For the average Westerner, Mongolia is a land shrouded in mystery. We are taught very little about it in schools, and unless we pursue undergraduate or graduate studies in Asian art or history, we aren’t likely to learn much about it. The idea of Mongolia is one of skilled warriors on horseback, a rural lifestyle, and open wilderness for miles upon miles. We don’t realize how cosmopolitan its cities are or just how far back its history goes. For example, I bet you didn’t know this about Mongolia:
You read that right: Mongolia leads the world in velociraptor bones. If you’re not in the field of paleontology, you probably wouldn’t know this, but the Gobi Desert is full of dinosaur fossils. There are 80 different genera of dinosaurs that have been found in Mongolia, and apparently, velociraptor fossils found here outnumber the fossils found in other countries.
Other dinosaurs that have been found in-country include oviraptors, protoceratops, and tarbosaurus (or T. Bataar) which is a relative of the North American T-Rex. Dinosaur fossils were first discovered in the country in the early 1900s, and a number of different paleontological expeditions from a variety of countries have taken place over the last century. There have also been a number of fossils that have been smuggled out of the country, and Mongolia is working to have those stolen fossils returned.
In Ulaanbaatar, there is a dinosaur museum located north of the city center (The Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs), housing many of the different dinosaur fossils that have been discovered in Mongolia. The entrance fee is quite reasonable–there is an additional fee if you want to take photos–and the fossils are very interesting.