The Breadth of Dietary Economy in Bronze Age Central Asia

Spengler, Robert N., III, Ilaria de Nigris, Barbara Cerasetti, Marialetizia Carra, Lynne M. Rouse (2018) The breadth of dietary economy in Bronze Age Central Asia: Case study from Adji Kui 1 in the Murghab region of Turkmenistan. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 22: 372-381.


Archaeological Science ReportsOver the past decade research into the paleoeconomy of Bronze Age (3500-800 B.C.) peoples in Central Asia has shown how complex the productive economy was. The agropastoral system involved an array of crops and herd animals. In this article, we present a paleoethnobotanical study conducted on sediment samples from excavation units at the site of Adji Kui, Turkmenistan. Continue reading

Agriculture in the Central Asian Bronze Age

Spengler, Robert N., III
2015. Agriculture in the Central Asian Bronze Age. Journal of World Prehistory. Peer-reviewed.


World PrehistoryBy the late third/early second millennium BC, increased interconnectivity in the mountains of Central Asia linked populations across Eurasia. This increasing interaction would later culminate in the Silk Road. While these populations are typically lumped together under the title of ‘nomads’, a growing corpus of data illustrates how diverse their economic strategies were, in many cases representing mixed agropastoral systems. Continue reading

Burial ritual, agriculture, and craft production among Bronze Age pastoralists at Tasbas

Doumani, P. N., M. D. Frachetti, R. Beardmore, T. Schmaus, R. N. Spengler, and A. N. Mar’yashev
2015. Burial ritual, agriculture, and craft production among Bronze Age pastoralists at Tasbas (Kazakhstan). Archaeological Research in Asia 1-2: 17–32. Peer-reviewed.

Available open source through ARA.


Archaeological Research in AsiaThis article presents new archaeological research on the ritual and domestic life of pastoralists at the Bronze Age campsite Tasbas, Kazakhstan. We reconstruct the hitherto unrecorded economy of high mountain pastoralists who lived at the site from the mid-3rd to early 1st millennium B.C. We argue that within the broad dynamics of mountain pastoralism there is local variability as shown through multi-season residence, Continue reading

Niche Dwelling vs. Niche Construction

Spengler, Robert N., III
2014. Niche Dwelling vs. Niche Construction: Landscape Modification in the Bronze
and Iron Ages of Central Asia. Human Ecology 42, (6): 813-821. Peer-reviewed.


Human EcologyLike all humans, mobile pastoralists alter their ecological niche to their advantage; however, archaeological discussions of mobile pastoralists in Central Asia often focus on environmental factors as a sole driving force in decision making. In reality, anthropogenic modification of the landscape are evident as far back at the Bronze Age. Herders altered the overall ecology of the region by converting forest into pasturelands Continue reading

Late Bronze Age agriculture at Tasbas in the Dzhungar Mountains of eastern Kazakhstan

Spengler, Robert N., III, Paula Doumani, and Michael Frachetti 2014. Late Bronze Age agriculture at Tasbas in the Dzhungar Mountains of eastern Kazakhstan. Quaternary International 348: 147-157. Peer-reviewed.

Special Issue of Quaternary International, Volume 348, Pages 1-266 (20 October 2014)
The Bridging Eurasia Research Initiative: Modes of mobility and sustainability in the palaeoenvironmental and archaeological archives from Eurasia
Edited by Mayke Wagner, Gui-Yun Jin and Pavel Tarasov


INQUAThe settlement of Tasbas is located in the Dzunghar Mountains of eastern Kazakhstan. This article illustrates an economy at the site in the Late Bronze Age (Phase 2a, 1490-1260 cal. BC), which incorporated mixed agropastoralism or multiresource pastoralism. This economic model is significant in that it confirms the presence of Bronze Age agriculture in northern Central Asia, an area where the nature of early pastoralism Continue reading

Early agriculture and crop transmission among Bronze Age mobile pastoralists of Central Eurasia

Spengler, R. N., M. D. Frachetti, P. N. Doumani, L. M. Rouse, B. Cerasetti, E. Bullion, A. N. Mar’yashev
2014. Early agriculture and crop transmission among Bronze Age mobile pastoralists of
Central Eurasia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20133382. Peer-reviewed.

Available open access through ProcB.


ProcBArchaeological research in Central Eurasia is exposing unprecedented scales of trans-regional interaction and technology transfer between East Asia and southwest Asia deep into the prehistoric past. This article presents a new archaeobotanical analysis from pastoralist campsites in the mountain and desert regions of Central Eurasia that documents the oldest known evidence for domesticated grains Continue reading

Agriculturalists and Pastoralists

Spengler, Robert N., III, Barbara Cerassetti, Margareta Tengberg, Maurizio Cattani, and Lynne M. Rouse
2014. Agriculturalists and Pastoralists: Bronze Age Economy of the Murghab Delta,
Southern Central Asia. Journal of Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 23, 805–820. Peer-reviewed.


Vegetation History and ArchaeobotanyArchaeological investigations of pastoral economies often emphasize exchange relations with agricultural populations, though for Bronze Age Eurasia the notion of a ubiquitous ‘pastoral realm’ has masked various forms of mixed subsistence economies. In Central Asia, there are few attempts to specifically identify the domestic crops utilized by mobile pastoralists or what they may suggest about the role of agriculture Continue reading

Moving Agriculture onto the Tibetan Plateau

d’Alpoim Guedes, Jade, Lu Hongliang, Li Yongxian, Wu Xiaohong, Robert N. Spengler III, and Mark S. Aldenderfer
2014. Moving Agriculture onto the Tibetan Plateau: The Archaeobotanical Evidence.
Journal of Archaeological and Anthropological Science 6: 255-269. Peer-reviewed.


AASThe Tibetan Plateau has one of the least hospitable environments for agriculture on the planet; however, its inhabitants have developed an economic system based on agriculture and pastoralism suited to its geoenvironmental stressors. Little is known about the timing of the spread of agriculture onto the plateau or how agricultural systems were adapted to this environment. 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

Ecotopes and Herd Foraging Practices in the Bronze and Iron Age, Steppe and Mountain Ecotone of Central Asia

Spengler, Robert N., III, Michael D. Frachetti, and Gayle J. Fritz
2013. Ecotopes and Herd Foraging Practices in the Bronze and Iron Age, Steppe and Mountain Ecotone of Central Asia. Journal of Ethnobiology 33(1): 125-147. Peer-reviewed.


Journal of EthnobiologyEurasian mobile pastoralists living in semiarid environments focus on specific location on the landscape where pasture resource and water are available. Ectones – or intermediary zones between the mountain and steppe environments – create mosaic landscapes of resource-rich patches and other discrete enclaves of useful biota for pastoralist communities. Ecotopes (Ecological patches) provide vital resources Continue reading