Home is Where the Herd Is: Social Factors and Mobility Patterns in Prehistoric Kazakhstan

Author(s): Tekla Schmaus

Year: 2015


Our understanding of the structure of pastoralist societies in prehistoric Eurasia is currently being reevaluated in light of new data from a range of sources. I present the results of a cementum annulation study done on domestic sheep teeth from prehistoric pastoralist communities in Semirech’ye, Kazakhstan. These data provide evidence that past mobility patterns were not necessarily rigidly dictated by seasonal climate conditions. Rather, although the environment was certainly a major factor in people’s decisions about when and where to move, there was a good deal of flexibility in migration patterns. Even in a difficult environment, a range of social and cultural factors influenced people’s decisions about what was best for their herds. On the other hand, some of these factors also seem to have been resilient in the face of larger social influences. Flexibility in the timing and location of migrations pertained throughout the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, even during a transition to a more stratified society. The social changes that took place during this time do not seem to have influenced herding practices. I consider possible explanations for this continued flexibility that take into account both social and environmental factors.

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Home is Where the Herd Is: Social Factors and Mobility Patterns in Prehistoric Kazakhstan. Tekla Schmaus. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397870)

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