Session: #549

Theme & Session Format

1. Widening horizons through human-environment interconnections
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Ancient Pastoralist Adaptations in the Eurasian Steppe: The Intersection of Biomolecular and Landscape Archaeology
The Eurasian steppe is a vast, culturally connected region long inhabited by pastoralist societies that developed highly successful adaptations to its challenging landscapes. Extensive archaeological excavations and survey has uncovered a deep record of mortuary activity set within a rich monumental landscape that brought together spatially disparate communities and served as dynamic arenas of socio-political negotiation. Genomic research revealing major genetic turnovers associated with large-scale population movement and replacements has further distinguished the steppe as a busy geographic locale, a zone of interaction one flowing with people who carried with them their diverse technologies, modes of social organization, and styles. However, surprisingly little is known about the scales and modes of mobility that underscored the reshaping of steppe populations or how livestock husbandry – the backbone of pastoralist societies, emerged and evolved in the varied cultural and ecological contexts of the steppe. Similarly, the ways in which pastoralist diets were shaped by access to other animal and plant resources are generally not well-understood, and the articulation between political organization and economic dynamics has been theorized but not yet studied in detail.

This session seeks to bring together new insights into the subsistence, socio-political, and mobility dynamics of ancient pastoralist communities that inhabited diverse environmental and cultural contexts of the Eurasian steppe. This session welcomes new perspectives derived from excavations and survey, fauna and botanical remains, and the biomolecular and genomic records with the overall aim of building holistic explanatory frameworks that better resolves why and how pastoralism spread across the diverse environments of the steppe and examine the ways in which pastoralist intensification, diversification, and longevity contributed to the formation of complex societies of the steppe.
Pastoralism, Archaeological Theory, Eurasia, Biomolecular Archaeology, Zooarchaeology
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Main organiser:
Joshua Wright (United Kingdom) 1
Cheryl Makarewicz (Germany) 2
1. University of Aberdeen
2. Institute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, Kiel University