The archaeology of the Neolithic and early Aeneolithic periods in the Kopet Dag foothills was the subject of substantial research by Soviet archaeologists. Their understanding of these developments was heavily influenced by the idea that a Neolithic way of life, incorporating agriculture, herding and the beginnings of sedentary village life, was introduced by migrants from Southwest Asia (Masson and Sarianidi 1972: 47-52). Similar explanations that rely on the diffusion of technologies and their products from the Iranian plateau served as the basis for understanding the appearance of copper production and high-fired pottery in early Aeneolithic, or Anau IA, settlements (Kohl 1984: 67). In these scenarios, early village communities along the Kopet Dag foothills were simply the receivers of new technological and social developments from elsewhere.
In contrast, anthropological and sociological research in the last several decades has demonstrated that it is overly simplistic to conceptualize the emergence and implementation of new technologies as the automatic result of contact between cultures or other macro-social entities (Cornell and Fahlander 2007). Encounters among people, objects and materials occur on a continual basis. Everyday encounters among people who know each other can lead to the unpredictable and hence to changes, even if those changes are so small as to be hardly perceptible to those making them (Giddens 1984). Furthermore, new technologies are not unthinkingly adopted; rather, they may be modified in smaller or more substantial ways, taken over by some people in a community but not by others, or they may be completely rejected. Technological changes must be perceived as in some way advantageous in order to be implemented. Equally important is the recognition that as new technologies come into being, others fall out of use and are forgotten. Thus, the history of technological development cannot be seen as a straightforward additive process, nor as a simple success story in which ever better technologies replace outmoded ones.
Our project set as its overarching goal the investigation of microhistories of technological change in the eastern Kopet Dag foothills in Neolithic and Aeneolithic times. By technology we refer to the ways in which knowledge, both discursive or explicit and embodied or practical, is brought to bear through practices and gestures on materials and objects (Ingold 1987: 31). By focusing on small spatial and social scales, for example individual residences or work areas within a settlement, we aim to track the differential implementations of new technologies, such as high-fired pottery, copper working, and thread spinning, as well as their social and economic implications. By studying small-scale changes over time, we also hope to be able to document technologies that were lost over time as different ones were implemented. Finally, we wish to examine the implications of technological changes for socioeconomic differentiation among the inhabitants of the Meana-Chaacha region in Neolithic and Aeneolithic times.
The small site of Monjukli Depe was chosen as a focus for our work for a number of reasons. From earlier excavations carried out by Marushchenko and Berdiev, the site was known to have both Jeitun (Neolithic) and Anau IA (early Aeneolithic) occupations. Furthermore, it was reported to be one of the very few known sites to potentially have a direct continuity from Late Jeitun to Anau IA times. The extensive plan of architecture from the latest Anau IA level at the site, exposed and published by Berdiev (1972), made it possible for us to target specific architectural units and potential outdoor areas for excavation.
Architecture is very well preserved at Monjukli Depe. Although most walls seem to be only a single brick wide, they stand in some places at heights of up to 1.60 m. The use of buttresses was common, and it seems that these reinforcements not only had a functional purpose of strengthening walls, but were also symbolically important. Wall faces commonly have multiple coats of plaster which are occasionally painted white but more often red, and in one case traces of black plaster were preserved. Rooms are quite large (some 4 m in length), but there are also very small spaces, the use of which remains difficult to explain. Within and immediately outside houses there were numerous working installations, including ovens and bins.
One of the unexpected results of our work at Monjukli Depe was the low artifact density. Only with further excavations will it be possible to ascertain whether this is the result of the specific contexts we encountered this year or if it is characteristic of the settlement as a whole. Pottery occurred in particularly low densities. We have so far found no indication for pottery production at the site. Most of the pottery belongs to three basic wares, Coarse Chaff Plain, Fine Chaff Black-on-Red Painted and Black-on-Red Untempered.
The raw materials used to make chipped stone tools at Monjukli Depe are varied; which of them were locally available and which were acquired from more distant sources remains to be investigated in future years. A dark, coarse-grained, schist-like stone as well as a coarse sandstone, neither of which lend themselves very well to chipping, were used mainly for expedient tools. In contrast to the small quantities of pottery and chipped stone, ground stone tools from the site are numerous and varied. A small number of beads was recovered, among them a small, tear-drop shaped bead of lapis lazuli
The first season of work at Monjukli Depe proved very successful in extending the understanding of the Aeneolithic and Neolithic periods in the Meana region. However, many more questions remain to be investigated in future seasons, for example the climatic, ecological, and topographic conditions that allowed village life to emerge and flourish in this area. We do not yet know from which areas artifacts and raw materials came to Monjukli Depe. Our ultimate goal is to better understand the ways in which inhabitants of Monjukli Depe and surroundings in ancient times made a living, how they structured their daily social interactions, and how and why their lives changed over time.
Berdiev, O. (1972) Monzhukli-depe mnogosloinoe poselenie Neolita I rannego Eneolita v iuzhnom Turkmenistane. Karakumski Drevnosti 4: 11-34. Ashkabat: Ylym.
Cornell, Per and Fredrik Fahlander (2007) Encounters – Materialities – Confrontations: An Introduction. In Encounters | Materialities |Confrontations. Archaeologies of Social Space and Interaction, Per Cornell and Fredrik Fahlander (eds.), pp. 1-14. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press.
Giddens, Anthony (1984) The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Kohl, Philip (1984) Central Asia: Paleolithic Beginnings to the Iron Age. Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations 14. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.
Masson, V.M. & V.I. Sarianidi (1972) Central Asia: Turkmenia Before the Achaemenids. Übersetzung von R. Tringham. Great Britain: Thames & Hudson.
Das A-II-Teilprojekt von W. Schier stellt ein reines Analyseprojekt dar, das sich auf den nördlichen Schwarzmeerraum mit angrenzenden Regionen und die Zeit zwischen 3.500 und 2.000 cal BC konzentriert und dessen wissenschaftliche Synthese zu großen Teilen bei Elke Kaiser liegt.
Der nordpontische Steppenraum war in den genannten anderthalbtausend Jahren von mindestens drei aufeinanderfolgenden archäologischen Kulturen besiedelt, die vorwiegend anhand von Grabfunden definiert wurden. Den Tausenden von Grabhügeln stehen einige Dutzend kleinerer Siedlungen gegenüber, deren Tierknochenspektren einen Übergang zu einer auf Rindern basierenden Viehzucht um 3.000 cal BC belegen. Mehr oder weniger zeitgleich mit diesem Wechsel in der Subsistenzwirtschaft ist eine neue, homogene Grabkonstruktion in den Grabhügeln festzustellen, die nicht nur auf die osteuropäische Steppe begrenzt bleibt, sondern sich auch auf das Karpaten-Balkan-Gebiet ausdehnt. Diese für Südosteuropa ungewöhnlichen Gräber werden meist als Ergebnis von Emigrationen aus dem Steppenraum angesehen, wobei über die Populationsgröße der Auswanderer und ihre Auswirkungen auf die einheimische Bevölkerung in der Zielregion bislang nur spekuliert werden konnte.
Methoden und Ziele
Da die archäologischen Argumente bezüglich der Frage nach Migrationen ausgetauscht sind versprechen die Anwendung von isotopenchemischen Verfahren neue Erkenntnisse: die Untersuchung von bestimmten Isotopen erlaubt Rückschlüsse auf die Mobilitätsformen der Steppenbevölkerung. So werden die Isotopenwerte von 87/86Strontium und 18Sauerstoff an menschlichen Zähnen gemessen, um zu erkunden, ob das jeweilige Individuum nach dem Ende seiner Jugend einen Ortswechsel vorgenommen hat bzw. bereits in der Kindheit seinen Aufenthaltsort geändert hat. Auf Rinder basierende Viehzucht, die offenbar um 3.000 cal BC einsetzte, stellt eine markante Spezialisierung in der Subsistenzform dar, die Folge eines Innovationsprozesses ist und außerdem häufig nur in Form von mobiler Weidewirtschaft als effektiv angesehen wird. Entsprechend sollte sich in den Isotopenverhältnissen der zu untersuchenden Individuen aus den Grabhügeln einer Lokalität eine Veränderung ab 3.000 cal BC feststellen lassen. Die bislang vorliegenden Messergebnisse von 87/86Strontium für verschiedene Grabhügelnekropolen in den heutigen Staatsterritorien von Ungarn, Bulgarien, Ukraine und Russland ergeben unterschiedliche Mobilitätsmuster der in diesen Lokalitäten Bestatteten.
Neuere Forschungen zu Isotopenverhältnissen zeigen, dass klimatische Bedingungen starke Auswirkungen auf erstere haben können. Zudem wird auch der Übergang zu einer spezialisierten, mobil betriebenen Viehzucht mit Umschwüngen beim Klima und Veränderungen der Paläolandschaften erklärt. In einer ersten Pilotstudie hat Janina Körper (Research Group A-III-1) die Niederschlagsmengen und Temperaturen für den westlichen eurasischen Raum für die Zeit zwischen 6.000 BP bis 2.000 BP simuliert. Die Klimasimulationen zeigen als erstes auffälliges Ergebnis einen deutlichen Einschnitt um 5.200 BP, also die Zeit, in der allmählich auf spezialisierte Viehzucht übergegangen wurde. Ob die Veränderungen insbesondere im Niederschlag eine derartige Wirkung auf die menschliche Subsistenzwirtschaft gehabt haben können, gilt es noch weiter zu erforschen. Parallel dazu werden in Zusammenarbeit mit einer Doktorandin von Brigitta Schütt Proxydaten für eine Paläolandschaftsrekonstruktion im westlichen Eurasien zusammengetragen.
In this research project, isotopic analyses (87Sr/86Sr, δ18O, δ15N, δ13C) of prehistoric human and faunal skeletal remains from the Western Eurasian steppe belt are conducted and interpreted within an archaeological context. Several hundred samples were taken from micro regions between the Altai Mountains, the Eurasian steppe belt and the eastern European plains in Hungary and Bulgaria (figure 1). The chronological focus is on the 3rd millennium BC, where there is evidence for two cultural communities: the Yamnaya culture (late 4th millennium BC to mid 3rd millennium BC in the Northern Pontic region) and the following and partly overlapping Catacomb culture (about 2800 to 2000/1900 BC). Earlier research approaches regarded the members of these populations as nomads. Recent research has mostly rejected this interpretation, with archaeologists citing a subsistence economy largely based on animal husbandry and a multitude of grave monuments (kurgans) in comparison to the small number of known settlements as evidence for partly nomadic or pastoral ways of life. In this project I will be following a different path by attempting to characterize the mobility behaviour and possible migrations of these individuals using strontium and oxygen isotope analyses. The data will then be compared to samples from the same regions but from the preceding Eneolithic and the later Iron Age, a period for which written sources indicate high mobility of the Scythian tribes. The strontium isotope analysis is conducted at the University of Bristol, while the samples for oxygen isotopes are prepared there and sent for further analysis to the RLAHA at the University of Oxford in cooperation with the University of Bristol. The answer to the second key question regarding the palaeodiet and subsistence economy of selected sites in the Northern Pontic will be approached by the application of carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis. In the end the large isotopic dataset will be interpreted in combination with the archaeological hypotheses and data.
Claudia Gerling is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Topoi, Research Group A-2. Her research focuses on the synthesis and interpretation of the scientific (stable isotope and palaeogenetic analysis) and the archaeological data previously obtained in Research Group A-II in Topoi 1, but she is also interested in the theoretical backgrounds of the economy, ecology and mobility in non-sedentary communities.
Claudia studied Prehistoric Archaeology, Classical Archaeology and History of Arts at the Universities of Würzburg, Vienna and Naples. In 2012 she completed her PhD within the Cluster of Excellence Topoi, research group innovations (A-II). In this context Claudia was working on the mobility and diet of the steppe peoples in prehistoric Western Eurasia, a topic she approached mainly through isotope analysis. As a member of Topoi she was based at the Freie Universität Berlin for the theoretical part of the project, but conducted isotope analyses at the Universities of Bristol and Southampton. Her many travels to and fro make her a good example of a modern, highly mobile individual, paralleling the objects of her study.
Research group A-II is dedicated to the interplay between technological and social changes and the dynamics of human-environment interaction. The focus of research is on the genesis of spatially oriented and spatially effective innovations (ceramic production, animal domestication, wagons and draft, animals, early herding, mounted nomadism) and the mechanisms of their spread. Spatial and social mobility as a consequence of certain innovations, on the one hand, and as a condition for the dissemination of innovations, on the other hand, will be the central aspect analyzed. Furthermore, the broad impacts of innovations on demographic, social, economical, climatic and spatial parameters will be investigated in different projects and sites in the Eurasian Steppe and in Central Asia.