Fall 2017 – Telescopic and Microscopic Visions of Central Asian Prehistory

Exploring the long durée of Central Asian prehistory through cross-disciplinary approaches and methodologies.

Robert N Spengler III; William Taylor; Shevan Wilkin; Alicia Ventresca

Hosted and funded by the Department of Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany


This workshop focuses on resource oases as areas of high interest for the study of the long durée in Central Asian prehistory. Zones of high ecological diversity served as the foundation for the emergence of cultural complexity, from the Paleolithic through the Holocene. Our focus is on a set of areas including high mountains, desert oases, and freshwater lakes as ecologies of interest. Ecological and cultural diversity have been overlooked in studies of Central Asian prehistory, due to a strict culture-historical approach and heavy reliance on historical texts. Over the past decade, a rapidly growing interest in this part of the world has led to a new view of the past – one that emphasizes diversity while focusing on science-driven models and testable hypotheses. In the spirit of this new wave of scholarly inquiry, we are inviting a select handful of scholars from central Germany to participate in a brainstorming workshop. The goals of this workshop are 1) to allow pioneering scholars the opportunity to show colleagues working in their close vicinity what they are working on, and 2) to identify the most pressing questions or gaps in our understanding of Central Asian prehistory.

The landscape of Central Asia contextualizes the complex practices of people who lived at the crossroads of the ancient world. These people played a pivotal role in shaping the histories of Europe and Asia; they facilitated culture flow along the trans-Eurasian exchange routes. They spread innovations, such as the horse and chariot, domesticated crops and herd animals, advanced metal alloy technology, and culinary traditions. Despite the fact that many of greatest imperial constructs formed in Central Asia, the archaeological investigation of this region has lagged behind other key centers of human occupation. The application of novel scientific and multidisciplinary approaches to Central Asian archaeology is rapidly changing our understanding of how people there lived, moved, interacted, and impacted the ecosystems around them.

Micro-regional Networks and the Growth of Diverse Pastoral Economies in Early Iron Age Xinjiang
Bryan Miller, Oxford University

The Consumption of Ephedra and Cannabis of Ancient Xinjiang through Organic Residue Analysis
Yimin Yang, MPI-SHH

What “European” mummies? The Tocharian languages and their speakers in the prehistory of Central Asia
Ronald Kim, Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznań

The Hellenistic and Post-Hellenistic Rural Landscape of the Bukhara Oasis
Soeren Stark, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (NYU)

Breadth of Dietary Economy in Central Asian Prehistory
Robert Spengler, MPI-SHH

Animal Domesticates, the Silk Road, and Early Nomadic Occupation of Alay Valley, Kyrgyzstan
William Taylor, MPI-SHH

South-western Tajikistan in the Bronze and Early Iron Age: a new chronological sequence
Mike Teufer, DAI-Berlin

The Rise of Urbanized Economies in the Steppe: Diversification of Pastoral Subsistence Regimes
Alicia Ventresca-Miller, MPI-SHH

Visualising multi-scalar Bronze Age pastoral connectivity with zooarchaeology and geometric morphometrics
Ashleigh Haruda, Martin Luther Universitat-Halle Wittenburg

Hypotheses on the Origin and Spread of Indo-European Languages: What Role for Central Asia?
Paul Heggarty, MPI-SHH

The Possibilities of Proteomics in Steppe Archaeology
Shevan Wilkin, MPI-SHH

BioarcCaucasus: A temporal transect through populations of the Caucasus –
Wolfgang Haak, MPI-SHH

BioarcCaucasus: A temporal transect through populations of the Caucasus –
Archaeological cultures and biological clusters
Sabine Reinhold, DAI-Berlin

Population Genomics of Central Asia: Beyond the Bronze Age Altai
Choongwon Jeong, MPI-SHH

%d bloggers like this: