The Baikal region is the place where the Buryats live. People have been living here since the Upper Paleolithic age. The landmarks of that period are the sites in the localities of Malta and Buret’ (about 25 thousand years old). The Malta and Buret’ sites are distinguished among other Paleolithic burials on the former USSR territory. Here dwellings made of animal bones were discovered which give evidence of man’s first steps in Pribaikalye (the Baikal land). In D. Burchina’s opinion, there are descriptions of the Paleolithic dwellings in the Geseriad: “The innermost fence was made of wild animals’ bones and covered with gold and silver; the fences’ corners were made of the Manchurian deer bones; the walls were made of elk bones alternated with the bones of fishes and birds” (Burchina D.A. The Western Buryats’ Geseriad. Glossary of Works and Their Variants. – Novosibirsk, 1990. – p. 336).
“It is possible to say that a number of other historic problems of continental scale is connected with the Baikal and the surrounding vast territories. Here more than a thousand years ago and later mysterious cattle breeders of the Iron Age used to live, the Kurykans, who left enormous stone walls surrounding the steep capes on the island of Olkhon and near it; they were natural fortresses which had witnessed turbulent events, wars and the tribes’ migrations. The Kurykans used to bury their dead in Olkhon, in marvellous little yurtas made of stone slabs put on edge” (Okladnikov A.P. The Baikal Petroglyphs as Relics of the Siberian Peoples’ Ancient Culture. – Novosibirsk, 1974. – p.6).
In G.N. Rumyantsev’s opinion, the name of the Kurykans is reflected in the name of the Khori Buryats (one of the Buryat ethnic groups). In the 6th-10th centuries AD the Kurykans created an original and rich culture near the Baikal, in the valleys of the Angara and the Lena rivers. The name of the Kurykans (Furi) was wide known both in the East where the related Uigurs and Orkhon Turks lived, and in the West, in Khoresm, Iran and other countries. “The Baikal used to be the natural geographic junction for the cultural, historical and economic links which tied the Middle and Central Asia. Arabic and Persian merchants used to go from the country of the Yenissei Kyrghizs up the Angara River, then to Lake Baikal and the Selenga River, into the steppe nomad camps, to the Uigurs. The same transcontinental road was evidently used later, in the Mongolian time. Afterwards the tribes purely Mongolian both in their language and in culture, the ancestors of the later Buryats, came to those vast lands” (Okladnikov A.P. The Baikal Petroglyphs as Relics of the Siberian Peoples’ Ancient Culture. – Novosibirsk, 1974. – p. 6).
And “without doubt poetry accompanied man’s first steps. In the early 2nd millenium Barguzin-Tokum, or the Baikal land, was inhabited by the “forest people”, the ancestors of the Buryats” (Ulanov A. To the Buryats’ Heroic Epic Characteristics. – Ulan Ude, 1957. – p. 58). The ancient history of the primitive Baikal coast inhabitants reaches us through the ages as distant echo, with legends and shaman beliefs; it is in the story about the magic Chinghis-Khan’s cauldron on the island of Olkhon in which the horse’s head boiled by his comrades still lies, as the saying goes; it is in the legends about the mythological Khara-Mongolian tribe and the marvellous Bargut tribe which gave its name to the Barguzin – Bargujin-Tukum – “the land’s end”, according to the 13th-14th centuries Mongolian people’s conception. The legend about the Buryat people’s origin is connected with the Baikal’s severe shores, too. It tells us about the mythological primary ancestor, or the totem, the divine bull Bukha-Noyon, about its fighting with Taiji-Khan’s blue bull, about the miraculous birth of the Buryats’ ancestors, Erkhirit and Bulagat, and about their mother, the prophetic shaman Asuikhan.
A.P. Okladnikov calls the Erkhirits, the Bulagats and other inhabitants of the Lena-Baikal, Angara-Baikal and Angara-Uda areas the indigenous people of Pribaikalaye (the Baikal land). “It was them who recorded the most complete and colourful variants of the extremely typical central genealogical myth, or a complex of the Buryat myths about Bukha-noyon, Erkhirit and Bulagat and shaman women Aisukhen and Khusukhen; the action of the myths takes place on the shores of Lake Baikal and in the Baikal waves. That myth and its variants reflected complicated historical fates of the ethnic groups which had created them; it shows the additions of different times which are of great interest because the myths about Bukha-noyon and Erkhirit and Bulagat are sources of all the genealogies; therefore it appeared much earlier than the traditional 10-15 generations of any family tree of the Buryat clan” (Okladnikov A.P. Sketches of History of the Western Buryat-Mongolians (17th-18th centuries). – Leningrad, 1937. – pp. 277-278).
Ulighers which are masterpieces of the Buryat oral poetic folklore retain the elements of ancient mythology, animistic and totemistic concepts of the world. The most ancient features, motifs and plots of the Buryat epics could have been borrowed from the folklore of the tribes which had lived in the Baikal land before the Mongolian peoples came there. The narrators used the folk traditions created by the aboriginal tribes which had lived on the shores of Lake Baikal in times immemorial.