Date of Degree

2-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Anthropology

Advisor

Alexander A. Bauer

Committee Members

James Moore

Karine Tache

Rita Wright

Subject Categories

Archaeological Anthropology

Keywords

Eurasian steppe, mobility, ceramic technology, pXRF, communities of practice, pastoralism

Abstract

The southern Russian steppe is located in an intermediary position between the Caucasus, Lower Don and Lower Volga steppe, between which peoples, goods, and technologies often moved throughout prehistory, likely facilitated by small scale seasonal movements and occasional migrations by mobile pastoralists. Conducted in collaboration with the Steppe Archaeological Expedition of the State Historical Museum’s unfolding research on temporary pastoral camps in the Sal-Manych region of the Rostov oblast and Republic of Kalmykia, this dissertation focused on the production and curation of pottery in contexts associated with the emergence and subsequent development of mobile pastoralism from the late fifth millennium BCE to first few centuries CE on the dry steppe. In order to reconstruct the ceramic production-curation practices of these mobile pastoralists, this project employed portable means of investigation including low-magnification digital microscopy and portable x-ray fluorescence (pXRF). These practices were considered technical choices indicative of “communities of practice” formed within social networks constructed through routine mobility. While in globalized contexts one may expect the diversification of everyday practice as localized phenomena even as other realms of life may appear more standardized, through the third millennium BCE ceramic production and curation choices were quite conservative and took a more regional character. It is the position of this research that this ceramic technological conservatism—despite changes in mobile strategy between the Eneolithic and Middle Bronze Age—represents the maintenance of a region of overlapping exploitation previously identified. By the Early Iron Age, increased nomadism and associated demographic shifts resulted in expanded seasonal cycles leading to increasingly localized and diverse production-curation practice.

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