The Western Mongolia Archaeology Project team (mainly in our previous guise as the Khanuy Valley Project) hit the 6th SEAA conference, in Ulaanbaatar, in a big way this week. Oula Seitsonen presented a condensed version of our recent Past Mobilities paper as a poster (GIS approaches to movement and mobility in the monumental landscape of the Bronze Age Khanuy Valley) and I delivered a paper focusing on the identification of remains from Mongolian stone circles and their corresponding re-interpretation (Rings of Fire?) as well as one outlining the domestic economy of the Bronze Age and Xiongnu periods in the Khanuy Valley (The Culture Changes but the Herd Stays the Same: Bronze Age and Xiongnu Subsistence). Jean-Luc-Houle, meanwhile, focused on the seasonal movement of families in the Bronze Age and contrasted the situation in Khanuy with that in the Altai, based on data gathered during our first season of the Western Mongolia Archaeology Project (Long‐Term Occupation and Seasonal Mobility in Mongolia).
Other highlights of the conference included the big reveal of the finds from the Gol mod 2 cemetery excavations that took place in 2011, by Erdenebaatar, during the opening ceremony and excellent presentations by Julia Clark and Camilla Kelsoe discussing their recent work in Hovsgol province. Camilla used the ceramics from their excavations as a launching pad for discussing the reasons for adopting, or not, new technologies whilst Julia emphasised the need for us to consider hunter-herder interactions in the north of Mongolia. William Taylor presented a pilot study using 3D morphometrics to argue for ridden horses being present in horse-head mounds, examining them at a population level using several criteria to produce a range. Also working at a regional level were papers examining the spread of bronze metal working in East Asia, using compositional analysis (Gary Hsu) and the spread of starchy crops (Xinyi Liu).
It has, then, been a full and tiring week. At 4.30am tomorrow though we leave our rooms in Ulaanbaatar and head for Bayan Olgii and the next phase of fieldwork in the Western Mongolia Archaeology Project. We seem to have another good group of students and volunteers joining us, many of whom took the opportunity to attend some of the conference sessions as well as the usual sight-seeing in the city and we’re looking forward to working with them as we gather more data to improve our understanding of the prehistory of the region. We’ll be back, at the earliest, on July 6th.
As regular visitors to this website will know, I spent almost the entirety of August in Tanzania as a member of the Archaeological Investigation of a “Moving Frontier” of Early Herding in Northern Tanzania project team. As a pilot project, the main aim of the field season was to try and find sites for future further investigation. Accordingly, I spent most of my time conducting targeted foot survey in the Engaruka and Manyara basins, as well as in the Ufana River Valley. Some promising sites were found and test excavations and/or shovel pit surveys were used to further explore some of these sites: we await C14 dating results to establish our success (or otherwise)! A more detailed overview of the current state of play will be given at the AEA conference in Reading, in November, in our presentation entitled “No Flies on Us” (for more details on that see either the last post here or my Academia.edu profile.
From Tanzania, I flew directly (well, indirectly) to Helsinki for this year’s EAA conference. There I co-presented a paper describing what investigation of ethnographic sites in Mongolia can reveal to us about burnt animal bones in the archaeological record (again, further details can be found on my Academia.edu page). Our paper was well received and provoked a good deal of discussion throughout the rest of the day. The day before that, meanwhile, I had co-chaired a session concerning the integration of artefactual and environmental approaches to understanding urban Mediaeval life in Europe. This, too, was generally well received with some excellent papers provoking a good deal of debate which we were happy to make time for. We’re currently in discussion with publishers about printing the proceedings of the session: based on what we’ve seen so far Ben, Idoia and I are very excited to see this through.
Finally, I was brought quickly back to “normal life” (whatever that is for an archaeologist) when, one day after arriving home in York, I spent the rest of the week teaching as a part of the Introduction to Zooarchaeology short course at the University of Sheffield. This course went very well: there was broad agreement that it was the best one yet and we had a terrific group of students. That was the fifth time we’ve run the course and it will return again in 2013 alongside a new advanced course – watch this space! Of course, if you happen to live in Yorkshire and are interested in learning more about zooarchaeology, bookings are now open for both the Introduction to Zooarchaeology and Introduction to Ethnoarchaeology courses at the University of York.
Things haven’t been quite so quiet around here as my silence would suggest. We managed to gather some very useful ethnoarchaeological data on the Western Mongolia Archaeology Project, but while I was away my laptop broke: hence the deafening silence here.
In that time I’ve had copies of book reviews published of Living With Herds by Natasha Fijn (in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society) and Food, Craft and Status in Medieval Winchester by Dale Serjeantson and Helen Rees (in Hortulus). Both are available now via my Academia.edu profile.
In terms of the dissemination of research, I also heard that a paper jointly presented with Mary Prendergast, Oula Seitsonen, Katherine Grillo and Audax Mabulla has been accepted for this year’s AEA conference in Reading, concerning the spread of Pastoralism in East Africa. A full copy of the abstract for this is given after the break.
On the teaching front, the next Introduction to Zooarchaeology short course at the University of Sheffield has now been fully booked, dates about the next one will be published here when they are settled. Bookings are now open though for both the Introduction to Zooarchaeology and Introduction to Ethnoarchaeology courses at the University of York.
After such a lightening round up it only remains for me to excuse myself for another absence. My bag is now packed and I’m about to leave for more fieldwork as part of the Archaeological Investigation of a “Moving Frontier” of Early Herding in Northern Tanzania project. Before returning home and teaching in Sheffield I’ll be visiting Helsinki for the EAA conference; I may be able to access the internet and post something from there but otherwise I’ll be out of contact until the second week of September.
No Flies on Us: The Diffusion of the Neolithic in Africa
BRODERICK, Lee G.1; PRENDERGAST, Mary2; SEITSONEN, Oula3; GRILLO, Katherine4; MABULLA, Audax5
The emergence of the Neolithic in Sub-Saharan Africa was not accompanied by a move towards sedentism, as in many other parts of the world, but instead accompanied the diffusion of a nomadic pastoralist lifestyle. Although pastoralist Neolithic sites are known in both East and West Africa as well as in Southern Africa, the precise route, timing and method of this diffusion through a tropical environment which would require acclimatisation to different ecologies and diseases is still the subject of some conjecture but two competing models have gained wide support among archaeologists working in the area. The more favoured model supposes that livestock (and, therefore, pastoralists) could have moved relatively freely through a tse-tse fly free corridor in the eastern side of the continent stretching from modern day Kenya to South Africa.
The Archaeological Investigation of a “Moving Frontier” of Early Herding in Northern Tanzania project was conceived to identify sites in the northern most part of this corridor in order to test this theory and to examine issues of Neolithic – Hunter-Gatherer interaction. This presentation aims to highlight the on-going work to answer some of these questions through the initial results of the zooarchaeological analysis of the sites identified thus far.
1, Department of Archaeology, University of York, The King’s Manor, York. YO1 7EP. UK. 2, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, St. Louis University in Madrid, Avenida del Valle, 34 28003 Madrid. Spain. 3, Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 64, FI-00014. Finland. 4, Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, Campus Box 1114, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA. 5, Archaeology Unit, P.O. Box 35050, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam. Tanzania.
I arrived in Mongolia last week and it’s been good fun catching up with old friends. We have managed to get some good work done already and tomorrow we leave for Bayan Olgii on an early morning flight. Returning in late June, I’ll be out of email contact until then.
Since I last posted here my review of Ethnozooarchaeology (by Albarella and Trentacoste) has been published in Ethnoarchaeology. A copy of this is available on the Left Coast Press website or through the usual channels.
Also recently announced is the next Sheffield Zooarchaeology Shortcourse, to take place September 5th-7th. This continues to be extremely popular: a review of the last course can be seen here – http://traineecurator.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/sheffield-zooarchaeology-training-course/. For more details of the course see http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/archaeology/research/zooarchaeology-lab/short-course.
I have felt privileged to have been involved with the Khanuy Valley Project over the duration of the last, most informative phase of the project in recent years. I am, therefore, delighted to announce that the project will leave a legacy beyond our research output and friendships. The same core team of researchers that ran the last phase of the Khanuy Valley Project (Jean-Luc Houle, Jamansarav Bayarsakhan, Oula Seitsonen and myself) will be joining together again to run the Western Mongolia Archaeology Project in 2012.
This project will feature a fieldwork component run along similar lines to the Khanuy Valley Project between 21st May and 22nd June. I’m also pleased that some of our previous students and volunteers have already asked to join us – such requests help to reassure us that we create the space for a fun and supportive element to our fieldwork and campsites, building friendships and nurturing colleagues beyond our core team of staff. In addition to this core team, the project will collaborate and share resources with the Rock Art and Archaeology: Investigating Ritual Landscapes in the Altai Mountain region of Western Mongolia Project, run by Bill Fitzhugh and Richard Kortum. Working so closely together in the field, when looking at very different aspects of the same cultures, should provide valuable new insights for both teams, as well as new opportunities for our students and volunteers,
The Western Mongolia Archaeology Project has been added to the Project Gallery on my website, and applications are now open for students and volunteers to join us. We’re only taking a small team this year and, although applications are not processed on a first come first served basis, those interested would be best advised to apply as soon as they have made that decision.
It’s been (and continues to be) a very busy couple of months. So busy I’ve only just realised that this news page wasn’t updated during September. The month began with the second lot of French fieldwork for the Ecosal Interreg project. We were blessed with some very good weather for this. Analysis of the material collected earlier in the year has continued over the summer and initial results are promising, showing some differences as well as similarities with the British material.
The second half of September saw me change my university affiliation as well as move location. I am now in the Archaeology Department at the University of York. This is a very exciting move that promises to help me continue to develop my career and my skills and knowledge.
I’m presently in the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where I’m a Visiting Researcher in the Africana Studies department. I’m doing some post-excavation work on material from two sites in Nigeria. The material is excellent and I’m very much enjoying working with it. It shows a very high diversity of taxa present and is also yielding some very good taphonomic information which will help in interpreting site-formation processes and butchery practices, as well as the usual economic and ecological information.
Finally, whilst in Charlotte I shall be giving a public lecture entitled “What Can Modern Day Agro-Pastoralist Practices in Ethiopia Tell Us About Past Lifestyles, There and Elsewhere?” in Fretwell 419 at 11am on 14th October.
The field season in Khanuy delivered some good data, and it was nice to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Several articles for publication are planned from the results of this research and updates will appear here as they become available.
Among many emails awaiting me when I returned was one from the organisers of this year’s AEA conference in Amsterdam on 21st-22nd October this year, informing me that my presentation had been accepted. A copy of the abstract can be found below:
Make Do and Spend
The development of towns and cities occurs in relation to their region – that is not only their hinterland but the wider province for which they are the cultural, religious and economic centre. Often, these regions are difficult to determine archaeologically and with animal products forming the largest sector of the pre-industrial economy their analysis might be seen as one potential way in which to do so. Such analysis might lead not only to the re-evaluation of economies, but also to a more refined understanding of social gradation within urban societies.
The characterisation of archaeological sites by affluence and social standing is commonly accorded following analysis of zooarchaeological material and (sic) subsistence. This kind of classification has been successfully demonstrated numerous times on Mediaeval sites but presents specific problems on Mediaeval urban sites where the mixing of material from several different family (and thus social) units is probable.
This paper uses the zooarchaeological assemblage from Mediaeval Exeter (UK) to suggest that such considerations of social status may be applicable within urban assemblages, just as they are between rural assemblages. Individuals and families with the widest contacts and social and economic importance within a city’s region might be supposed to consume a greater proportion of higher status foodstuffs, such as wild animals in the Mediaeval period. Conversely, those of lowest status probably subsisted to a greater extent on what food they could produce themselves – within British Mediaeval cites this was most commonly the raising of pigs. Social and economic status in-between these two extremes could be characterised by the purchasing of livestock held to be common and low status in rural areas, such as cows and sheep, not raised within cities themselves.
The analysis of the urban zooarchaeological assemblage presented here aims to show the proportions of urban subsistence, hinterland subsistence and delicacy procurement within a city’s wider province, and hence the proportions of the population which might fall into the self-sufficient (producing) base, the procuring wealthy (with province-wide contacts and status) and those in-between – that is, those that ‘make do’ and those that ‘spend’. This kind of analysis, though stopping short of the identification of social units, may suggest the social balance characteristic of developing cities and the intra-urban subsistence and extra-urban surplus levels necessary for such a community – the demand-supply feedback loop which enables and drives the development of urban centres and their regions.