Petroglyphs from the Late Bronze Age in Inner Asia/Mongolia (ca. 1400‒700 BCE) show that yurts, the traditional round tent dwelling of the Inner Asian nomads, have been in use for more than three thousand years. Mongols, Kirgizs, Kazaks and some South-Siberian ethnicities still use yurts today, demonstrating that they remain as appropriate as they have always been for living close to livestock and frequently being on the move to follow its food sources.
The yurt (in Turkic) or ger (in Mongolian languages) is also a place where traditional gender roles co-exist in integrated harmony.
Using the principle of sparing natural resources
Inner Asian nomadic society is based on the harmony of Cultura and Natura. Their dwellings are, therefore, constructed according to the principle of not wasting natural resources. The architectural structure of the yurt, and its predominant materials of wood and felt, exemplify methods that use and recycle natural resources of Inner Asian environments. The easily-constructed tents offer great flexibility in accordance with the nomadic lifestyles that continue to dominate the region.
Harmonious coexistence between men and women
The yurt is also the basic unit of social life. The number of generations (two, three or even more) that share these single-volume yurts have changed over time and relate to the social status of its owner. Many of the ancient rules of age and gender-specific distribution of the yurt’s inner space are still followed today.
Specific tasks for males, females or both help create a harmonious coexistence for all ages. This organised labour distribution recognises everyone’s contribution. Women, for example, traditionally make yurt coverings while men construct its wooden elements. Other building tasks are shared. The structure itself is light enough for easy assembly, disassembly and packing by women or even children.
Inside the yurt, the communal space has designated male (west) and female (east) sides, as well as shared spaces. Decision-making about leadership or education is also shared, further encouraging equality.
In the context of sustainable development trends, the socio-environmental adaptability of the dwelling could provide a scalable example for other nomadic societies. Even in contemporary life, yurt owners have adapted their dwellings to accommodate needs for renewable energy and even internet access.