Mongolia has been inhabited for over 800,000 years with Homo Erectus being found in Bayanhongor province and central Mongolia. Important prehistoric sites are the paleolithic cave drawings of the Khoid Tsenkheriin Agui (Northern Cave of Blue) in Khovd province, and theTsagaan Agui (White Cave) in Bayankhongor province. A neolithic farming settlement has been found in Dornod province. Contemporary findings from western Mongolia include only temporary encampments of hunters and fishers.  A vast Iron Age burial complex from the 5th-3rd century, later also used by the Xiongnu, has been unearthed near Ulaangom.

The Scythian community also inhabited western Mongolia in the 5-6th century. In 2006 the mummy of a Scythian warrior, which is believed to be about 2,500 years old was a 30-to-40 year-old man with blond hair, and was found in the Altai, Mongolia.

Mongolia only became politically important after iron weapons entered the area in the 3rd century BCE. In general, Mongolia at this point had a similar history to the rest of the steppe between Siberia, northern Russia to the north, China, and the Middle East and Central Asia to the south. These steppes were usually inhabited by nomadic tribes, sometimes united in confederations of varying sizes. These nomads usually herded animals, traded with and raided more agricultural peoples and each other. However, every now and then, large nomadic confederations formed that threatened China, and sometimes the Middle East, Europe, and beyond. These confederations, while vast and often destructive, rarely lasted, but they did redistribute peoples and disrupt the politics of the regions they attacked. The people in the Mongolia region usually focused their attention on nearby wealthy China, and their confederations greatly influence Chinese history. China’s response is a major theme in Mongolian history.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206. Khubilai Khan, his grandson, conquered China and founded the short-lived Yuan Dynasty that collapsed in 1368. After that, the Mongols returned to their earlier patterns of internal strife. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism. At the end of the 17th century, what is now Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Manchu Qing Dynasty of China. Right after the downfall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence, but had to struggle until 1921 to firmly establish de facto independence, and until 1945 to gain international recognition. As a consequence, it came under strong Soviet influence thus becoming a Soviet satellite state. In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was declared, and Mongolian politics began to follow the same patterns as Soviet politics of the time. After the breakdown of the USSR in late 1989, Mongolia had its own democratic revolution in early 1990, which led to a multi-party system, a new constitution in 1992, and a transition to a market economy.

Nowadays, democracy is fully established and many international mining companies have set up joint-ventures to explore the enormous mineral wealth hidden underneath its soil. The economy has been experiencing unprecedented exponential growth in recent years, and a sizable middle class has emerged.