Pastoralist Landscapes and Social Interaction in Bronze Age Eurasia

Pastoralist Landscapes and Social Interaction in Bronze Age Eurasia

Pastoralist Landscapes and Social Interaction in Bronze Age Eurasia

Pastoralist Landscapes and Social Interaction in Bronze Age Eurasia

Synopsis

Offering a fresh archaeological interpretation, this work reconceptualizes the Bronze Age prehistory of the vast Eurasian steppe during one of the most formative and innovative periods of human history. Michael D. Frachetti combines an analysis of newly documented archaeological sites in the Koksu River valley of eastern Kazakhstan with detailed paleoecological and ethnohistorical data to illustrate patterns in land use, settlement, burial, and rock art. His investigation illuminates the practical effect of nomadic strategies on the broader geography of social interaction and suggests a new model of local and regional interconnection in the third and second millennia B.C.E. Frachetti further argues that these early nomadic communities played a pivotal role in shaping enduring networks of exchange across Eurasia.

Excerpt

I began working in Kazakhstan in 1999, eight years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. At that time, Kazakh people were economically and socially adjusting to the freemarket system and capitalist enterprise they had chosen (or had been handed), less than a decade earlier. in Almaty, still the de facto capital at that time, Kazakhstan seemed to be more a part of wider Russia than of Central Asia. Communication and business were conducted almost exclusively in Russian, and the mode of life was still effectively Soviet. With ironic grins, local colleagues and friends often described the decaying housing blocks, transportation system, cafeterias, and general nature of social life as “Sovetsky.” Although these contexts reflected the political wake of state communism, they also stood in contrast to the rapid progress and emergence of “newly independent” Central Asian identities.

In the late 1990s the urban, political landscape of Almaty was being recast in the light of new Kazakh nationalism. Regardless of the comparatively small percentage of the total population affected, the emerging twenty-first century Kazakh identity was to be intricately tied to modern global interaction indexed by Mercedes-Benzes, Italian designer suits, cell phones, international banking, the oil industry, and other commercially globalized commodities. Yet in contrast to the growing national pride and meteoric trajectory of development and reconstruction in Almaty, I commonly encountered a seemingly pessimistic phrase among everyday people: “Before, it wasn’t like this.” This phrase expressed a form of nostalgia for Soviet times when life was somehow simpler, at least in the collective memories of many Kazakh citizens.

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