Mikhail M. Bronshtein, Kirill A. Dneprovsky, and Arkady B. Savinetsky
Remnants of one Paleoeskimo and several Neoeskimo cultural traditions have been revealed in the coastal regions of Chukotka since the mid-1940s. The Chukotka Paleoeskimo cultural tradition, discovered on Wrangel Island, is comparable with the Paleoeskimo cultures of North America—Old Whaling (Alaska) and Independence (Greenland). It existed from 1700 to 1400 B.C. The Neoeskimo tradition is represented in Chukotka by Old Bering Sea (OBS), Okvik, Birnirk and Punuk cultures, found on Chukotka’s shores from the south part of the Bering Strait to the mouth of Kolyma River. The earliest are dated to the end of the first millennium B.C., the latest to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries A.D. Chukotka archaeological sources point to close bonds between OBS, Birnirk and Punuk peoples. It is highly probable that a syncretic OBS-Birnirk-Punuk cultural community emerged in Chukotka from the end of the first millennium to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.
Paula Doumani Dupuy
This article focuses on the principal characteristics and features of the Bronze Age of the steppes, deserts, mountain foothills, and oases of Central Asia. It outlines the history of research on the region’s mobile pastoral and settled agricultural societies during the third and second millennium BC. The article examines how approaches to the social history and economy have changed from one of macro-studies of regional assemblages toward more targeted investigations of the dynamic and variable nature of this period. Finally, an overview of pottery, metal, and textile assemblages and analyses is used to form a discussion on craft production practices, consumption, and regional exchange across Central Asia.
John P. Ziker
The diets of Arctic and subarctic hunter-gatherers are the source of perennial theoretically relevant questions and debates, for example on cooking and raw food, the relative importance of protein in diet and its effects, the degree of labour specialization, and modes of food-sharing and trading. This chapter outlines the use of ethnographic enquiry to best inform archaeological interpretations in the Arctic and subarctic, with vignettes from the ethnography of northern Siberia. It discusses the advantages and disadvantages of methods typically used to study diet among contemporary hunter-gatherers. Development of quantitative data on food consumption is useful for developing information on seasonality, gender, taboos, and other kinds of effects on behaviour and data sets suited for comparative research. Ethnographers in the Arctic and subarctic have faced particular challenges with some observational methods, since the construction of permanent communities for indigenous populations over the last fifty to one hundred years.
Robert S. Losey, M. Anne Katzenberg, and Tatiana Nomokonova
This chapter shows how a combination of zooarchaeological and stable isotope evidence documents substantial but variable use of aquatic resources by Middle Holocene foragers inhabiting the Cis-Baikal region of Eastern Siberia. We first outline potential food items—including terrestrial mammals, riverine and lacustrine fish, the Baikal freshwater seal, and some plant foods. Faunal remains exist from both habitation sites and cemeteries. Habitation site assemblages show subsistence practices at seasonally occupied locations, with composition varying within the region. Some cemetery assemblages are taxonomically richer, indicating that small mammals and waterfowl were also important. Stable nitrogen and carbon isotope studies of human skeletal collections document substantial use of aquatic foods. Regional variability in the use of aquatic foods is evident, but there is little clear evidence for Middle Holocene dietary shifts. Instead, there appears to have been long-term stability with some regional variation related to resource availability.
Christine Chataigner, Ruben Badalyan, and Makoto Arimura
This article presents our current state of knowledge on the Neolithic of the Caucasus based on reviews of previous and continuing research. In this region, this period has generally been divided into two cultural stages: Early/Aceramic Neolithic and Late/Ceramic Neolithic. However, the records from Early Neolithic sites are incomplete due to a lack of radiocarbon dates and palaeoenvironmental data. Moreover, the transition from the Mesolithic of the early Holocene to the full Neolithic of the Aratashen-Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture remains obscure. Although recent research provides new insights on the domestication of plants and animals in the Caucasus, the crucial issue involving the origin and timing of Neolithisation in this region remains unsolved.
Anatoly P. Derevianko, Sergei V. Markin, and Andrei V. Tabarev
The comparison of the oldest sites in northern and central Asia points to the variability of the Lower Palaeolithic culture. The first ‘out of Africa’ migration of the oldest hominids resulted in occurrences of the Oldowan-type pebble industries in Eurasia. The next Palaeolithic stage of the region is represented by the Middle Palaeolithic sites, concentrated in northern Asia. In the late glacial and post-glacial periods, northern Eurasia became an area of the dynamic development of unique archaeological cultures. Undoubtedly, habitation density and hunter-gatherer group sizes varied, depending on the natural conditions and the biomass content. In the final Palaeolithic, a series of flexible hunting, gathering, and fishing strategies was formed and developed. These strategies were directed at the exploitation of both specific and complex types of bio-resource.
This chapter discusses the rock art traditions of Northern, Central, and Western Asia, first providing an overview of the chronological-cultural context of much of the known rock art in Northern and Central Asia before describing the main geographical concentrations of rock paintings and petroglyphs in the area. In particular, it examines the dilemmas with regards to ascertaining the age of ‘Stone Age’ rock art, along with the presence of chariots in rock art as an iconographic determinant of the Bronze Age. It also considers the association of the Bronze Age with the expansion of Indo-Iranians, expansion of Buddhism through Central Asia as reflected in the rock art, relation of Siberian rock art to shamanism, and major rock art regions of Northern and Central Asia. It concludes by assessing the rock art of Western Asia and how the advent of Islam in mid–seventh century ad changed Arabian traditions of rock art.
Subsistence economy, animal domestication, and herd management in prehistoric central Asia (Neolithic–Iron Age)
Sites of the Neolithic Jeitun Culture in southern Turkmenistan present the earliest evidence of animal husbandry, mainly based on sheep (Ovis aries) and goats (Capra hircus), in Central Asia. In its northern parts, subsistence economy relied on the exploitation of wild animal resources in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic. The steppes of north Kazakhstan played a prominent role in the domestication of the horse (Equus caballus) some time prior to 3000 bc. In subsequent periods, horse breeding was of great economic importance in this area. In the Bronze Age, the Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) became a common livestock animal in the Eurasian dry zones. Its domestication seems to have taken place in the southwestern part of Central Asia. According to geography, vegetation, and climate, different types of animal keeping and herd management developed in the centuries of the Bronze and Iron Ages.