"Genghis Khan" | Exhibit review
Genghis Khan may not be known for peacefully sharing his feelings or frolicking through the Mongolian countryside, but this 13th-century warlord left a strong impact on modern cultures, including our own. With an eponymously named exhibit that just opened yesterday at the Field Museum, visitors can see first-hand how Khan created a staggeringly impressive empire and shaped our world.
Guests are welcomed into the exhibit by a large statue of the man whose birth name is Temujin, sitting on a throne, solemnly beckoning everyone inside. A short video offers a brief, reenacted look at Khan’s life. Like the other informative clips throughout the exhibit (and the floor-to-ceiling paintings depicting battle scenes), the footage is impactful, but never graphic.
One darkened, sequestered area displays the skeletal remains of a woman also alive from the 13th or 14th century, along with the belongings buried with her, including a mirror, comb, necklace and leather boots. A small sign forewarns visitors, but we spotted some brave fourth- and fifth-graders taking a peek without any noticeable disgust or horror.
The final section of the exhibit showcases Khan’s impact on modern-day cultures. Fun fact: Khan’s empire helped spread the use of pants, passports, libraries and eyeglasses. There’s also an informative video about Y chromosomes shared by nearly eight percent of men living in the former area spanning Khan's Mongol Empire, that are identical to Khan’s Y chromosomes. Studies have suggested that Khan has over 16 million living descendents (!).
Kids will be too distracted by the giant trebuchet (a type of catapult) and crossbow to pay close attention to any gruesome facts about Khan’s reign (e.g. during times of starvation, people took to drinking horse blood).
Note to parents: While the exhibit doesn't go into cringe-worthy detail, the information and displayed weaponry may make a one-on-one talk about violence, and the role it's played in history, necessary. Unlike a lot of museum exhibits, “Genghis Khan” is geared more toward adults, so interactive segments are in short supply. Items like religious masks, a shaman’s robe, and Mongolian swords will intrigue older kids, though, as long as you don’t linger too long.
“Genghis Khan” opens Friday and runs through September 3. For more information and tickets, visit fieldmuseum.org.