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Inner Asian Pastoralism in the Iron Age: The Talgar Case, South-Eastern Kazakhstan

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The romantic image of the fierce Iron Age horse-riding pastoralists of the first millennium BC who roamed the Eurasian steppe has dominated our historical imagination of nomadic confederacies. The Scythians, Saka, Sarmatians, Wusun and Yuezhi, when described by ancient Greek historians and Chinese chroniclers, have been identified as the 'barbarians' (Beckwith 2009). In such accounts these nomadic barbarians occupied the 'edges' or peripheries of core agrarian states. In this article I explore how the Iron Age archaeology of settlements and burial mounds (kurgans) of a remote area along the Tian Shan Mountains of south-eastern Kazakhstan provides a different picture of the so-called barbarians. In order to build an archaeological case that allows for a different interpretation of the formation and evolution of Iron Age agro-pastoralism at the southern edge of the Eurasian steppe, this story must be told through the lens of a field archaeologist.
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Keywords: Eurasia; Iron Age archaeology; agro-pastoralism; appanage; nomadic states and confederacies

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
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