Medieval Cities in the Eurasian Steppe

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

The Eurasian steppe is the iconic territory of mobile populations. However, through much of recorded history the region has also seen the development of a long term tradition of immobile urban inhabitation that has been an integral part of its mobile societies. Broadly, this session will address historical archaeology in Asia, the malleability of ecological and economic frontiers, hybridity and adaptation, urban settlement and political landscapes. Specifically, we will offer detailed, data rich challenges to the long held dichotomy between mobile and immobile populations and the asymmetric and hidebound models of relations between them. Presenters will discuss topics including urban forms and styles of the Eurasian steppes, networks of interaction and exchange, and communities linking immobile cities to mobile agents, the biographies of individuals living in and managing polities and economies, and the dynamics of political landscapes within and around urban centers. This symposium will be not only valuable to specialists, but also present challenges and novel approaches - methodological and theoretical - to the archaeology of borderlands and unsung urban settings worldwide.

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  • Documents (11)

  • The archaeological study of cities in East Asia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gwen Bennett.

    This paper explores the study of cities in China and the implications for their archaeological investigation. Walled settlements developed in China during the Neolithic and by the Bronze Age many had already grown to considerable size and complexity. While scholars in China and East Asia often consider cities to be a form of settlement organization starting at this early date, the concept of city used in their study is frequently unexamined, and historical examples of cities in the Chinese...

  • Computer simulation of the effect of urban centers on the development of wealth inequality in pastoral nomadic society (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Daniel Shultz.

    Agent-based computer simulation is an approach that models the behavior of individual agents, allowing for the observation of emergent phenomena created by the aggregate effects of individual actions. This presentation builds on a recent series of agent-based computer simulations exploring the development of wealth inequality as a function of environmental change in pastoral nomadic societies. When simulating a pure pastoral nomadic economy, it was found that wealth inequality increased under...

  • Kalas and Urbanism in Western Central Asia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michelle Negus Cleary. Elizabeth Baker Brite.

    Kalas (qalas), as iconic fortified enclosure sites, were nodes within dispersed and low-density settlement patterns of Central Asian oases. The largest kalas functioned as the equivalent of urban centers for mobile, agro-pastoral societies. A complex and diversified system of agro-pastoral subsistence and production strategies were employed within the oases in response to extreme climatic and environmental conditions. This paper will focus on the transition from the Late Antique to Early...

  • Karakorum, Mongolia, a complex urban site in a non-urban society (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jan Bemmann. Susanne Reichert.

    It is undisputed that Karakorum was founded by the Mongol Emperor/Khan, saying this means we analyze a top-down planned large city in a non-sedentary, non-urban society. Therefore we will address the question of the layout of the city and the spatial organization. How are activities and people ordered, is there common space, what kind of infrastructure is provided by the city founders and how is it maintained during the nearly 200 years of the existence of the city. At which areas were landmark...

  • New Archaeological Discoveries of Liao and Jin City Sites in Jilin Province , China (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Shanguo Peng.

    Archaeology at Liao and Jin sites in western Jilin Province has enormously increased our understanding of Liao and Jin period history and social organization. At the Chengsijiazi site, temple remains were excavated and a ceramic architectural element was found with "Ninth year of Da’an" written on it. This site is the Liao city of Changchunzhou and the Jin city of Xintaizhou. At the Tahu city site, structures lining both sides of the north-south site axis were excavated and many ceramics were...

  • New research and understandings at the Royal City of the Liao Supreme Capital site (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only XinLin Dong. WANG Ying.

    The Liao Supreme Capital site is located in Lindong, Balinzuoqi, Inner Mongolia. It contains the Royal City in its north and the "Han" City in its south, with a total area of five squared km. To preserve and better understand the Supreme Capital’s layout and evolution, Team Two of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Archaeological Research joined with the Inner Mongolia Institute of Archaeological Research to form the Liao Supreme Capital Archaeological Team, which conducted full...

  • The Northern Hinterland of Mongolian Empire: Urban centers of Transbaikalia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nikolay Kradin.

    In Yuan shih chronicle Hasar, the brother of Chinggis Khan, is described as having the territory of the Argun river and nearby steppe. In the new Yuan empire, after change of the capital from the Onon – Herlen to the Orkhon valley, Eastern Mongolia and Transbaikalia were transformed from heartland into hinterland. Because of previous betrayals by his family Chinggis granted Hasar only four thousand yurts. Also, a city was built in what is today the Hailar/Hulumbur area of Inner Mongolia. This...

  • Not sourcing: prospecting for Khitan/Liao ceramic production locales through the geochemical and mineralogical characterization of Khitan/Liao ceramic assemblages (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Callan Ross-Sheppard.

    Often the use of geochemical and mineralogical techniques to characterize archaeological ceramics is performed with the underlying idea that the goal of the enterprise will be the sourcing of the ceramics to their production locales. However, in many situations this goal may not be achievable due to such factors as a lack of variability in regional geologies or a lack of information on the scale, type and location of ceramic production. This paper looks at one such case from the Chifeng Region,...

  • Political Process, Polity Formation, and the Role of Urban Centers in Inner Asia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only J. Daniel Rogers.

    By 200 B.C.E. the eastern steppe regions of Inner Asia saw the development of expansive and complex political systems usually referred to as empires. The origins of these polities and the processes of consolidation can be described within the concept of a political community, reflecting the actions of competing groups in expansive social network. For Inner Asia, community was linked to issues of mobility, dispersed control hierarchies, and the economics of multi-resource pastoralism. Together,...

  • Three Cities in the Heartland of the Khitan Liao Empire (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joshua Wright. Naomi Standen.

    A wide range of Medieval settlement has been identified in the watershed of the Shar mörön river, a territory of grassland and narrow river valleys in the heartland of the nomadic Khitan and their Liao state (907-1125 CE). These settlements range from village landscapes to imperial capitals. This paper will introduce three urban settings of the Liao state: (1) A mercantile center, (2) a local administrative hub, and (3) an imperial capital city along with their immediate hinterlands. Through a...

  • Who were the urban Liao? - The cultural salience of ‘urban’ life in a mobile society (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lance Pursey.

    Recent insights into how urbanism and permanent settlements can function and be integrated into mobile societies has helped to overturn the notion that human societies ‘progress’ from mobile forms of production through irrigated agriculture to urbanism. Indeed the Liao Empire (907-1125CE) of Northeast Asia shows how these three modalities can coexist and be interdependent. City and kiln sites, standing architecture and tombs are distributed extensively through the former Liao territory, and yet...