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Irene L. Good, Associate of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University 11 Divinity Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138 t. (617) 495-5703; f.

(617) 495-7535;


Interpretive Problems in Assessing Eurasian Contact and Exchange in Antiquity Irene Good

INHERENT PROBLEMS OF INTERPRETATION The archaeology of Inner Eurasia is complex. This is due, in no small part, to the very history of its study. Over the past century there has been myriad discussion of migrations, peoples, ethnogeneses, interactions and transformations in material culture from East to West and back again, starting with Ferdinand von Richthofens 1897 notion of the

Seidenstrasse; and encompassing both Euro-American as well as Russo-Asiatic political and

nationalistic agendas though the World Wars, the Cold War, and beyond. This panoply of contrasting streams of intellectual and scientific pursuit has thus generated a patchwork of Eurasian prehistories that have each been particularly susceptible to aberrant study.

Three separate but interrelated topics are at play, each in and of itself large and complex: the languages question, the archaeological cultures question, and the lifeways/ecological interactions question. These three topics have simultaneously summoned, and helped fashion, the tools of inquiry from three separate fields: A) linguistics, examining ancient languages and language families and their relationships; B) archaeology (both material culture studies as well as palaeoenvironmental studies, each of which bear on our

interpretation of past lifeways, and C) population genetics, including genetics and human morphological studies.

These three fields of inquiry have each developed separately and are distinct disciplines, each with competing theoretical frameworks underlying their subjects; yet the borders between them have been porous. The dangerous result of this relationship is that often a working hypothesis in one subject area is imported into another as established fact. More broadly, basic concepts in one discipline become transferred over into another, part and parcel. This kind of crossover has been particularly prevalent within bioanthropology and palaeolinguistics, particularly regarding ethnic groupings and ethnicity. For example, the linguistic term proto-Indo-Iranian has come to mean, for some, a verifiable archaeological culture; and to some others, a verifiable haplogroup. To still others, these disparate associations are reified and become established as knowledge of the past. Although interdisciplinary work is often very fruitful and interesting, a careless approach can be hazardous.

Another problem is in interpreting a very large amount of archaeological data from the fourth through the first millennia BC in Inner Asia. Sherratt (1995) commented in his review of Chernykhs comprehensive work on metallurgy in Eurasia, that even as the former Soviet Union has dissolved, we are nonetheless more challenged than ever to allow truly comprehensive and large-scale studies, as former Soviet administrative and funding

resources have become disbanded. Even so, we find interpretation is already particularly vulnerable to subjectivities:

Russian and Central Asian scholars working on the contemporary but very different Andronovo and BMAC complexes of the 2 millennium BC have identified both as Indo-Iranian, and particular sites are being identified as such for nationalistic purposes. There is no compelling archaeological evidence that they had a common ancestor or that either is IndoIranian. Ethnicity and Language are not easily linked with an archaeological signature, and the identity of the Indo-Iranians remains elusive. C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky 2002.

There is a rather thick interpretive overlay of several ideology-based archaeologies; what has been termed history armed with the spade- ultra Marxist deterministic types such as Ravdonikas (1932), Arcichovsky (1927) or Brjusov (1928) that have laid down the framework for later Soviet archaeological thought; (see Klejn 1993:342-4; see also Trigger 1989), from the early schema of primordial society to the periodic rise in nationalistic (eg. Gening 1982) and even supremist views (eg. Rybakov 1951). Soviet Russia was not alone in this, of course; and China too has a legacy of ideological and nationalistic propagandism (see Sleeboom 2003 for overview and analysis). There is also a Near East bias among many western archaeologists (particularly among those with art historical or classical training). In an attempt to offer counterbalance, critique of western scholars such as V.

1. Such as Parzingers recent (2006) overview on Siberian prehistory. I thank my anonymous reviewer for calling my attention to this work. 2. I thank Karl Lamberg-Karlovsky for providing me with this and the Rybakov reference

Mair and J.P. Mallory (2000) has also emerged (eg. Thornton and Shurr 2004). LambergKarlovsky has suggested that Soviet scholarship in particular tended to loosely associate ethnicity, language, genetics and culture (2002, 2005).

The problem of archaeological chauvinisms will not go away quickly. It is necessary and timely, however, to begin to address the broader issue of cross-disciplinary disparities; to view the archaeological record(s) with more precision and caution, and openly articulate that the ethnic, linguistic and cultural spheres of human identity and experience are intersecting but are not correlative. This fact is evident in the present day, and must be conceptually reinforced in our ideas about past peoples; especially since archaeological cultures are even one step more abstracted, they are an etic concept of an emic identity.

CURRENT ALTERNATIVES Linguistic Approaches Linguistic study of ancient language groups, removed from social history, has developed a broad, stable knowledge base of phonetic and semantic trends and shifts through time. The discipline is not an experimental science, but one that nonetheless relies on parity in data and hypothesis. Archaeologists use linguistic data and linguists use archaeological data. Thus, several uses and several approaches have developed over the last 150 years that have each influenced the relationship between archaeology and language. From the vantage point of archaeology, palaeolinguistics, i.e. the study of ancient languages and their change
3. though problematic; for example using anachronistic reference to modern inhabitants of the Tarim Basin, and arguing that red haired mummies are due to sun-bleaching, etc.; also in reference to silk in western Europe (p. 93) they mistakenly construe that I argued for a Chinese origin of the material in question.

through time, has been an appealing but often precarious tool for fleshing out static culture histories. However, historical archaeologists tend to look at ancient language, with texts in hand, in quite a different way than do prehistorians, who work more inferentially. Inferring

language from inferred archaeological cultures is one step even more removed from the concrete; one more step into the domain of abstract constructs. This can become dangerous.

Ideologically motivated archaeological interpretations take advantage of ambiguities in the archaeological record to create linkages with language, and by extension ethnicity, in a deliberate attempt to trump alternate interpretations. The subject of the uses of archaeology in promoting nationalism and subjugation is a very current and widely discussed topic but will not be addressed here (see, for example, Kohl and Fawcett 1996; Jones 1997). I will simply and briefly contrast two linguistic prehistorians uses of linguistic and archaeological data in culture-historical reconstructions, both active and prominent scholars interested in the Indo-European question: Asko Parpola and Michael Witzel. Comparing their approaches will illustrate a small part of a much more complex, problematic and entrenched relationship between archaeology and language. Both Parpola and Witzel are specialists in Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan), though they both also know Avestan (IIr.). Both use archaeological evidence to strengthen their arguments, and in so doing tend to simplify and take advantage of archaeological ambiguities; though in different ways and with different outcomes.
4. See for example, the recent volume edited by Patton and Bryant (2005). 5. More deductive approaches are considered here as relatively deductive compared to those ideologically motivated; acknowledging there is at least a little bias in all of us.

We can assume, based on philology, the order of separation of a proto-Indo-European group split into western and eastern (centum and satem) branches first, then the eastern branch (proto-Indo-Iranian, exemplified in historical texts of the Mittani, ca. 1500 BC) then further split into Old Iranian and Indo-Aryan groups; Old Iranian being represented by the Gathas and Avestan literature, and Indo-Aryan by the Rg Veda and later texts. Within the Old Iranian group, there was then a further split into eastern and western Iranian, though this is poorly understood at present. The western group, it is thought, showed up in later historical texts as the Medes. The eastern group, of particular interest to the archaeology of Central Asia, may have been the people of the BMAC according to Parpola, though others see this group as Andronovo.

Some of Parpolas current work focuses on finding direct 2700 year-old historical connections that he sees between the Sakae of the first millennium BC and the present day Kafiri people of Afghanistan (Parpola 2002). He incorporates anachronistic iconographic evidence to argue historical connections and identities of peoples. Parpola also sees the BMAC as unambiguous evidence for the pre-Vedic/early Vedic Indo-Aryans, citing the compartmented seals and the architecture at Dashly 3, and strikes a parallel with the architecture from Arkaim, (which belongs to a very different but contemporaneous archaeological complex, as is nearly universally accepted by archaeologists). While he believes Andronovo to be Indo-Aryan also, his scenario makes use of Mallorys (1998) Kulturkugel hypothesis to explain the transformation of a pre-Vedic indigenous

Turkmeno-Bactrian people, whom he hypothesizes to have become bilingual with the influx of Steppe migrants and eventually adopted Vedic Aryan in the BMAC phase (Parpola, personal communication 2006; also see 2001; 1988).

Parpola (2002) then argues for the identity of the Dashas,6 and ultimately an historical connection between Indian and Iranian cosmologies with that of China by comparing forms in a contemporary Tantric tankha (mandala), Han Period TVC mirrors, BMAC style compartmented seals and the architectural layout of both Arkaim and Dashly 3.

The idea of attempting to demonstrate an historical strand between the BMAC, Vedic and Chinese cosmologies by finding meaningful connections in these variously applied motifs is, at best, precarious. The features of this particular motif are composed of very very simple elements. Circles, squares and quadrants are notoriously ubiquitous in art worldwide. The particular motif, from the TLV mirrors (a set of concentric circles with quadrants divided by a T shape), is also to be found in Turkoman carpets,7 19 century

Tibetan Buddhist tankhas and Native American medicine wheels. The motif might have been anachronistically borrowed or independently constructed, but whether the semantic context has been carried along with motif in these objects remains highly questionable.

6. The Dashas were a dark people described in the Rg Veda as enemy to the Aryans. 7. See Baker 1997, and Cammann 1975 for further discussion of the science of analyzing carpet design, particularly in ascertaining anachronistic borrowings. 8. Though he sees evidence for an earlier Vedic antecedent of this cult (Parpola 2002:263-270).

Transferring meaning from large architectural principles to small portable objects, and of this motif in particular, stems from work of the Asian art historian and scholar, Schuyler Cammann, who years ago studied the symbolism of a group of Chinese mirrors, the socalled Han TLV type (Cammann 1948), and as noted by Parpola, also Brentjes 1981). Significant, perhaps, is the possible connection of this Chinese motif with certain Chinese and Mongolian board games (e.g. Liubo), which would not only mediate between smaller and larger scales, but give the player the birds eye view that is missing from the connection between this design in mirrors and seals to that of the cosmologically formulated and arranged space in royal or sacred architecture. As for the compartmented seals, too many of them are not of that configuration (see Winkelmann et. al 2004; Baghestani 1997), so it is doubtful that there is a specific meaning attached to the one shown in Parpolas 2002 paper on p. 283 (which is actually the verso of a seal with a loop for attaching, not a compartmented seal). The possible connection between Vedic and Iranian cosmologies and material culture with later Chinese cosmology is more likely to have been due to influence from the influx of Buddhism from India into Western China ca. 200 BC).

From a linguists vantage point, M. Witzel has a different approach to the old Urheimat problem. Witzels study focuses on mythology, and reconstructing the probable homeland of the Aryans, among other themes. Witzel (eg. 1999) examines linguistic substrates as evidence for chronology, influence and direction of language/people changes through time.

9. In viewing an archaeological site plan (birds eye view) of the building in question at Dashly-3 what we see is not what was seen or conceptualized in the late third to early second millennium BC, but rather a building from the view on the ground. The false entry gates protected from siege, but did not necessarily have any parallel cosmological meaning as that of the T shape on Han Chinese hand-held mirrors.

He shares the more popular view that the Sintashta-Petrovka culture is evidence for the early Indo-Iranians, with the early light chariot and spoked wheel, and the region best described as the ancestral homeland of the Indo-Aryans of the Rg Veda (Witzel 1999:7).

He systematically accounts, through ancient texts, what he believes to be the probable homeland of the Aryans (Indo-Aryan) (Witzel 2000). Witzel acknowledges the IndoAryans to be a language group, but also argues they are hypothetically a coherent group of people who had already become distinct from an Indo-Iranian population, as attested in the earliest Vedic writing, the Rg Veda, ca. 1200 BC; and that as such, this group will have a cohesive material culture. This is a common assumption, and an oversimplification. He uses an analogy of archaeological strata in linguistic transformations through time as evidenced by different, datable sources, in what he calls linguistic stratification. By looking at loan words he puts the borrowings in a chronological order according to the presence or absence of archaic features, and thereby attempts to reconstruct the contact between different peoples in (relative) time and across (an abstract) space (Witzel 2006).

In another study, Witzel examines not toponyms per se, but rather mythological descriptions of regions, which he then transfers onto a contemporary map of Eurasia. However, in his discussion of evidence for an influx of northern Steppe ceramics (Witzel 2000:7), he cites the prevailing view of archaeologists (citing Hiebert and Shishlina 1998), that areas south of the BMAC were not directly affected by the steppes. He refers to
10. Witzel acknowledges the culture as newly dated to ca. 2000 BC (see Kuznetsov 2006); these new (significantly earlier) dates imply synchronicity with the Potapovka culture of the Volga Basin Not insignificantly, this is the region thought by others, such as Anthony (2007; 1986), Raulwing (2000), and Mallory (1997), to be the Indo-European Urheimat. 11. This is actually a development from earlier approaches to the question of the PIE homeland by looking at specific diagnostic words such as birch and salmon and technology related words such as wheel and chariot (see Mallory 1989; Parpola 1988; Anthony 1986; Goodenough 1970; Gimbutas 1970).

evidence for transformation seen in Seistan and Baluchistan bronze age deposits (without discussing any evidence in detail). He then goes on to explain that post 1900-1700 BC there is continuity of settlement in the BMAC oases down to the subsequent local cultures, those of Takhirbay, Mollali and Vakhsh; though at present this is not evident in the archaeology of Bactria; neither the Mollali phase nor the Vakhsh culture is seen as subsequent local culture but rather as a distinct break from earlier traditions. Moreover, the origins of Vakhsh are not clearly understood at present.

Both Witzel and Parpola have simplified and used archaeological data, rather than

interpreting archaeological evidence, to strengthen linguistically- informed arguments for

hypothetical culture histories. Parpola relies on anachronistic parallels in specific material finds to argue for an Indo-Aryan BMAC; Witzel uses archaeological cultures as bearers and transmitters of language, harmonizing the stratified relative chronology of his historical linguistics with a different, and problematic, system of relative chronology in the archaeological record of Eurasia.

12. A distinct break meaning recognizable change in material culture. Mollali has been traditionally seen as a late phase of the Sapalli culture, a northeastern Bactrian culture and a late member of the BMAC; Mollali and Bustan being considered the last phase. However, nearly all of this chronology is based on variations in ceramic assemblage in burials without any reliance on stratigraphy or absolute dating methods (see most recently Vinogradova and Kuzmina, in press. Teufer (2005) also looks at ceramic differences from burials at Djarkutan and infers a signal for two sub-phases, one in each of the two phases LBA I and LBA II) of Djarkutan; but again without any radiocarbon analysis to support this hypothesized regional chronology. Mollali type finds are spread into the Surkhan Darya region along the Uzbek/Tajik border and eastward into the Vahksh Valley, with sketchy evidence there for contact with peoples of the steppes just to the north, although this is by no means well understood at present. Thus Mollali a) has movement and b) shows change through interaction with another culture. This is a very different scenario from the general and oversimplified subsequent local culture that had continuity of settlement. This demonstrates the crux of the problem addressed here: that a large-scale overview of complex and ambiguous archaeological data necessarily oversimplifies and mutes it and makes it especially susceptible to mutability for fit into various linguistic or historical theories.


It is perhaps apparent why it has been possible for different scholars to go in such different directions: some outline one scenario, others lay out another; each relies on the same sites, artifacts, names, language groups and cultures to describe different stories because the points of reference are so easily transformed to meet the requirements of their given scenario, as was well outlined by Lamberg-Karlovsky in his seminal paper on archaeology and language regarding the Indo-Iranians (2002). Interpretations are idiosyncratic, in the true sense of the word. The temptation, therefore, is to look towards more objective sets of data.

PHYSICAL BIOLOGY APPROACHES Craniometrics At the other end of the palaeohistorical spectrum is the physical anthropological approach, whereby through detailed craniometric measurements of compared sets of human remains, assertions are made concerning the degree of affinity particular ancient peoples had with each other, and with modern populations (see, for example, Hemphill and Mallory 2004). This approach too has weak spots, principally because it is presented as objective yet is much more subjective than it appears. Measurements of individuals are taken as representative of a particular ethnic group, though human variation belies conformity both within and between groups of people; cranial markers are analogic and determined subjectively, rather than using only truly quantifiable (i.e. binary polymorphic) factors that are determined through phenotypic variation. This is not to completely dismiss this line of evidence outright, but to keep it in perspective.


Genetics (mtDNA) Examining genetic variability is more objective, though this too has limitations in helping define and articulate the culture histories of prehistoric Eurasia, particularly in ascertaining fine-tuned historical events such the peopling of a new area or a migration. Although estimating events though genetic distance by the molecular clock idea works well enough for the long-range view, events within the past several millennia require much too finetuned a scale to be as reliable as some purport (e.g. Wells 2006).

Mitochondrial DNA of modern populations has pointed to a specific set of bottlenecks which may well indicate early substantive population movements and isolations from other groups, from Western Asia to Central Asia and beyond. The important factors for the interests of this paper are the culture-historic context and meaning of the population isolations, and the periodicity and timeframe of the isolations. It is not yet possible, however, to reliably derive these factors from the present evidence. It is with the utmost care that we must parse between useful and useless data in both archaeological and human population genetics sets of data to render a meaningful and accurate picture of the past.

Y Chromosomes Mitochondria are passed down unchanged (except by mutation) from mother to offspring. All humans have mtDNA. Y Chromosomal DNA, by contrast, is found only in the Y chromosome, and is, by definition, male DNA passed down to males only. Thus the


mtDNA and the Y chromosome may produce quite different pictures due to sexual asymmetry in lineages and in population movements. By incorporating data from both, a more whole population history can be extrapolated. For example, comparison of both mtDNA and Y chromosomal DNA in samples from the Parsi population of Pakistan (Karachi) and India (Mumbai) showed substantial asymmetry. Male DNA was cohesive and with Iranian haplogroup markers, while the mtDNA showed considerable admixture with local population (Quintana-Murci et al. 2004).

Y chromosomal DNA of modern population networks are configured to show historical population affinity which are derived from measuring clusters of haplotypes of mutations visible in microsatellites which can be chronologically ordered indirectly, by documenting TMRCA, or time to most recent common ancestor. Through this, however, some infer directionality in population movements by means of differentiating groups from others by defining mutations which distinguish a group from a parent group. This is done by using one or more of a series of statistical packages that help define (either modeled on population lineages or unmodeled but taking into account allele length and/or mutation rates) and then estimate the time at which a genetic mutation occurred which distinguishes a group from another. These distinguishing markers can thus be put in chronological order which then can be imposed onto GIS and thus a general picture of population movements in prehistory can be presented. New haplogroups are being discovered and defined currently (see, for example, the National Geographic study: Wells 2006).


This data is of course of great value to understanding East-West interactions in prehistory; however, there are a few important caveats that must be considered as well before we consider this data useful. First, the time frame and accuracy of rate of mutation assumption weakens as we move forward through history (for detailed work on this area see Spencer and Howe 2004). Second, the interpretation of population haplogroups is based on strictly genetic factors and does not address any aspect of human behaviour other than biological

reproduction. Third, by looking at modern language groups as initial defining populations

there is a certain amount of assumption built in that is reified or reinforced in the study as presented; and that some haplogroups may be obscured, missed or exaggerated. Furthermore, it is acknowledged that language groups and genetic haplogroups, in Central and Western Asia as a rule, do not conform (Quintana-Murci et al. 2004:839-840). Finally, DNA recombination can complicate the picture, and certain microsatellite hotspots are frequently subject to recombination which is only now being addressed (eg. Spencer et al. 2006). Some of these hotspots may indeed be on specific alleles used as haplogroup markers. Linguistic difference in these regions (the southwest and Central Asian corridor, i.e. mainly Indo-European vs. Altaic) are not reflected in the patterns of mtDNA diversity. (Quintana-Murci et al. 2004:839). There are few exceptions to this, and one particular exception is that of the Hunza of the NWF Province of Pakistan.

However, to actually determine ancient population movement through later period phylogenetics is not a cut and dried case, as noted by authors Underhill et al. (2000). In
13. Most recently (November 2006) current understanding of human genetic variability has taken an exponential leap, with the discovery of parallel genes in no less than 10 % of the human genome. Though at first blush this seems to further complicate the study of ancient human DNA and population movements, this may actually help track specific marker genes in modern populations.


regard to a specific affinity between Ethiopians and Sudanese, for example, their close affinity with Mediterranean populations could reflect either repeated genetic contact between Arabia and Africa during the last 5000-6000 years or a Middle Eastern origin with subsequent acquisition of African alleles on their way southwest with agricultural expansions (Underhill et al. 2000:361). In other words, genetic markers can show relative affinity between populations (as defined by, you guessed it, genetic markers), but do not demonstrate the nature or timing of affinity nor its historical causes.

THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF EURASIA AND THE ANDRONOVO PHENOMENON One of the most widely discussed yet poorly understood phenomena of inner Eurasian prehistory is that of interaction. The nature, intensity and duration of interaction is less attended to than the simple presence or absence of evidence documenting interaction between different groups. This is a major reason why it has been and continues to be easy for researchers from different vantage points to draw very different interpretations from the same evidence. Developing a more sophisticated language of interaction and the various components of its signature in the archaeologies of Eurasia, therefore, is imperative for future study to progress.

In the current conceptualization of northern Eurasian Bronze Age archaeology, the term Andronovo glosses over significant and distinctive variation in local archaeological


sequences. Moreover, among the several regional, discrete archaeological antecedent cultures such as Afanasievo to the southeast, Srubnaya (Timber Grave) culture to the west, and the earlier Yamnaya, it is unknown which, if any, was the principal contributor to what later became Andronovo. The contrast between regional stylistic variations within a more general unity of ceramic forms is not in conformity with any sort of unity in burial type, so some kind of localintraregional interface must be explained. This interaction evidenced in northern Eurasian Bronze Age material culture can perhaps be understood in terms parallel to the so-called Intercultural Style phenomenon of the third millennium BC Western Asia, where distinct local cultures also shared a common (and long-distance traded) set of motifs (Kohl 1977; Lamberg-Karlovsky 1988; see also Winkelman 2004; Good 2006).


So what exactly is Andronovo? The name relates to a specific and defined set of material cultural traits and features, with what has often been considered to be a consistent and characteristic ceramic type (see figure 1). Because many scholars consider Andronovo to represent a cohesive group of people in ethnic and language terms, it has been loosely

14. Of which some Russian scholars are also aware, as expressed in the term .


Figure 1. Examples of later Andronovo ceramic vessels. Federovo (left) and Afanasievo (right). After Kuzmina 1994.

considered a culture. It has also been variously considered to be an archaeological horizon, a culture complex, a set of related cultures, or a set of material culture traits reflecting interaction between different groups. Thus basic questions of definition have remained open to discussion and debate. It is perhaps fair to loosely conceptualize Andronovo as part phenomenon, part heuristic artifact, because it covers such a wide range of dates and such a large area (comparable in scale to that of the Huari/Wari in the Peruvian Andes), and is more apparent to those who lump than it is to those who split. Below is a review


of the perspectives of principal scholars dealing with the phenomenon: Kuzmina, Koryakova, Genning, Zdanovich, and Lamberg-Karlvosky.

Kuzmina (1994) believes that Andronovo cultural remains represent the Indo-Aryans, who constitute the origins of the Indo-Iranians. Her chronology is the 17 -9 centuries BC, in the following sequence: the Petrovka culture is early Andronovo, ca. 17 -16 centuries BC, with a western influence. It is a period of early bronze smelting. The well-known rich princely chariot burials at Sintashta represent this culture. Kuzmina notes there is no common root word in Indo-Aryan and Iranian for horseman.
th th th th

The next phase is the Alekseyevo stage, ca. the 15 -13 centuries BC when the ubiquitous steppe ceramics emerge, distributed from the Danube to the Altai; with parallels to the Timber Grave (or Srubnaya) culture. At this stage there is development of stockbreeding (cattle) and a pronounced increase in populations, expansion, and a transition from settled to nomadic lifeways.



Koryakova (1995) begins on the Asiatic Steppe (the trans-Ural) from 2000 -1600 BC, or the Middle Bronze Period. Within that period, the Arkaim, Sintashta-Petrovka (ca. 19001800 BC) emerged. This was followed by the Late Bronze Age (1600-900 BC), and the final or transitional period ca. 800-700 BC, and the Early Iron Age ca. 600-300 BC. She sees the spread of cultural transmission as being from West to East; from Pit Grave
15. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, there are others such as Jones-Bley, Itina, Avanesova and Margulan. The author considers the above to be the most influential scholars on the subject of the Andronovo question.


(Yamma or Yamnaya) then of Abashevo cultures. This in turn gave rise to the Potapovka culture of the Don/Volga region and the Arkaim/Sintashta Culture in the southern Urals, or Land of Towns (aka Country of Towns). Koryakova acknowledges the possibility of the architectural pattern of the Country of Towns being related to the round fortified settlement of southeastern Europe and parts of Anatolia and the Aegean (Koryakova 1995:256; see Merpert 1995). The Sintashta-Arkaim culture collapsed around 17 -16
th th

centuries BC, with various explanations put forth (migration, climate/ecological change,

etc.) (Koyakova 1995:259). After this, it was replaced by the more standard, less
extravagant, but much more widespread Andronovo cultural zone. (ibid.). Sometimes it is called the Andronovo archaeological family because of its multilinear evolution. (ibid.). At this point (ca. 1400-1200 BC), what is termed Andronovo was prominent along with Srubnaya (Timber Grave Culture, to the west, i.e. west of the Urals), which in turn formed the basis of the Scythian and Siberian cultural unity.

Koryakova believes the Sintashta/Arkaim culture moved into a probably Ugric-speaking Tersek-Botai culture area; the long time spent there transformed the culture (Koryakova 1995:257). Some descendants went south, becoming Petrovka, then early Alakul and Fjedorovo; and in another stream, Srubnaya. The cohesion in these great and expansive families of traditions is in the ceramics. This is where we run into epistemological trouble.

Genning et al. (1992) state that the inhabitants of the southern Urals, (especially the Sintashta complex and Arkhaim) are Aryans, or the Indo-Aryan branch of the Proto-Indo-


Europeans. Gening, Zdanovich and Gening base these conclusions on the chronology and the ethnical identification of archaeological sites. (Gening, Zdanovich and Gening 1992). Craniometrics do not in any way indicate a uniform genetic group of people even in the early stage of cultural development (R. Lindstrom, personal comm. as cited in Zdanovich and Zdanovich 2002:251). Zdanovich later termed this phenomenon Country of Towns (1999; 2002). This refers to the pit grave cultures of the southern Ural steppe (Zdanovich and Zdanovich 2002; Morgunova & Kravsov 1994). Within the Country of Towns, they see regional distinction and variation in ceramics and material culture, but with a commonality. Andronovo and Timber Grave (Potapovo phase) were unique, exemplified by the concentric ringed structures of Arkaim and Sintashta (Zdanovich 1988:222).

Zdanovich does not make connections between Arkaim and the circular towns of southeastern Europe but he does see evidence for interactions between the steppes to the East and on the other side of the Black Sea. He does not see a western influence, as described by Koryakova (although he states they are reminiscent of Barca in Slovakia) but a

southern influence; and also sees eastern (Chinese) metallurgical influences in the socketed
bronzes of the early second millennium BC Seima-Turbino-Samussk cultures to the north in the forest-steppe). His is a perspective based primarily on connecting parallels in technology and domesticated animals.

16. Which is now actually dated to the late third millennium BC. See Parzinger and Boroffka 2003). I thank my anonymous reviewer for bringing my attention to this.


Lamberg-Karlovsky (2002) states that Andronovo as a concept has not been consistently articulated, and perhaps more importantly, that specialists have lacked an agreed upon periodization (Lamberg-Karlovsky 2002:65; see Hanks et al. 2007 and for current

overview). He further points out that several current thinkers on the subject (eg. Yablonsky 2000); now object to the idea of a millennium-long culture covering over three million square miles (see also Grigoryev 2007).

Thus we see epistemological issues of interpretation, and of limitations due to a lack of chronological syncretism. What has also been lacking up until now is a clear break from simplistic evolutionist and migrationist models. There is a need to view the archaeological record of Bronze Age Eurasia as an expression of diverse, interacting local culture histories, with visible synchronic changes in regional material culture in specific regions. Moreover the notion of nomad is grossly over-simplified and at times falsely

dichotomized into discreet populations of settled vs. nomadic. This oversimplification is particularly pronounced in the literature concerning Central Asia before the first millennium BC (for discussion see Khazanov 1984; see also Good 1999; 2006b).

THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE OXUS CIVILIZATION OR BMAC The archaeology of the middle Amu Darya region has been vigorously studied for over forty years and yet remains poorly known or understood. The more westerly Namazga sequence has been used as the dominant framework of the long regional culture history
17. Although Anthony (1990) revived a stale and out-of-date migration model and began a lively debate on the American side in Eurasian steppe archaeology (eg. Chapman and Dolukhanov 1992), the Soviet-post-Soviet transition has not yet taken significant steps toward a more considered explanatory model of culture change.


from ca. 4000-1750 BC in an integral area of what was later known as the Silk Road. Moreover the dating of the Namazga sequence has remained controversial from the beginning (eg. see Dales 1972). As with the case of the Andronovo phenomenon, many unclear and ambiguous parts of the archaeology within, around and beyond the Tedzen Oasis have been used to promote various theories, from the problem of migration and population movement to the development of the Oxus Civilization without any real regard to data. We must develop a better understanding of the nature of these earlier prehistoric cultures and their relationships and interactions (see, for example, Amiet 1986; Jarrige 1988). Likewise, for the past thirty years archaeologists have been studying the so-called Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, though it was initially known only from illicitly excavated materials from Afghanistan (Frankfort 2005; Ligabue et. al 1989) and later from a few well-published Soviet studies of sites in SE Uzbekistan such as Dashly, Djarkutan and Sapalli (Sarianidi 1977; Massimov 1981).

The term BMAC was coined by Viktor Sarianidi, one of the principal archaeologists working in the more easterly Bactria region. Sarianidi saw the BMAC as having derivation from and connections with the Iranian Khorasan region, and viewed the dates as mid to late second millennium BC (see figure 2). By contrast, Masson (1988) viewed the phenomenon quite differently, seeing a more northerly derivation and affinity (the Khopet Dagh in Turkmenistan) and a considerably earlier date.

18. Sarianidi has more recently placed the beginning of BMAC to the late third millennium BC. See Sarianidi, 2002; 2005).


Figu re 2. Partial chronology of Bronze Age Southern Turkmenistan, based on the Namazga sequence with various calibrated dates from different sites. Discrepancies still exist in regional chronologies of different scholars, due to different opinions about parallels in cultural sequences, and to sometimes poor C14 sampling (see Lamberg-Karlovskys 2002 comments regarding Sarianidis recant of dates).

Hiebert worked at Gonur and Gonur North in Margiana, and assimilated both new calibrated radiocarbon dates as well as a seriation of ceramics to help find parity with the regional cultural phases (Hiebert 1994; see also Edens 1996 for review). Part of Hieberts contribution was to see evidence, increasing through time, of interaction between the oasis settlement at Gonur and the steppes, as evidenced by textile impressed and incised ceramics typical of the Tagazagyab culture from due north in Khoresmia. This evidence helped to form Kohls (2002) recent suggestion that the Steppe or Andronovo populations interacted with the oasis settlements in Margiana and were eventually


transformed into the BMAC. This idea is gaining traction, as is the related Kulturkugel hypothesis of Mallory (1998). This trend of trying to explain the emergence of the BMAC by invoking a vague notion of interaction along with a vague set of index criteria such as textile impressed sherds as indicating Steppe peoples is a perfect example of what Carol Kramer had famously cautioned against (1977).

Evidence for interaction between the settled and steppe peoples during the 2 millennium BC has been a subject keenly debated and discussed in recent years (see for example Hiebert and Shislina 1998). However, there is another aspect of interaction that is only now being considered: that of the highland interface (Good 2005; 2006b; 2007; see also Witzel 2003 in specific reference to the Hindu Kush; Stacul 1987; Barger 1939). Indeed, one only need to consider the mineralogical requirements of smelting to realize how important the incorporation of a highland landscape became in early metal using societies. The recent discovery of early tin extraction in the Zerevshan is testament to this (see Borroffka et. al 2004; Parzinger and Borroffka 2003; also Kaniuth 2007). Further south, in the deeply cut fertile river valleys of southern Tajikistan are traces of what has been interpreted as a socalled steppe bronze culture, interacting with the BMAC during the Mollali phase (Vinogradova 2004; Vinogradova and Kuzmina 1994).


19. Which steppe? When? What culture- the now defunct Andronovo? Why cant it be from Baluchistan?


ANDRONOVO, BMAC, INDO-EUROPEANS AND THE ARCHAEOLOGY AND LANGUAGE PROBLEM The main point of the previous section has been to illustrate how a problematic concept (Andronovo) has been used, almost indiscriminately, over the last several decades to explain another problem; namely that of archaeological traces of the PIEspeaking communities as archaeological entities. This second problem is also conceptual (trying to force conformation of two separate types of data), but is more than that: the assumptions about linguistic, ethnic, cultural, and historical connections are often left out of the discussion. This second area is a very important problem, but will not be addressed in the present forum to the extent it deserves, but will be treated in a future paper. For the present purpose, we will confine the discussion to how various economically similar groups (regardless of whether we are lumping or splitting), in the second millennium BC Eurasian Steppes have been interacting, moving, communicating and transporting both material and non-material culture. We are at a disadvantage when we try to reconstruct ideological frameworks, and we fail when we assume their distribution means a distribution of people and languages. However, we can address parallels in ideological frameworks and concomitant ritual behaviour in the form of burial and sacred architecture and specialized ritual objects, for example the so-called stone purses and grooved columns distributed from Sarazm (Isakov 1991; 1996) to Shahr-i Sokhta (Tosi 1983) and beyond (see for example Winkelmann 1998; Borroffka and Sava 1999). The tendency is to loosely interpret, with vague sets of criteria, the distribution of materials, sometimes removed from their context, as indices of population movements and interactions.


Many scholars see the BMAC complex as Indo-Iranian; though others are convinced that evidence points to Andronovo. The methodology used by scholars such as Kuzmina and Anthony is a sort of applied ethnic analysis, whereby the traits are found in the archaeological record and assessed to match known aspects of cultural traits found in Indo-Iranians. This method is, however, not universally accepted, for example the use of horse sacrifice in timber-lined graves is also found in Bronze Age China. Moreover, if there are horses, one also hastens to assume nomadism. Here we find ourselves moving into the third thorny issue; that of nomadism, pastoralism and mixed agrarian societies. The theoretical and ethnographic models and archaeologically interpreted material are both lacking sufficient detail to further clarify our image of the past and our understanding of ancient interactions and cultural developments; it is for this reason, perhaps above all else, that we see little advancement in creating meaningful interface between linguistic, archaeological (and mytho-historical) and physical/genetic data.

So, to reset our view, the thematic interests lie in the study of evidence for interactions, linguistic, genetic, and material cultural; and to reinforce the model of constant change, to force a re-focus on refinement of chronology, to wane the older notions of cultural or ethnic origins; of urheimats and ancestors, beyond what is knowable in only the very simple, abstract sense. Indeed as Kohl recently stated:

There is no single Indo-European or Proto-Indo-European homeland but just an ever unfolding historical process of development in which peoples not only continuously transform themselves, including their basic livelihoods, and sometimes move


and enter new areas, but also continuously borrow and assimilate the technical innovations and cultural developments of other peoples with whom they always come into contact. P. Kohl (2002)

Below are two case studies (lapis lazuli and silk, respectively), which illustrate how even materials science has been misused in the search for evidence of long distance interactions. I argue that, if used carefully, these types of analytical study can indeed be used to determine ancient sources of rare substances and by extension long distant contact between East and West. This type of analysis can, above all other types of data, aid in our interpretation of interactions. It is hoped that through careful and more thorough materials studies, integrated with regional surveys, we can begin to build better models, and pose more relevant archaeological questions based on a more precise understanding of the nature of rare substances and the extent of their use in antiquity.


PART II. CASE STUDIES- SILK, LAPIS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF HIGHLAND VERTICAL TRANSHUMANCE CASE STUDY I: LAPIS LAZULI Lapis vs Sodalite? Where is this questioned? A possible point of confusion here may be the widespread occurrence in Iran of another bluish stone called lazurite. This more common stone could be easily mistaken for lapis. Further investigation is needed to determine how much of what we are presently calling lapis lazuli on early sites is actually lapis lazuli. Thomas W. Beale 1973.

Beale mistook the difference of lapis from lazurite- he might have meant lazulite, azurite, or sodalite; but the point he made is clear and highly relevant: namely that the stone we assume to be rare, from a specific source in northeastern Afghanistan, may well be another, equally rare but more widely distributed mineral, namely sodalite. This mineral occurs worldwide, and in fact is found within the lapis mines as well as regions in Southeast Asia, Siberia, the Russian Far East, the Urals region, Kazakhstan and Kyrgizstan. Sodalite is related to lapis as it, like lazurite, is in the feldspathoid group. The possibility of sodalite rather than lapis being a source of

20. according to the Struntz grouping


some of the blue stone that was so important to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt must be addressed more closely.

Lapis lazuli refers to a mineral complex made up of lazurite, which gives lapis its blue hue, and other minerals including calcite and sulfite. Lazurite is a feldspathoid mineral belonging to the sodalite group, along with hayne and nosean. It is of varied composition. Other relevant minerals are lazulite, azurite and sodalite, each of which also produce a blue colour; but the most prominent stone used is lapis lazuli. It can sometimes occur with silver or iron pyrites veining within the stone. It is distinctive because of its mineral context: it is often found formed in calcite.

The unique geological conditions required for the formation of lapis have only fairly recently been discovered; though the fact that its occurrence is quite rare has been known for millennia. Lapis forms only when there is contact between biogenic sedimentary rock (calcareous) as well as igneous rock components combined in a metamorphosis condition, i.e. in an active mountain-building belt such as that found in the Hindu Kush-Pamir orogenic zone (Kulke 1976; von Rosen 1988:1011).

The lapis mines of Afghanistan (see figure 3) resulted from contact between Oligocene granodiorites and mesoarchaean gneiss (biotite, garnet, calc-silicate, marble quartzite and amphibolite). There are several mines, however, in the Pamirs


Figu re 3. Map of geological formations in Hindu Kush orogenic zone. Note the distinct bedrock in the Kol-i Lal vs. Sar-e Sang deposits. Adapted from Doebrich and Wahl, 2006.

further to the north; for example the Koh-e Lal mine in Tajikistan, which is orogenically related though is likely to have a distinctive elemental signature (see figure 4). Related geological structures in the Chagai Hills in Pakistan, the southern shore of Lake Baikal in Siberia, the Shugnan Range of the western Pamir in Tajikistan, and southwestern Badakshan in northern Afghanistan each carry veins of lapis lazuli; there is also a possible source in Iran. However for the present purpose, it is sufficient to simply call into question the assumptions made about lapis and its distribution in antiquity, and to point to new methods of analyzing the components of lapis that make possible the sourcing of ancient stone.
21. Although the existence of a Chagai deposit has recently come into question (see R. Law 2007).


Figu re 4. Discriminant Analysis of Lapis Lazuli from Various Quarries (adapted from Kasztovszky and Zlfldi 2003. Reproduced with permission, all rights reserved).

LAPIS FROM BADAKHSHAN, OR FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE? The current state of the question Knowing the source (and confirming that this is knowable) will help us better understand the historical realities of prehistoric interactions (e.g. see Tosi 1974). Only consistent, systematic and coordinated study of evidence for sourcing lapis will allow progress in answering this important question. Studies have been conducted on the particular mineralogical fingerprints of each location, in order to trace the source of the mineral; lapis in particular is difficult to assess due to the relatively heterogenous nature of the stone as described above.


Herrmann had once concluded (1983) that there was not enough evidence to determine very much about exchange routes from studying lapis lazuli, after recanting an earlier claim that there was a discernable pattern of shift from a northerly route from Tepe Gawra to a southerly one (1968). This may well be correct, though it is still not certain how lapis moved nor whence. M. Casanova conducted a series of seminal studies, along with G. Herrmann and A. Delmas (Casanova 1989; 1993; 1998; 1999; Delmas and Casanova 1990), in which samples from mines as well as archaeological lapis were tested, and concluded that some materials did in fact come from Badakhshan, and some also came from a source in the Chagai Hills in western Baluchistan. This conclusion was based on comparison of two elements, barium and strontium, between samples. By applying atomic absorption to the lapis samples, trace element analysis revealed that barium and strontium levels differed distinctly in samples from different mines, thereby marking a testable signature for sources of ancient lapis. This important discovery has indeed helped to clarify ancient lapis sources and the implications of its exchange. The heterogeneous nature of lapis has left several scholars unconvinced that determining sources for lapis will ever be possible (eg. Potts 1993). However, the mineralogical heterogeneity may actually be

advantageous for distinguishing particular sources when examining certain trace elements
via mass spectrometry.

More recent study of trace elements in lazurite promises to help increase the accuracy of sourcing through another physical test, Prompt Gamma Activation Analysis (PGAA). This type of analysis has been applied to the study of lapis lazuli for its potential in discerning


source areas (see figure 5). One advantage of this technique is that it can examine independent trace elements, which may more effectively eliminate the problem of heterogeneity in the matrix of lapis lazuli stone (Zldfldi and Kasztovszky 2003). Moreover it can be used completely non-destructively. This will encourage more museum objects to be tested, which will help to develop a more accurate and refined view of early lapis availability and concomitant contact and exchange. This type of study promises to produce important insights into early resource use and interaction in prehistory.

Figu re 5. View of lapis lazuli mine at Sar-i Sang, Badakhshan. Photo credit: Luke Powell. Reproduced with permission, all rights reserved.

On the question of Iranian lapis, there are two points that need to be stressed. First, there are most certainly at least two sources of lapis present in Iran, one from Khamseh (Zanjan), and the other from mount Rudbar Alamut (near Tafrish, also in Zanjan). These are well


documented mines, though their antiquity has not been investigated. However, the earliest known lapis found in the ancient Near East comes from Zagheh (grave 15, level VIII) on the Qazvin Plain in ca. 6000 BC (Shahmirzadi 1988; Abdi 2000) very close to the Khamseh mines.


The Significance of Lapis in Ritual and Belief Lapis lazuli has consistently reflected significance in ritual contexts in Mesopotamia and in Egypt. It was considered to be a powerful apotropaic substance and a healing stone in Babylonian magical texts, particularly when worn around the neck or strung onto a thread as an amulet. This is attested from textual evidence (see, for discussion, Reiner 1995) as well as archaeological and art historical study (see Winter 1995). Lapis lazuli significantly shaped conceptual notions of truth within the Mesopotamian world, where it was used within sacred contexts. The physical nature of this stone, for the Early Dynastic Sumerians in particular (the most valued being luminous, dark and blue), represented the sacred, the sky and masculinity. It was often paired with red carnelian in burial contexts, reflecting both masculine and feminine (see figure 6). This red-blue pairing is also found in burials of bronze and early iron age peoples in the Tarim Basin of Xinjiang, as red and blue cords were used to bind the hands of mummified bodies (see Good 2005; for further literature on the Tarim Basin mummies see Mallory and Mair 2000; Barber 1999; Mair 1998). This red/blue male/female connection may reflect a shared colour symbolism with a deep history.
22. National Geoscience Database of Iran. 23. Particularly if the thread is dyed red, interestingly; see Good 2005 for possible connections between this and ritual practice in Xinjiang.


Figu re 6. Lapis and carnelian diadem from the grave of Puabi, Ur. University of Pennsylvania Museum Collections # B16705. (Reproduced with permission, all rights reserved).

The relevance of colour symbolism and the ritual use of lapis lazuli for the present study is that of the impact of this particular hard-to-find substance and its role in long distance exchange: we can begin to trace the spread of cosmological belief and ritual practice from across the Iranian Plateau, and Central Asia into and out of Mesopotamia, from the third millennium through the second, and begin to see movement in the archaeological record not so much as a spread of people per se, but as a spread of ideas. The potency of this stone in ritual and magic, coupled with its scarcity, would have certainly encouraged a migration of practice (see Francfort 1994; 2005).


CASE STUDY II: SILK- EVIDENCE, PRESUMPTIONS, ETYMOLOGIES Silk is a luxurious fiber, unique in the natural world in its qualities of smoothness, strength and luminosity. The use of silk is known to be a Chinese innovation. In China the silkmoth was domesticated. According to tradition, knowledge of silk and its procurement was very carefully kept within China until the Western Han Dynasty ca. 221 BC; yet several archaeological occurrences of silk preceding this date by several centuries have been found far beyond Chinas borders. One of the more spectacular and oft-cited examples of preHan silk well outside of China is from a late Hallstatt (ca. 7 century BC) elite burial in Germany known as the Hohmichele (Hundt 1971). Another well-known example in Europe is from Kerameikos, tangible evidence of the so-called silks of the Island of Cos in fifth century BC Greece (see Braun 1987; Richter 1929; see Good 1995 for full review of evidence). Silk has also been reported from much earlier; as evidenced by remains from a burial from Sapalli Tepe, dating to the mid-second millennium BC (Askarov 1973).
24 th

When these important archaeological discoveries were made, they were readily assumed to be of Chinese origin, and questions soon turned to trade routes and speculation about European contact and influence with China. This assumption has, in fact, significantly shaped our ideas about contact and exchange in Eurasian prehistory, and is perpetuated in literature discussing the topic of long distance exchange (see, for example, Christian 1998; von Falkenhausen 2000). However, the true nature and extent of ancient sericulture has

24. The work of Schmidt (2004) has also been brought to my attention by my anonymous reviewer, for which I am very grateful. This article reports second millennium B.C. non-Chinese silk in Germany.


been overlooked, thereby inhibiting an accurate account of long distance contact and exchanges in prehistoric Eurasia. In assessing the significance of this early evidence for silk, a clearly critical factor to be considered is the use of wild silks, which in fact preceded the domestication of silkworms. There are several economically viable wild silkworm species, some of which are not indigenous to China, but to South Asia, for example SATURNIIDAE Antheraea assamensis, and A. mylitta.

There is an important species from another family of moths and butterflies which produces a workable silk, whose present natural range is in the Mediterranean, known as LASIOCAMPIDAE Pachypasa otus, which was, in fact, the silk identified at Kerameikos and at the Hohmichele mound (Good and Kim, 1993) (see figures 7, 8). By examining the amino acids of the principal silk protein, fibroin, along with observing the morphology of fibers through scanning electron microscopy, we obtained a reliable and precise identification of silk. It is also possible, through amino acid analysis, to more securely determine the species of silkmoth from which the silk derived, thereby assessing whether or not it is of Chinese, Indian or Mediterranean origin.

Archaeological silk fragments can be subjected to not only compositional amino acid analysis but also to amino acid sequencing, an even more precise tool for identifying


silkmoth species,25 enabling distinction between various ancient wild and domestic silk types, elucidating whether silk was, for example, a Chinese import or indigenous product.

Figu re 7. Above: Cross-section of three threads from a textile recovered from a ca. 7th century BCE grave at Kerameikos, Greece. Note paired, lobed fibers. Photomicrograph by I. Good Below: a scanning electron micrograph of modern specimen of Pachypasa otus silk fibroin brins, encased in sericin gum. Note lobed shape of brins. Specimen procured from collections of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. Photomicrograph by J. Hather and I. Good, taken at the Institute of Archaeology, London.

25. Compositional analysis gives the mole percent values for amino acids present. This is informative and distinctive between species,ut of limited heuristic value when dealing with highly degraded proteins. The sequencing technique allows for segments of the amino acid chains to be fingerprinted, this allowing for an even more secure species determination.


Figu re 8. Amino acids of fibroin, the main protein in silk filaments, from various archaeological specimens of silk. 1.Kerameikos; 2. A carbonized sample from Gordion; 3. Han Chinese silk from Hubei; 4. From the Hohmichele Mound. Note peaks for glycine (G) and alanine (A), characteristic of silk. (from Good and Kim 1994).

This information is also critical for understanding the development of Indian silks in particular, both reeled and spun, as the use of mukta silks may have either developed indigenously, or out of taboo against the Chinese method of degumming. Through this type of study, it is hoped that a better understanding of the early technology and distribution of this important material will emerge, and an appreciation of the critical role


played in its development by prehistoric peoples of Eurasia (for recent work see Good, in


Silk Traces in Texts Vedic, Avestan early Classical Sanskrit and Middle Persian documents contain hints of early knowledge of silk in India, Iran and Central Asia. The ancient Hindu Laws of Manu, a manual of conduct, prescribes the treatment and wearing of certain silks (Manu v. 120; Kane 1941). These instructions indirectly attest to knowledge of the technology of boiling cocoons. These texts were written in pre-Han times, in the later first millennium BC. The mukhta (muga; munga)26 silks were used in order to avoid the destruction of life involved with the procurement of de-gummed silk. The Gautama Dharmasutra explicitly discusses the rule against the sale of silk, which may date as early as the 5th century BC (Olivelle 1999).

This very important delineation between mukhta and tussah may lead us to understand the beginnings of silk use, and of knowledge of what are traditionally considered to be Chinese methods of degumming (and reeling) silk. Furthermore, the etymology of all words relating to silk and silkworms in these early texts is of a non-Chinese etymology (i.e. not sere-) (Balkrishna 1925; McGregor 1993). Although no specific term silk has been discovered in the Gathas or the Younger Avestan texts, there are several investigative avenues to follow for ascertaining the Old Iranian derivation for silk, which is also non26. The etymology of mukta is confusing. It may be derived from the Sanskrit word for "released" or "freed"; (V. Mair, personal communication). Others point to "Muga" or "moonga" meaning amber-coloured (Peigler 1994:152).


Chinese (Bailey 1931, 1979; Mayrhofer 1996; Hassandoust 1964).27 For example, there is a Middle Persian term kirm-i abreshom for silkworm. This hints at a possible early indication of Iranian knowledge of silks source. These various clues to an early knowledge of silk outside of China have not yet been systematically investigated.

FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF CENTRAL ASIA A New Interface We have seen in this short review some of the ambiguities, temptations and evidentiary contradictions inherent in the study of Central Asian prehistory, and of the innate historical complexities of its study. It is hoped that these contradictions can be ameliorated somewhat as new research begins to fill the lacunae, and that those lacunae can be more clearly acknowledged. Outlined below are what I believe to be fruitful directions to take for future productive archaeological research in Central Asia, much of which is already beginning to take place (see Vinogradova 2004; Kohl 2006; Parzinger 2006). In keeping with the theme of the current symposium and of this paper, the goal is a better understanding of long distance exchange and its impact on Eurasian culture histories.

Interactions A new focus on interactions will require building more refined models for understanding variability in the archaeological record that can be clearly interpreted as change (see below for control over chronology) induced by outside influences, distinguishing between
27. The root raish for silk in Farsi, resham, means to pull apart.


migrations and invasions, colonizations, economic engagements and adopting new social practices or new belief systems. The current state of archaeology is such that this complex social phenomenon, interaction, is not usually very carefully attended to, but rather cursorily summoned as an explanation.

Creating models of change, based on different types of interaction with variation in scale, time frame and impact on lifeways and material culture, will provide tools for better viewing, interpreting and explaining the complex archaeology of Central Asia. This modeling is requisite for a more high-resolution archaeology. At present we see the vestiges of Soviet-style archaeology re-iterating the presence or absence of a few cultural traits to determine whether or not archaeological remains are Indo-Aryan; which has been all too tempting for interdisciplinary-minded linguists to adopt in their approach to the question. In my view, a more productive way of evaluating the mesh between linguistic information and archaeological data is to view not ethnic peoples, nor even language groups per se but simply groups of people who followed, developed and practiced a common cosmological system along with its particular set of ritual behaviours, which would be manifested distinctly in material culture discoverable by archaeology.

It is time to ask more sophisticated questions and seek their answers from new archaeological research and new study of earlier work in Central Asia. Although difficult and challenging, the fosterage of useful, interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary study in this region and time period is necessary and timely as it forces us to open up and fill in lacunae


rather than avoiding, circumnavigating or taking advantage of them. We need to do this in order to progress in our understanding of the past in this important part of the world. As indicated by the brief outline here, there are very basic questions that to date remain unresolved. Utilizing a cross-disciplinary approach to the study of change will develop more parity between archaeological, art historical approaches to material culture, and to physical anthropological and linguistic approaches to studying past peoples. However, this approach

must be spearheaded by archaeology.

Economies and Environments Questions of interaction can and must be addressed in a more informed perspective through reconstruction of prehistoric economies and palaeoenvironments; with studies in greater detail and with greater and better disclosed evidence. Only then will we be better equipped to interpret influence, interaction and migration; and to distinguish between different levels and scales of interaction. A welcome new approach to addressing the pervasive problem of oversimplification has been taken by Frachetti (2005) who sees the opportunity to elucidate on detailed studies of land use and interaction based on local landscape studies rather than relying on proxy evidence from older Soviet archaeologies and fit them into current models of cultural interaction and development. Hiebert has also taken this approach with his work at Gonur and at Anau in Turkmenistan (1994; 2004). New work by Russian scholars Koryakova (2007) and Kircho (1994; 2007) is also proving to be interdisciplinary and productive, and is helping to build new models of


interaction (see, for example, the collected papers edited by Boyle, Renfrew and Levine 2002).

GIS applications are now becoming de rigeur, with important projects such as survey of the Mughab Delta in Turkmenistan (Cerasetti 2004), in the Zerevshan (Rondelli and Mantellini 2005), the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang and in Afghanistan (Padua 2005a, b; Stride and Padwa 2005); Northern Tajikistan (Stride 2006) and the important initiative of M. Tosi and the joint Uzbek Italian mission in Uzbekistan. These new studies are promising to help us better understand environments, lifeways, economies and interactions, but they are only part of the process. Anchoring down regional chronologies is of utmost importance in allowing a more comprehensive understanding of synchronicities and the cultural dynamics of Asian prehistory. Understanding regional ceramic seriations, a staple in American, European as well as Russian archaeological methodology, is still poorly served in many parts of Central Asia, principally due to poor quality line drawings and limited publication, most often due to a lack of funding. It is far easier to simply vaguely associate any sherd that has incisions or textile impressions as being from the steppes, when all we have at our disposal are simple line drawings.

Refining and Connecting Chronologies We are now at a crossroads in Central Asian archaeology. We have at our disposal many sophisticated tools, from molecular to satellite, yet we will only be able to fully engage and



address the problems which fascinate us if we begin to seriously reframe questions, continue to develop more appropriate models and, perhaps most urgently, tackle the issue of chronology head-on. Following in the footsteps of Dyson at Hasanlu (1965) and Hiebert at Gonur and Anau (1994; 2004) and the important research carried out through the Deutsches Archologisches Institut (see for example Grsdorf et al. 1998); a new joint project is being undertaken by the Peabody Museum at Harvard University and the Tajik Academy of Sciences, in order to clarify some of the sequence in the eastern part of Bactria. We are working along the southern edge of the country, along the middle-upper reaches of the Amu Darya (the ancient Oxus) up to the Vaksh/Panj confluence to elucidate on this poorly understood region and to give parity to the investigations on the Afghan side done by the French in the 1970-80s (Gardin 1979); to be able to better understand land use and resource procurement along with interaction to help understand the dynamic interplay between people and the landscapes of Central Asia, and the role of resources in the development of complexity. We look forward to making a progress report in the near future.


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