Located 25 kilometers west of Mankhan village in the Khovd province of Mongolia, Tsenkher Agui is a fascinating cave situated at an altitude of 2100-2400 meters above sea level. Composed of carbonate rock and white-gray calcareous marble, the cave boasts unique features and ancient petroglyphs.
The cave’s interior is approximately 15 meters high, with a hollow spherical roof and walls adorned with petroglyphs. Evident by darkened walls due to flames, it is believed that the cave was inhabited for an extended period. Among the remarkable petroglyphs are images of ostriches, turkeys, cranes, camels, mammoths, buffaloes with large horns, antelopes, snakes, and tree formations resembling spruce. Some of the artwork is expertly depicted using bold red and light ochre pigments, with some animals overlapping or outlined in a dotted pattern. Notable among these images is a remarkably clear representation of a male deer.
The presence of these extinct animals indicates that the paintings date back to the Paleolithic Age, as these creatures no longer inhabit Mongolia. Further evidence of the ancient environment came in 1998 when a mammoth skeleton, with 70 percent of its remains intact, was discovered nearby in Durgun village. Scholars believe that the cave’s petroglyphs represent an important artifact, as they provide rare insight into Mongolian rock art from the Stone Age.
Tsenkher Agui, also known as the “Heart of the art of the Central Asian primitive community,” is named after its location along the banks of the Tsenkher River in Khovd province. The cave was initially discovered by geographer and scientist Namnandorj.O and subsequently studied by Mongolian-Soviet archaeologists, including Ser-Odjav.N, Tseveendorj.D, Dorj.D, Okladnikov.A.P, Larichev.V.V, and Derevyanko.A.P.
Of the five Paleolithic-age petroglyph sites in Mongolia, three are found in Khovd province, with Tsenkher Agui being one of them. The cave is also known as “Gurvan Tsenkheriin Agui,” meaning the Cave of the Three Blues, due to the three rivers named Tsenkher, Middle Tsenkher, and Northern Tsenkher that flow through Mankhan village from the north of the Mongol Altai Mountain range.