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A 1300-year-old Siberian fortress is the center of debate amongst archaeologists in Russia concerning what it was built for and why it was constructed so far away from any major settlement of the time.
The strange building known as Por-Bajin is located roughly 4000 kilometers from Moscow and was recently visited by Russian leader Vladimir Putin who remarked:
Mysterious 1300-year-old fortress divides experts
“I have been to many places, I have seen many things, but I have never seen anything of the kind.”
There are several theories as to what the fortress-like structure was used for. Some experts think that it was indeed a fortress used to house troops. It’s relative seclusion and distance from any strategically important locations, however, means its construction is a mystery. If it was indeed a fortress and a substantial one, what was it guarding against so far from civilization?
An ancient prison is another idea posited by experts, perhaps housing high profile or high-risk prisoners such as defeated combatants or the like. Escape risk would have been very low in this case given that trekking through the wilderness of Siberia without substantial supplies would have meant certain death.
Another theory is that rather than trying to guard against something, it was meant to attract people and may have been a monastery or similar structure people may have made pilgrimages to.
The remoteness of its location, some 7000 feet above sea level and in the middle of an otherwise barren section of the Siberian mountain tundra, would have meant that getting supplies and keeping the base outfitted would have proven difficult. Perhaps suggesting that it was not manned at all times of the year.
Oddly for such a large site experts have also not found any primitive means of heating the structure. Given that it is in Siberia and experiences extremes of temperature, particularly in the winter, this would have meant that it would have been close to uninhabitable at certain points in the calendar.
It is believed that Por-Bajin was build during the Uighur Khaganate (744-840 AD), although whether it was built by the Uyghur people is another matter that is dividing experts. Many believe the architecture resembles ancient Chinese designs and that the fortress is laid out in a similar design to one of the Forbidden cities of the various dynasties.
If it was built by Chinese architects, then the probability of it being a fortress are lower given that it was located in Uighur Khaganate territory. A monastery or pilgrimage site of some kind, however, may have been allowed by nations that had a civil, political relationship.
A youtube video showing the layout of the structure can be found here: