The Tamsagbulag Neolithic site in Dornod, active more than 4000 years ago, is proof that agriculture predated nomadic pastoralism on the eastern steppes. But it was the Khitan, a Manchurian tribal confederation, which made the first big impression on the region, building forts and farming communities, including Kherlen Bar Khot in Dornod. Other buildings date as far back as the 10th century.
Another Manchu tribe, the Jurchen, deposed the Khitan in the early 12th century, renamed itself the Jin, and returned eastern Mongolia to its warring ways. It wasn’t until Chinggis Khaan united the fractured clans in 1206 that peace was restored.
It was from Avarga (modern Delgerkhaan) that Chinggis launched expeditions south towards China. When the capital was moved to Karakorum in 1220, the region withdrew into obscurity. It wasn’t until 1939 that eastern Mongolia was again in the headlines, this time as a battlefield between Japanese and joint Soviet–Mongolian forces. Heavy losses forced the Japanese military machine south, a crucial turning point in WWII.
The discovery of zinc and oil in the region in the 1990s brought the promise of development, with change hot on its heels. These natural resources have altered the local landscape, with oil wells and other mining infrastructure now permanent fixtures on the Dornod landscape.