Michelle Negus Cleary
This article draws upon archaeological evidence of settlement and enclosure sites as key indicators of social complexity in agro-pastoral societies of Central Asia and Inner Eurasia during the Late Iron Age–Late Antique periods. Large fortified enclosures (kalas) were the political capitals of mobile states and empires, embodying and displaying the power, status, and prestige of ruling elites. Low-density “urban” sites were located in dispersed settlement zones associated with rivers or water management systems in the Eurasian steppe and oases. These capitals were an alternative form of urbanism suited to the political organization of mobile ruling elites. This analysis provides insights into the varied modes of settlement utilized by agro-pastoral and mobile societies in extreme environmental zones.