13th century (Met Museum). Unfortunately, the processes the Mongols used to get the metals have left areas in China with pollutants and contaminated soil. In the article “Kublai Khan and the Mongols were Terrible Polluters” by Popular Science, there is mention of a study in which researchers found high levels of pollutants near silver deposits around Lake Er in China. The sediment layers where those pollutants were located correspond to the years when the Yuan Dynasty was ruling the area. The processes the Mongols used involved “burning, melting, and separating, during which large amounts of lead and other contaminants can get released into the environment” (Griggs).

This article shows that humans have been contaminating the environment for a very long time, and most importantly it gives evidence that contaminating can leave long-lasting impacts on the environment, as made evident by farmers in China who have to deal with soil permeated with lead and other poisonous metals.

This issue is not only interesting, but it is important to look into because with the new technologies that have arisen since the pre-fifteen hundreds era there has been a lot of different ways the earth has been polluted. The effect this has had on the environment may not be apparent yet, but it will most probably have a negative effect on the world future generation live in.

Works Cited

Griggs, Mary Beth. “Kublai Khan And The Mongols Were Terrible Polluters.” Popular    Science. N.p., 9 Mar. 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.



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