Fact Check: Posts Claim 2,000-Plus People Were Executed to Keep Genghis Khan's Burial Site Secret. Here's What We Found

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Getty Images


To keep Genghis Khan's burial site secret, everyone who attended his funeral were put to death; the executioners then died at the hands of Khan's personal escort, who in turn killed themselves. More than 2,000 people lost their lives.


Rating: Unproven
Rating: Unproven

For centuries, the story has circulated that more than 2,000 people died after attending Genghis Khan's funeral in an effort to keep his burial site secret. In May 2024, a viral post on X claimed that the executioners then died at the hands of Khan's personal escort, who went on to kill themselves:

(X user @dom_lucre)

This post had garnered more than 12,000 views, 26,000 likes and 3,700 shares, as of this writing. Versions of the claim have spread for years, including on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.

The narrative underscored the fact that no one knew, at the time of this writing, where the founder and first khan of the Mongol Empire was buried after his death in 1227. But there was never any proof that such a large number of people lost their lives to protect this particular secret. We therefore rated the claim "Unproven."

Marco Polo

The legend appeared to be an adaptation of Marco Polo's account regarding what he said was the funereal tradition for Genghis Khan and his successors. We found the relevant excerpt of the book "The Travels of Marco Polo":

Let me tell you a strange thing too. When they are carrying the body of any Emperor to be buried with the others, the convoy that goes with the body doth put to the sword all whom they fall in with on the road, saying: "Go and wait upon your Lord in the other world!" For they do in sooth believe that all such as they slay in this manner do go to serve their Lord in the other world. They do the same too with horses; for when the Emperor dies, they kill all his best horses, in order that he may have the use of them in the other world, as they believe. And I tell you as a certain truth, that when Mongou Kaan [Möngke Khan, fourth khan of the Mongol Empire] died, more than 20,000 persons, who chanced to meet the body on its way, were slain in the manner I have told.

In his retelling, Polo suggested that participants of the funeral procession would die to follow their deceased emperor, as would the emperor's best horses. While the explorer did mention a number, it was 20,000 — 10 times the number mentioned in the viral posts — and he referred to the funeral of Möngke Khan, not his illustrious grandfather.

But historians have long questioned the veracity of this story, as they have many other Marco Polo stories.

From this, it would seem easy to extrapolate that the reason for murdering so many people would be to keep the location of the tomb a secret. According to another version of the legend, 1,000 horses trampled the burial grounds to ensure that no one would look for the Khan's remains there.

Lingering Enigma

Still, the story's evolution is a testament to humanity's unrelenting fascination with the mystery of Genghis Khan's tomb — as the rumor goes, he was buried with an inestimable treasure. Countless groups of explorers, historians and scientists have tried to locate it over the past eight centuries, to no avail. From text and folklore study to cutting-edge satellite technology, many have tried their luck and failed.

If burial techniques at the time of Genghis Khan are any indication, the tomb may remain an enigma for a long time. Xiongnu, the nomadic predecessors of the Mongols, buried their kings 20 meters – 65 feet – deep in unmarked graves, and the khan's insistence on being laid to rest in a secret place suggests he was entombed quite deeply as well.

Many believe Genghis Khan was buried on or close to Mount Burkhan Kaldun or near the Onon River, somewhere in northern Mongolia near his place of birth. But Mongolia's landscape is made up of vast, empty plains. The roads are few and density is low. What makes the country's striking beauty may also be what make this an unending quest.


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