Linking agriculture and exchange to social developments of the Central Asian Iron Age

Robert N. Spengler III, Naomi F. Miller, Reinder Neef, Perry A. Tourtellotte, Claudia Chang


JAA-CoverCentral Asia is commonly referred to as a pastoral realm, and the first millennium B.C. is often thought to mark a period of increased mobility and reliance on animal husbandry. The economic shift of the first millennium B.C. is usually interpreted as a transition toward specialized pastoralism in Central Asia, and the point in time when the Central Asian ‘nomads’ or Scythians appear. Continue reading

The spread of agriculture into northern Central Asia

Robert N. Spengler III, Natalia Ryabogina, Pavel Tarasov, and Mayke Wagner
2016. The spread of agriculture into northern Central Asia: Timing, pathways, and environmental feedbacks. The Holocene.


HoloceneOver the past decade researchers have directed greater focus toward understanding Bronze (3200-800 BC) and Iron Age (800 BC-AD 400) economies of Central Asia. In this article, we synthesize paleobotanical data from across this broad region and discuss the piecemeal archaeological evidence for agriculture in relation to environmental records of vegetation and climate change. The synthesis shows that Continue reading

Botanical Resource Use in the Bronze and Iron Age of the Central Eurasian Mountain/Steppe Interface

Spengler, Robert N., III
2013. Botanical Resource Use in the Bronze and Iron Age of the Central Eurasian Mountain/Steppe Interface: Decision Making in Multi-resource Pastoral Economies, Ph.D. Dissertation for the Anthropology Department at Washington University in St. Louis.

Available open access through WUSTL.


WUSTLThis dissertation examines botanical resources as components of Central Asian economies in the Bronze: ca. 2500 – 800 B.C.) and Iron Ages: ca. 800 B.C. – A.D. 500) using a paleoethnobotanical data set from four archaeological sites, Begash, Mukri, Tasbas, and Tuzusai. These sites are located in  Continue reading

Agricultural Production in the Central Asian Mountains

Spengler, Robert N., III, Claudia Chang, and Perry A. Tourtellotte
2013. Agricultural Production in the Central Asian Mountains: Tuzusai, Kazakhstan (410-150 BC). Journal of Field Archaeology 38(1): 68-85. Peer-reviewed.

Available open access through JFA.


JFAThe site of Tuzusai is located in the Tien Shan Mountains of eastern Kazakhstan; occupation at the site between 410 B.C. and A.D. 150 represents the transition between the Saka and Wusun periods (Saka: 800–200 B.C.; Wusun: 200 B.C.–A.D. 400). Iron Age people of Central Asia are often described simply as mobile pastoralists, yet at Tuzusai, we have evidence that agriculture was practiced along with pastoral transhumance. Continue reading